Hand-drawn and traditional Filipino-Bicol designs, but with a more modern, contemporary twist are exactly what 19-year-old Hannah Surreda establishes through her brand, Magayon. Student and graphic designer Hannah Surreda takes inspiration from her own culture to create designs that mean more than just another picture on paper. Magayon meaning “beautiful” in the Bicolano dialect (a region in the Philippines), Surreda truly encapsulates the beauty of Filipino culture through her artwork and what it means to her to be a proud Filipina.
WHAT INITIATED YOU TO CREATE YOUR OWN BRAND FROM SCRATCH?
While being on lockdown was the main reason why I decided to start Magayon, I also saw it as an opportunity for me to grow as a Fil-Am and an artist. I wanted to take the time to relearn my history and my roots through the means of creating something beautiful out of it.
Like many of my Fil-Am friends/peers, we share the struggle of facing the truth that we really don’t know much about our roots other than what is already widely known. When we are asked about the Philippines’ history, we often don’t know what to say because we were never taught it. Because of this, we are now encouraged to learn more about our culture and to decolonize our mindset and history like so much of what we know is from Spain and never anything from pre-colonial times.
DESCRIBE YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS. WHAT WORKS BEST AND WORST FOR YOU WHEN COMING UP WITH NEW DESIGNS?
My creative process has been constantly changing ever since I’ve started my brand as I am always learning more about Filipino culture/history and experimenting with different ways I want to portray a certain message. I usually start off by doing research on a certain topic and try to find connections with meaningful symbols to create something either abstract or literal. My end goal is to give my designs meaning and/or a story about Filipino history/culture.
While I am still struggling with figuring out what works best for me when it comes to designing, I have been working towards not limiting myself so much with my designs and just doing what I want as that is what will make it unique. Because if I design something just to put something out there, I feel disconnected from the message I built my brand on.
WHAT DOES FILIPINX/BICOLANO REPRESENTATION MEAN TO YOU?
Filipinx representation means getting this sense of joy knowing that there are Filipinxs accomplishing so much around the world. As a college student, a common struggle I see fellow peers going through is when they want to pursue a career they are passionate about, but are unable to due to their family’s opposition. This is another reason why I started Magayon because I wanted to show people that we could be doing so much more if we didn’t confine ourselves to the expectations people have for us and to do what makes us happy.
Representation allows for other people to see someone like them doing something they initially thought they could never do. If we stick to the traditional/stereotypical medical field route when it is not something we want to do, then it makes it harder for other Filipinxs to believe they are capable of so many other things.
Bicolano representation wasn’t something I thought was a big thing until I started my business when people would reach out to me with the excitement that they too are Bicolano. Knowing how big the Philippines is made me realize how important it is to have those connections especially as a Fil-Am to learn more about our shared culture.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE HARDEST OBSTACLES YOU’VE FACED IN REGARDS TO RUNNING YOUR SMALL BUSINESS? WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THOSE OBSTACLES?
One of the hardest obstacles I’ve faced was probably feeling like I was unable to satisfy what my audience wanted which led to me putting out some designs I wasn’t very happy about. Ever since then, I’ve learned to make sure that I am creating something that I know I love, or else it won’t have the same passion and uniqueness I had previously put into my work.
THE ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF MAGAYON JUST RECENTLY PASSED IN JUNE, AND YOU’VE GROWN SO MUCH. WHAT DO YOU ENVISION MAGAYON TO LOOK LIKE A YEAR OUT FROM NOW?
Since I am still in school and learning so many new things about both myself and in design, I hope to see even more effort and thought in my art. I especially would like to work on creating more abstract designs where the meaning is a bit more profound and interesting. I also hope that I get better at prioritizing Magayon with my busy schedule because I want to reconnect with my business and the people supporting it.
WITH YOUR HISTORY OF GRAPHIC DESIGN, HOW DO YOU FEEL IT BENEFITS YOU AS A BUSINESS OWNER AND MAGAYON IN GENERAL?
Having years of experience with graphic design has definitely benefited me as a business because I already have a general idea of how marketing/advertising works, especially in terms of the identity of the brand.
Having Magayon also allows me to exercise these types of practices which I may use later on in my career. So while graphic design has helped me as a business owner, my business has also helped me as a graphic designer.
CERTAIN ERAS OF FASHION FREQUENTLY FIND THEMSELVES IN THE MAINSTREAM, SUCH AS Y2K. WHAT ERA DOES MAGAYON EMULATE THE MOST? WHAT DESIGNERS AND BRANDS GIVE MAGAYON INSPIRATION?
When I was first starting out Magayon, I drew inspiration from multiple Fil-Am businesses/artists, such as Abakada, Brwngrlz, Marharlika, and Solicole (Nicole Solis). Them being Fil-Ams creating and sharing their art with the world had such a huge impact on me because they made me believe that maybe I could do the same. They all strived to embrace Filipino culture in their goal to remind people to decolonize their history through art.
WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE PART ABOUT BEING A GRAPHIC DESIGNER? WHAT ARE SOME OBSTACLES YOU FACE AS A WOC IN THIS FIELD?
My least favorite part will have to be the lack of understanding a lot of people have for how much work is actually put into what we do. It is more than making something “pop” or putting colors together that just “look pretty.” Graphic designers are taught to communicate through visuals, which entails conveying a message with a design, but clients often don’t care about that, leaving designers in a position where we cannot show our full potential.
An obstacle I face as a WOC in this field is the fact that I don’t see many people like me in the field go big. Or even if there are really successful WOC designers, they usually are never talked about. For example, I didn’t know there was apparently a “well-known” graphic designer in the designer world who is Filipina. Her name is Lucille Tenazas and she has accomplished so much in her career (and still is) but I have never heard of her. I feel that people need to show more support towards not only WOC but all POC because there are too many instances when we are overlooked in the art world.
WHAT ARE SOME TIPS YOU HAVE FOR ANY NEW CREATORS WHO WANT TO START THEIR OWN BRAND?
My advice to them is to do whatever they want to do. Yes, people often talk about doing what the audience wants, but in art, it is you who has the power to create your own and unique thing. It will come with the fear of thinking people won’t like it, but it’s yours and you don’t have to change your art for them just as long as you let yourself learn and grow along the way.
Shorter version: 1) Do whatever you want. You are the creator/artist. 2) Don’t pressure yourself to be perfect all the time. Be ok with learning and growing.
I SEE SUCH AMAZING POTENTIAL IN YOUR BRAND AND YOUR STYLE, WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES MAGAYON AND YOUR DESIGN STYLE UNIQUE FROM OTHERS IN THE MARKET RIGHT NOW?
I feel like Magayon is unique from other businesses because I am taking more of an artistic route towards my designs to have meanings/messages, rather than it being a streetwear design. At first, I was thinking of going with the approach of streetwear, but it didn’t feel right for me because it didn’t match my artistic style and I have already seen so many other streetwear-heavy brands so I wanted to do something a bit different.
Make sure to follow @magayon.hmos on Instagram to keep up with the latest updates to her site and to support the Filipinx art community!