Jeannyfe Spary details her personal story from a small child with big dreams in the Philippines to launching her new label Harspa at Fashion Exposed this month
I was constantly bullied during my younger years, even when I reached high school and in my university days, because of how I dress or carry myself. These experiences left me feeling as if there was something wrong with me and I thought that’s why they acted like that towards me. So I keep myself busy inside our family home in the Philippines and spent much time drawing, playing with my toys and dolls with my sister.
I said to myself “I will not let these experiences affect my life.” So I prayed for anyone who bullied me that they will be blessed in their lives and I forgave them for whatever they did towards me, intentionally or unintentionally.
My mum usually cuts the patterns in paper and sewed clothes for me and my sister during occasions growing up, she also sewed curtains for our home. I watched her using the manual paddled SINGER sewing machine. I became very interested in what she created from a very young age. When I turned nine, my father who worked abroad sent me six mini dolls that were four inches tall and had six different hair colours. They had tiny dresses of course, so I began cutting different paper dresses and coloured them individually so I could play dress ups with it. I spent many hours doing it because I enjoyed it a lot. I didn’t find friends really but the closest people in my life are still my family.
On my mum’s side, my cousins and aunties always passed on their out grown clothes and mum was so happy because we could save a lot of money, and she would adjust them to fit my size. So I was able to see what she did to all those dresses and I’m so proud of her hard work and creativity.
I got busy making dresses for my mini dolls and used fabric instead. Then she taught me how to wear 2 inches high heels when I tuned 12 years old. Every time I came home from school, she asked me to practice how to walk straight gracefully with a chin up position, she put books on my head and instructed me to walk straight without dropping them.
When I turned 14, I designed and sewed my first plain pink blouse with piping on the edges of the fabric of my floral printed skirt. I wore them confidently at school but nobody knew that I made them. My father also sent me fabrics from the Middle East. I designed my dresses on it, then my mum sewed it and sometimes I would pay my neighbour, who is a dress maker, to do it for me too. When I saw any of my mums old clothes from when she was young, and I liked the fabric, then I would recycle it by making it into another blouse, skirt or dress. My love for wearing them never ends because I’m the only person who has it and people notice that it’s unique.
There is no university or fashion design school in the Philippines, so I took a Bachelor of Science in Tourism instead where I learned about the culture of different people and how they dress, the fabrics they use and create that are specific to their nation. This developed my eagerness to create unique clothes and express who I am.
I joined a beauty pageant contest from 18-21 years old, just to model different clothes designed by different Filipino designers on stage. But after my studies, I worked to help my sister to university and my brother to school because my father stopped working abroad. So I worked in different offices and traveled to different countries and all along I took in the different styles, and heard famous designer names. YouTube is great because I can see the styles from different designers each season around the world.
I then got married at 26 with my Australian husband. I stopped working for myself for almost 9 years to help build my husband’s painting and decorating business and take good care of our three wonderful girls.
As the days go by, I see myself in my three unique daughters, watching them grow play dress up at home. They talk about shoes, bags and dresses to wear and sometimes draw and colour them. I said to myself “it’s time for me to do what I really love to do”. This time it will be great and even better because I have my three girls who are interested too. It will be good to work together even if they are young because they are so creative. So my mind was set to do it and I told my husband “That this time I really have to do what I love to do!”.
A family friend (Neville Harris) saw my shoes and clothing designs, then after a long discussion and planning on our dining table at home, Harspa Pty Ltd (Stands for Harris & Spary) was registered on April 25, 2013. We decided to join Fashion Exposed 2013 with our few passionately-designed clothes, shoes, bags, wallets & bags from our 2014 collection range.
For more information, visit fashionexposed.com