Each Calli bag is a labor of love, taking about 9 days to craft meticulously.
In the midst of a rainy afternoon that brought Manila traffic to its usual almost-standstill, lifestyle journalists gathered for an intimate event honoring Tessa Nepomuceno and her exquisite designs.
As the founder of Calli, the Filipino bag brand that took flight in 2013, Tessa and her creations continue to be a testament to the artistry and craftsmanship inherited from Philippine traditions. Calli has become synonymous with excellence and international standards, redefining luxury and elegance in our own, local industry.
Tessa’s background and extensive experience in export and international trade fairs set a remarkable benchmark for Calli. “Since the beginning, we were very much focused on the quality of our wooden clutches. They are made like works of art. By the time we started exploring beaded embroidery and solihiya weaving, the same mindset guided us.”
Each Calli bag is a labor of love, taking about 9 days to meticulously craft. Tessa’s designs undergo 19 carefully executed steps to come to life. From the skilled hands of artisans in Paete, Laguna, every piece emerges as a unique masterpiece.
Calli collaborates with the wood carvers of Paete, who skillfully craft the brand’s iconic wooden bags. Each piece narrates treasured stories of Philippine life using centuries-old techniques.
For every tree used in creating their wooden clutches, their team plants a new one, ensuring the preservation of nature’s gifts for future generations. The team also uses fallen trees. This type of thoughtful approach further enriches the brand’s essence, embodying the spirit of sustainable and responsible luxury.
With intuition, a keen eye for detail, and an innate sense of impeccable design, Tessa left a promising career in tourism as well as export and trading, and pivoted to fashion. This, by opening her first clothing and accessories boutique. By 2006, she delved into bag design, experimenting with various shapes, intricate details, and locally sourced materials, leading foreign buyers to notice her well-crafted pieces, which eventually landed on retail shelves worldwide. In 2013, Tessa’s passion and vision culminated in the birth of her own brand, Calli.
The name is the female version of her son’s name: Khali. “It means beautiful,” Tessa quipped, adding how the name also reflects her commitment to showcasing the splendor of Philippine ancestral craft.
Since its inception, Calli has been collaborating closely with multi-generations of wood carvers from Paete, who skillfully craft the brand’s iconic wooden bags. Each piece narrates treasured stories of Philippine life using centuries-old carving techniques.
Always inspired by the values of craftsmanship and slow fashion, 10 by Calli bridges time-honored traditions with contemporary designs.
Meticulous and intricate embroidery work by talented beaders from the Merville community reflects Calli’s unwavering dedication to unmatched quality.
An elevated level of craftsmanship comes to life in the solihiya weaves created by artisans from a community in Moonwalk, whose weavers employ natural materials such as banig, rattan, tikog, inabel, t’nalak, and denim. Calli fearlessly explores contemporary designs using this distinctly Filipino weaving technique.
As a decade of Calli’s is celebrated, the brand has fostered a dedicated following both in the Philippines and abroad. Notably, Miss Universe Catriona Gray adorned Calli clutch bags throughout her competition, and the brand received accolades such as “Best in Design” at Hong Kong Fashion Access.
With a growing demand from abroad for luxury, artisan bags, Tessa remains committed to supporting partner artisans and enriching livelihoods within her community. This year, Tessa chose to focus wholeheartedly on Calli the brand, redefining and strengthening its essence to bring the captivating beauty of Philippine ancestral craft to the world.
The reimagining of Calli is marked by a fresh logo and website, reflecting the contemporary mindset of the quintessential Calli woman—fresh, young, modern, and eternally elegant. Embracing a new era, the brand’s evolution also gave birth to the diffusion line, 10 by Calli.
Designed for today’s conscious consumer, this accessible line seamlessly merges ancestral luxury, including fine solihiya weaving and hand embroidery, into everyday designs. Realizing the complexity of the Calli woman, Tessa shared, “They don’t just get dolled up for parties and special occasions. They also lead purpose-driven, multifaceted lives, which demand well-made pieces that reflect their roots and ancestry. This is why we developed 10 by Calli.”
Always inspired by the values of craftsmanship and slow fashion, 10 by Calli bridges time-honored traditions with contemporary designs, supporting the women who carry them in their needs while embracing ancestral craft every single day.
Named after Tessa’s birth month and initials, 10 (TEN), she and her team describe this line “as a love letter to those whose fashion choices positively impact the community, planet, and preservation of craft.” Taking on functional shapes, sizes, and silhouettes, these are Tessa’s pieces that can be taken from day to night.
The reimagined Calli collection makes its debut at the upcoming ArteFino Festival from Aug. 24 to 27 at PowerPlant Mall. Crafted with meticulous care by skilled artisans from Paete, the collection showcases an array of hand-carved wooden clutch bags made from acacia wood and featuring both floral and geometric patterns. The showcase will also include pieces adorned with solihiya weaves and delicate hand embroidery.
Calli’s holiday collection will also be launched at the event. For those who can’t make it, however, there’s always their website, ensuring that this journey into Filipino craft and ancestry remains accessible for all—wherever you are.