Edna Gilera: Showcasing Filipino Craftsmanship
If you’ve ever encountered a display of Kathleen Creation & Designs (KCD), you would have seen and been impressed with an array of handcrafted, hand beaded, hand carved and hand painted products. These distinctive products were created by owner Edna Gilera - owner of Kathleen Creation & Designs, importer, and accountant.
Edna Gilera and her family moved to Canada in May 2007. Prior to that, she had two options - go to London on a work visa, or to Canada as a permanent resident. With the prospect of a more secure future in Canada, they set their sights on Alberta since husband Jun Gilera had experience and skills suited for the oil industry. In the Philippines, Edna was an accountant with large companies and was at the same time operating several lucrative businesses. Her enterprising spirit was cultivated early, as her mother owned a sari-sari (variety) store. Edna delved into the food business, i.e. hotdogs, shawarma, bubble tea, rice in a box. She also had a boutique at the St. Francis Square in Pasig, featuring Philippine handicrafts, which was the beginning of Kathleen Creation & Designs.
Of all her enterprises, Edna remarked that she was most passionate about the handicrafts. The company was initially a buy and sell business, with sources and partners from different parts of the Philippines. With the abundance of cottage industries, and to make her products more distinctive, she started creating her own designs. She uses environmentally friendly products, made from sustainable materials. Her products, which consisted of purses, footwear, jewelry, clothing, home decor and seasonal products, are handcrafted with materials such as shells, semi precious stones, pearls, bamboo, wood, rattan stems, abaca leaves, coconut, and metals. She collaborated with local artisans in different provinces to create her striking designs. Her store at the St. Francis Square became an alternative destination for local handicrafts to the Kultura Filipina products available in SM stores. With good fortune, some of her regular foreign customers and her participation in trade exhibits and fairs, resulted in the exportation of her products to London and the US, and a membership in the Philippine Export Confederation.
It is not surprising then that Edna’s plan of action upon their move to Canada included the importation of her products and establishment of the Kathleen Creation & Designs in Canada. She promptly studied to be a certified accountant both as a profession, and for her own business - as a way to navigate Canadian taxation and business processes. Simultaneously, she brought in her products and participated in public and private bazaars and exhibits in and around Edmonton, i.e. Northlands’ K-Days/Capital Ex/Klondike, Heritage Festival, among others. Her products, a blend of traditional craft and contemporary design, are overwhelmingly well received by a global market. Edna says about her products, “When you purchase a KCD product, you acquire an heirloom, a family treasure. It is not a disposable product, but has resale value since I use semi precious stones and Swarovski crystals.” Despite a lack of technical and formal training in design, Edna is intuitive in her choice of materials and aesthetics. She elaborates, “My design skills were developed by thinking creatively and observing things around me. I ask God’s guidance to lead me as the provider of our talents, skills and resources. I am just a steward so I need to utilize His blessings to please Him for His praise and glory.” Edna believes that the serendipitous moments that have come her way in her creative process, business opportunities & connections, were all in God’s design and beckoning.
Along with Edna’s strong faith is a grateful acknowledgment of the blessings that have come her way, and a mission to pay forward and provide opportunities for growth to others in the industry. When she exhibits her products, she regards it not just as a business opportunity but as a means of highlighting Philippine culture, the wealth of natural materials, and the Filipino artisans’ creativity and craftsmanship.
Edna is also planning a major Filipino Canadian Trade Expo and Mission (FCTEM) in July 2022, that would showcase exhibitors from the Philippines, some of which are her regular suppliers and partners who support and sustain vulnerable communities like out of school youth, and people with disabilities. It will feature the industries of fashion, home decor, seasonal products, and food (packed & bottled). Planned in partnership with the Philippine Consulate General Calgary, its mission is to promote Philippine products, open opportunities for investments and trade, share her massive experience in production, export and business processes, and strengthen networks.
Edna Gilera has found a way of building a successful business that is aesthetically and purposefully beautiful and valuable. It is heartening to see a thriving enterprise with a mission-conscious individual at the helm. May she be successful in all her big future plans of helping Filipino artisans, the handicraft industry, and the Filipino-Canadian community.
The showroom of Kathleen Creation & Designs is at 7056 South Terwillegar Drive, Edmonton, and is by appointment only, 780-756-3447. Watch out for further announcements on the Filipino Canadian Trade Expo and Mission scheduled for July 2022.
* This article was published in the January 2022 of the Alberta Filipino Journal.
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