Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Dianna Marisse "Yana" Uy Santiago is the humble and silent mover of worthy cause that bridges the gap between fashion and the social environment. At 23, Yana has established a brand of fashionable arm candies and neckpieces which are not only sold in Davao, but in other parts of the region and the world.

Dubbed as Olivia and Diego, this young brand has already gained momentum and sparked the interest of both buyers across all sectors and the discerning ones from reputable magazines and digital media. 

"Our pieces are sold in some cities in the Philippines as well as in Germany, USA, Australia, Singapore and Japan," beams the designer.

Design Aesthetics

"Olivia & Diego is basically a start-up business, a brand which evolved from different kinds of handmade accessories. Our vision and objective is to remind people that great things can come from recycling/upcycling," explains Yana.
"I've always believed in the power of color. I want to create jewelry/accessories that are colorful and, at the same time, showcase Filipino craftsmanship. I want each and every piece to be along the fashion-forward line, but doesn't veer away from that indigenous and handmade feel. For all our styles, we make use of old, cotton-knit t-shirts. Few of our bestsellers include the pieces we call Apayao Asul, Molbog Asul, Gaddang Abo, Tumandok Abo and Bontoc Abo."

What's In A Brand

One might ask, "Who are Olivia and Diego?"

Yana expounds on how she coined her design label. "It was such a random incident. My friend and I went on week-long surfing trip, a week before the Kadayawan Festival. We spontaneously decided to not stay in a fancy place and, instead, borrowed a tent. We met a family of backpackers from Morocco. The couple’s names were Olivia and Diego. Even for that short while we talked, I got attached to them. I was so inspired by their passion for travel and life. I named the brand after the couple to remind myself of the things that really matter in life: relationships, family, friends and freedom. When we got back to the city, I was itching to start something, fueled with that imagination and inspiration.  Soon, I saw myself drawing up this humble brand that sells upcycled jewlery."


"I think, what makes Olivia and Diego different from other local jewelry and accessory brands is its story and the fact that it's a social business in Davao," shares Yana. 

"In production, we work with three communities: a community of survivors of human trafficking, stay-at-home women and mothers who provide for their babies. I taught them the required skills to produce these beautiful bracelets and necklaces."

Business From The Heart

"I've always been interested in fashion, the philosophy and vision behind every art at craft. Back in college, when I got accepted at the University of the Philippines, I took a degree in Clothing Technology --- a course that focuses on the Philippine Textiles and Garments Industry. My family was quite hesitant about my course because of the unfavorable state of our fashion industry due to the rise of international brands coming in. I stood up for my passion and promised myself that I will build a career that I will be proud of."


"The clothing technology program made me realize that the industry is more than the glamour people see on the runway, on window displays, inside retail stores and flashes online. Fashion is a mix of research, design, production and marketing; It is an industry supported by copyright laws and patented designs. The daily dealings are made up of rolls of textiles which are usually finished with toxic chemicals only to be washed away with gallons of water. Fashion employs a majority of factory workers, the marginalized who are struggling for ethical working conditions. Going into the history and philosophy of fashion helped me gain a higher respect for the industry and for every individual involved in the design process. It gave me a broader perspective in terms of production and fired up my curiosity and goal in finding ways to make my mark by making a difference."
"I first fell in love with social entrepreneurship when I started working as an intern. I was already familiar with the idea of a social enterprise, but working with one is a different thing. This social enterprise work with exploited women in slum areas who earn a living by scavenging waste in landfills. To lift them out of poverty, they are made into empowered artisans who create home accessories and woven bags. These women, who once depended on middlemen, are now more dignified members of society. Working closely with them made me see them in a different way: they have interesting lives and amazing artisanal skills. They have so much to offer and what they need are people who won’t look down on them or give them money out of pity. Like any other human being, they want to feel worthy. These women made me realize that my true purpose in life is to reach out to people like them. I have learned that in order to help them, one has to really listen to their stories. These people have so much to say. These people are not the faces one sees in social networking sites asking for ‘likes’ or comments,  there is so much to tell and the most effective way is to keep an environment free from arrogance and personal gain."

"I joined the Social Business Challenge last year to become a Young Challenger in a Global Social Business Summit. Luckily, I was one of the 60 Young Challengers from all over the world to attend the Young Challengers Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was an honor to represent our country. I learned so much from that summit and got to meet one of my heroes too -- Muhammad Yunus."
At work, Yana finds fulfillment in what she calls a creative collaboration. "I get inspiration from the people I work with, the women in the communities. They have never made such big progress in their lives and I'm proud of every one of them. I want Olivia & Diego customers (or, as I'd like to call them, ambassadors and advocates) to feel like they are part of our story and mission, and that their purchases have helped influence change in each artisan's life."


Follow Olivia and Diego on Facebook and Instagram for more of their custom pieces and designs. You may also send your orders and inquiries to
Story published on my newspaper columnm, Metro Mom.
A1 and A4, INdulge, Edge Davao, Vol. 8 Issue no. 9, 15 April 2015.


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