From Shell Off-Cuts to Exquisite Shell Jewelry: Susanne Verallo

Taking creative inspiration from her rich Cebuano culture aside from her Italian influences, Susanne Verallo, with her namesake fashion label, aims to put Philippine artistry in the spotlight and produce “bold and daring” creations that tell remarkable stories.

She aims to stay true to her heritage in each of her striking pieces, which she deems fit for women who are not afraid to make a statement and most importantly, stand out.

Playing with confident colors and geometric shapes, designed and handcrafted to be “effortlessly versatile and impeccably fashioned”, as Susanne describes it, her modern and mindful twist on shell jewelry and accessories gives the brand a classic yet youthful aesthetic.

Established in the year 2015, SUSANNE VERALLO has been partnering with local independent artisans to support their livelihood and to showcase the unique beauty of Philippine artistry.

With Cebu’s abundant and diverse natural resources, it is very much why the Queen City of the South became home to the country’s shell-craft industry. As crafting things out of puka shells began in the year 1980’s, handcrafted sea shells species came into the picture to produce exquisite designs that flood the pages of magazines in today’s modern world.

Susanne is very much lucky to find this exquisite resource in her homeland for her equally exquisite designs, and all the while staying true to her advocacy of sustainability. Altogether with her brand, they maintain an effort to counter such problems of pollution and exploitation of resources by making use of shell offcuts and overruns salvaged from other shell-craft companies. With this, she hopes to raise environmental awareness and enhance the value of this precious yet limited natural resource.

Mainly, the designer finds a lot of inspiration from culture. “My first collection of clutches was inspired by the Pop Art movement of the 60’s, and my second upcoming jewelry collection takes inspiration from the tribal traditions of the ancient Visayans”, she shares.

Working closely with artisans and patronizing local craftsmanship has given her the opportunity to fully observe and explore the various possibilities of the craft. Without any formal training in fashion or jewelry design, and now treading into that path, Susanne heeds to her furniture and product design experiences and studies, applying the same meticulous attention to detail in research and execution with each piece.

For artists like Susanne, she believes in giving meaning to each of her pieces, which she hopes would in turn gives them intrinsic value that others can appreciate. Inspired by different jewelry brands that made use of indigenous materials and techniques, giving birth to mostly chunky, matronly, and typically tropical sorts, she stressed that these elements made her clients love her pieces more, as they are versatile and modern, yet still proudly Cebuano.

Despite finishing her masters degree in Milan and having explored European designs, Susanne chose Cebu as a home for her art. “I believe our own traditional crafts coupled with our unique indigenous materials are more than capable of competing on a global scale”, shares Susanne.

Since her first collection release in the year 2016, she has generated interest from the international market with her handmade jewelry. Despite the influx and popularity of this generation’s fast fashion, a growing era of slow fashion – handmade and sustainable designer pieces– has put her collections in the spotlight.

Showing her designs and the beauty of local craftsmanship to a large international audience has been, by far, the greatest achievement for her brand.

From her early childhood creativity and drive, she always ambitioned to become a fashion designer. But when this took the backseat as she pursued a more serious career of interior and furniture design, she confesses that the dream never really left her thoughts, as it is realized in today’s present time.

Her dream to be able to combine both her passion for the arts and earn from it as a living was finally an opportunity afforded to her, and with that, she made it all come true. “What draws me to fashion is that it’s a very personal way of expressing one’s self, even more so with accessories. You can say a lot with your outfit, but I believe it’s the jewelry that punctuates it”.

Stacey Marie Baladya
Stacey Marie Baladya

Stacey is writer at Zee Lifestyle. She's fueled by unique and interesting stories to read and write about, these being more than just a hobby to her. In her spare time, she loves being accompanied by a good book while sipping her favorite cup of coffee. Follower her on Twitter & Intagram @itsannastacia!

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