People & Inspiration

In Focus: Working Student Cousins Kara Pangilinan And Ella Pangilinan Set The Productivity Bar High

In Focus: Working Student Cousins Kara Pangilinan And Ella Pangilinan Set The Productivity Bar High


It's one thing to be a college student; as a student you probably by default call yourself busy, but to be a working student with another working schedule outside the classroom is another thing altogether. For some, it's a necessity to be employed for additional income if they support themselves and their families. For others like cousins Kara Pangilinan and Ella Pangilinan, whose families are able to support their education, typically there isn't an immediate need for a job 'til graduation. However, in their stories, beginning small businesses in two different fields have become a passion, purpose, and a motivation for doing more. Kara is the founder and owner of an illustration-driven brand, Details Ink. and Ella, with Patti Manuel Go, is a business partner and developer of a growing activewear line, The Shape Shop. Self-assured and bright, these two have grown their personal initiative with their creative outlets.


Kara Pangilinan, UP Architecture Student and Owner/Artist at Details Ink. UP Architecture senior Kara Pangilinan shared about how enduring a painful ailment that struck her in 2011 in her junior year at ICA. (Immaculate Conception Academy) led to illustrating, writing, outlining, and drawing her dreams and hopes on paper. Before her medical plight, IIH (Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension) which involved severe headaches that were almost unbearable, Kara strived to be one of ICA's top students in her batch, active in almost every possible aspect, both academic and extracurricular.


When Kara was sick, her hopes for highest possible achievement and productivity hit rockbottom, but then she began drawing more to ease her pain and help keep hope for the future above the water. Like many high school girls in her batch, she kept a written planner that was most pretty to look at like an illustrative map reminiscent of the Papemelroti work of Robert Alejandro, but it didn't contain as many drawings; more notes, messages, and quotes at first. 


How did Details Ink. begin? "Before I ever thought of it as a business or as art, Details Ink. was simply my personal creative outlet when I got sick in high school. I was a generally happy person and I was regarded as an optimist by most friends so, I really preferred to release negativity onto paper instead of people. I didn't want to be a burden so, I just kept making art. It made me really happy and I really believe it made me get better.."


Kara never imagined herself an artist though as a kid. She had a different goal at first. "Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be an architect. I always wanted to design residential homes and creative community spaces. Right now, to be honest, I really just want to (finish my thesis) make art. I would love to explore ways to integrate my art with architecture. So, I really love working with interior designs and seeing the construction of spaces during my mural projects. For now, though, I just really want to enjoy and grow in art and architecture." 

In 2012, Kara graduated from ICA and entered Architecture in UST for her first year, but then transferred in her second year to UP Diliman.


How would you describe your art, the art of Details Ink.? "I've always described my style as Intricate Minimalism. That's why I love it when people see my artwork and get so surprised to find extremely detailed line work within the drawing. I especially love it when people see my hidden notes and scribbled messages. Only a few get to notice those but I always incorporate words in my work. I start by breaking the space on a blank canvas. If I have an image in mind, I pencil in the outer form and if not, I just let things flow. As for my personal art, people described it as honest. I liked hearing that because, well, it's true. There's always a little bit of myself in an artwork. There's a sense of vulnerability and fragility, and I'm honestly still trying to be okay with people seeing that side of myself. But, I really don't know how else to create."



Since the art on paper and stationery, Kara has also integrated her designs with accessories like phone cases, and apparel like T-shirts. Once in a while, she is also booked and commissioned to do mural paintings at certain locations like restaurants or private wall facades. 


What made you decide to turn Details Ink. from a hobby into a business after high school? "When I got better in 2011, the drawing style I developed stuck. I would really draw a lot. One day, I drew on six envelope flaps during class. My classmates noticed and asked me to draw for them, too. One of them told me they'd pay for it and that's really what sparked the business idea. I was in the middle of a personal "adventure project" where I required myself to do something new one a week: Creating Details Ink. was my new thing for that week. I jumped on the idea, without thinking too much and with enough excitement to last a lifetime, then I used all my money to have 6,000 envelopes and gift card sets printed, announced my opening in November 1, 2011 and it sold out in three weeks so, yay! From that point until today, I just strive to keep going and growing, and of course, to enjoy every bit of the process."

Kara asked herself the question "What's stopping you?" almost everyday in her journey to take Details Ink. to where it is today. 


"In 2014 it was a business already, but I overworked myself from the bazaars and events. I was really happy but, really tired. In 2015 the business steadily grew and finally in 2016, I started doing murals and artworks. My work started getting featured online and on television (My Puhunan, hosted by Karen Davila). Things started getting busy but, I was just really happy be able to do what I love."


What do you think made you more financially conscious at a young age? "I actually wouldn't say I was financially conscious. That was probably the last thing on my mind when I was younger. It was always about the art for me but, my Dad, being a strategic management professor, always mentioned tips at breakfast that revolved around business and entrepreneurship. So, we really were into selling things as kids. However, that financial consciousness really hit me when I started thinking of all my life goals and dreams. I realized everything kind of had a price tag on it so, I needed to put in the work as soon as possible. It's only recently that I started consulting with friends and other creative entrepreneurs about personal and business finance, and it's now one of the life systems I'm constantly working on and improving."   


Where do you see Details Ink. in five years? "In five years, Details Ink. will actually be turning 10! I think about that once in a while now. I have a pretty detailed five year plan but for now, let's just say I wanna keep going. One project after another. One exhibit after another. I love this industry because, you really have to be open to things you never thought you'd do. When I'm done with school and get to really focus, I'm so excited to see where I can take it, who I can work with, and what else I can do with my art."


"I'd love to do more murals abroad. And in the different provinces in the Philippines. Details Ink. has evolved so much in the last five years so, I don't want to limit its growth in the next five. I'm really open to anything actually. As long as I can keep making art. No matter what, I just don't ever want to stop creating."

Follow Details Ink on Instagram and check the website here.

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Ella Pangilinan, UP Art History Major and Partner/Marketing Head for The Shape Shop. Ella, a current Art History major from UP Diliman and Brent International School Manila graduate, is the eldest daughter of Maricel Laxa-Pangilinan and Anthony Pangilinan, a lovely, neat, and efficient young lady with love for an active lifestyle of events, sports, and traveling with friends combined. At the tender age of 20, she's highly conscious of her schedule, activities, and the goals she wants to achieve on a weekly basis.  


Ella is admirably straightforward and honest with what she believes a brand like The Shape Shop needs in order to grow and bear interest among potential customers. In her case, she feels this business opportunity, the freedom to develop, improve, and grow the brand was given to her as a blessing. It came her way when she least expected it.


How did your involvement with The Shape Shop begin? "I actually had no plans getting involved in an activewear line, but I think I was just at the right place at the right time and the opportunity just presented itself to me. I was in the car with my mom about to drop her off to a meeting then head to class right after, but when we checked how long it would actually take for me to get to that one class I wouldn't have made it. My mom suggested I attend the meeting with her instead so I did. She met with her friend, Patti Manuel Go, who was just starting an activewear line and came to my mom to brainstorm on how they could work together and make the brand grow. My mom saw my eyes light up as Tita Patti started sharing the vision she had in mind for the brand and showing the samples as she had the production house and resources, but it wasn't being marketed as much as it could. She turned to us and said 'You know what, I think you two should work together instead!' "


"I got so excited because I've always loved fashion and I've been involved in sports all my life so this opportunity seemed to bring together what I'm most passionate about. Of course, I couldn't just jump into helping run a business right away so I took things one step at a time. I started with producing a collection that would cater to my friends and other ladies my age because it was the target market I understood, and what was lacking in the initial line of products The Shape Shop offered. I named the collection Sola after my little sister. After I joined a trunk show presenting my collection and saw the potential, I realized that I didn't want to grow that alone but be involved with the growth of The Shape Shop as a whole. I was really thankful to gain the trust and support of Tita Patti, because without that I wouldn't be able to work the way I do and make things move for the business. Eventually, I managed our social media accounts, planned photo shoots and thought of different ways for us to market our products better. Somehow I think taking up a business management class in high school helped me, apart from the advice I'd get from my dad."

Ella wears The Shape Shop activewear at Saddle Row with friends


"I wanted to put together events that would be intimate but engaging, so I thought of organizing trunk shows in the form of fitness parties and partnered up with different fitness studios for these. To make the products available to those who weren't attending these events, we worked on setting up an e-commerce site and I made sure to work closely with our developers to get it up and running as soon as possible. The next step was to also start consigning so that other potential customers could have the chance to see the products first hand and try them on. I'm so thankful that Aura Athletica opened their doors to us, and that we became the first local brand to be a part of their curated activewear brands. Working with them has really helped us learn how to plan out our collections and releases. Right now they're undergoing renovations but we'll still be with them once they reopen at the new wing of Power Plant Mall!"


How would you describe The Shape Shop activewear range and how are you involved in design and manufacturing? "Tita Patti started The Shape Shop to be able to create pieces that would cater to every body type, inspire people to look good while working out, but also be able to use the pieces even outside the gym for casual wear. I embrace the same principles when I design pieces for the younger market."


"I start usually by sharing with the sewing team what I want or what I like and I'll have a moodboard and I'll look at textile swatches of different material and different colors.  I don't really have a strict design process. Sometimes I start with a mood board and work from there, other times an idea just pops into my head and I just have to share them with the production team right away. After I come up with the initial ideas, I consult with Tita Patti first. Once I get the go signal, I select the fabrics and then work closely with the team to product samples. If they pass our standards, we add those designs into our regular production for sales."

Ella's Bettina crop top with mesh from front and back


One of The Shape Shop's bestsellers, their Miyuki leggings.


Yoga students in The Shape Shop activewear at Urban Ashram Yoga in BGC where their pieces are also available, aside from Aura Athletica in Rockwell.


What do you think made you more financially conscious at a young age? "I'm really blessed to have been brought up being able to understand the value of money. My parents give us allowance, but if we wanted to have anything beyond that, they would encourage us to find a way to produce it. They started giving us different opportunities to earn, whether it was as simple as being our dad's assistant for a talk or actually being involved in operations and mounting major business events. Today, my siblings and I have learned to think out of the box to figure out other fun ways to get into business."


How do you balance your time as a student with a full load of units and work for The Shape Shop? "I think it's a matter of setting my priorities straight, and school is definitely my first priority. Although because I knew I wanted to do other things, I made it a point to fix my schedule in such a way that I'm only in school three days a week. Even if it's an intensive full load, I'm able to have time for work and fun."


"For me it also helps to write things down, because my dad taught me that plans aren't commitments until they are scheduled. Some people prefer to take note of plans using their phones, but I can't live without my little Moleskine planner. It doesn't register in my head if it isn't written down. "


Where do you see The Shape Shop or yourself in five years? "The Shape Shop is about a year old now, but I think it's to early to think about how I would see the business in five years. Right now we are thankful with its current success and plan to continue taking things one step at a time as we progress. But maybe Tita Patti would also be able to answer this better (laughs). 

As for myself, I wouldn't call myself an entrepreneur yet because I have a lot to learn before I can think I've already made it. It encourages me to work harder, and stay hungry to learn."


"After I finish my current studies, I'd like to hopefully get into business school and explore different opportunities in the future."

Follow The Shape Shop on Instagram


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