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Angela Aquino practices sustainable fashion in Gramercy boutique

By: Cristina DC Pastor

‘As a woman entrepreneur it’s very important to keep your power.’

Seven months ago, Angela Aquino’s life nearly collapsed.

A fashion stylist who has done business from Madrid to Bangkok, Angela is a businesswoman who has merchandised luxury clothes and accessories for 15 years. Being the stylist of boxing legend Manny Pacquiao was her claim to fame. Until her e-commerce site was compromised and her business completely disappeared. The matter is under investigation.

Disheartened but not defeated, Angela moved her remaining merchandise into a storefront owned by a friend, hairstylist Gloria Cabrera, and started anew. She opened a boutique and named it after her defunct e-commerce store: ClosetsNYC is on 309 E. 23rd Street.

“I knew I had to start all over again and from scratch,” said Angela, who spoke to The FilAm on how she managed to “reclaim my life.”

The Filipino American community in her Gramercy neighborhood in Manhattan was first to come to her support. She said: “My vendors gave me great deals, gave me some mannequins, racks, items to help me get back on track again.”

Most important, her loyal customers – some who come from upstate New York and New Jersey — did not stop buying from her. “Women empowerment,” according to Angela, played a big part in how she overcame her loss.

She is also trying to heal emotionally, she said. “Stepping forward doing little things for yourself like going to the salon, getting your nails done, exercising, yoga and being open-minded and trying again are all great ways to reclaim your life. Surround yourself with positive people and fun people and pretty things that you like. Just move on but don’t forget at the same time get back what’s rightfully yours.”

Sustainable fashion

Angela trades in pre-loved branded goods as she practices “sustainable fashion,” a concept identified with making fashion a more environmentally conscious lifestyle.

“Some items are great to use second hand. They are usually very good quality to begin with,” she said.

It’s not just a matter of reselling used bags and clothing in specialty stores to extend their life, although some do start that way. Angela has upcycled or customized designs by adding personal touches like appliques, embellishments, glitters, cut-out fabrics, some New York graffiti touch, or positive affirmations, like Love, Justice, Hope, Faith.”

“They’re a hit with customers,” she said. “As long as the condition (of the clothing or bags) is good, the body is good and styles and colors are classics, these are great items to buy second hand. Other than it being good for the environment you also save lots of money doing so.”

“The term ‘sustainable fashion’ or ‘slow fashion’ has been making a buzz in the fashion industry for many years now,” she said. “Sustainable, meaning continuous and unceasing.” It has been noted, she said, that fashion is a high polluting industry almost equal to oil and gas because of the hazardous material used, the harmful chemicals on textiles, the wasteful packaging, and shipping practices. Design houses have been trying to make products that last longer or those that can find new life when resold in the second-hand market.

She usually works with certain designers to see if they are open to releasing samples from their collections to free up space in their inventory.

“One can also be sustainable in fashion by donating to your favorite charitable institutions your used clothes and bags and they usually process and recycle these fabrics,” she said.

“Fashion waste is a staggering 150 million tons which will really catch the attention of any one listening,” said Angela. “As a fashion trendsetter, business woman, and consumer, I eventually identified my role and how I can contribute to make a positive difference.”

Angela’s boutique recently opened in Manhattan’s Gramercy neighborhood. She is happy to see her customers back and welcome new ones into the store where she carries labels such as Michael Kors, Coach, Kate Spade, Dooney & Bourke as well as classic luxury favorites Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton.

Pre-loved goods that are eco-friendly and trendy.

“My son plays a major role in inspiring me because I know if I’m doing very well, happy and successful then he will benefit from it,” she said.

She has learned hard lessons from more than 15 years in the business. Not to be too trusting is one of them. She also learned the meaning of “asserting your rights” as a woman entrepreneur. “I realized that’s it’s very important to keep your power and not give up.”

© The FilAm 2021




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