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An infusion of Blood Red: How a Cebu-based international company stays true to the times

DAVID Harris and Mona Polo run their business of “engineered sailing gear” literally from their garage. “This place is so exclusive,” David, who has the heart of a sailor, jokes. “Because no one wants to drive up!”

Their home is at the end of a bumpy road, just off the main street of Salinas, and feels like the fixer-upper of your grandmother’s home willed to you …complete with airy windows, a spacious lawn and a mango tree, over the bakod. Their “stuff,” as Mona puts it, is on a display rack right by the main door.

After a little more than a decade, one wonders how far you can take a line of boardshorts and rash guards, two of the main product lines that have—quite literally —put the brand on the international map.

Quite a stretch, apparently.

There is a line I am immediately drawn to, designed like urban walking shorts with a slimmer cut on the thigh and held together by a button, with belt loops… the aesthetic of city shorts but made of fabric built for sand and sea. Their hybrid shorts propose that there is no need to change from board shorts into walking shorts, and do a pinch of good, too. Made of 90-percent recycled polyester, a pair of their 2016 Eco Edition shorts claims to be the equivalent of recycling 30 water bottles. Keep your playground clean, it further pushes. And I am nodding all the way to the cash register, thank you.

Blood Red also introduces us to an interesting story of patterns. “There is a brand called Banago by a lady named Renee Patron,” Mona tells us. “She created a brand of woven bags made from a kind of grass available in the Visayas, which she grows, dyes and weaves in Guiuan, Samar.” A surfer, Renee was already familiar with the brand’s product lines, so when Blood Red approached Renee for a collaboration in 2015, she expressed that she was “keen on seeing her weaves interpreted in a new way.”

That resulted in a limited-edition Blood Red X Banago line where Renee’s patterns were digitized and made into women’s rash guards and shorts, and into their popular dry bags for both sexes. “We never repeat items on the collections, so if we were to do this again, we would use another pattern from Renee,” says Mona, who currently designs the line with Banago’s “Pintados” pattern.

Another interesting innovation in the current line are the hooded rash guards, which began as an experiment. “We’re hard-core users, meaning, when we put a rash guard on, it stays on for most of the day,” shares Mona. “But we learned two things from our customers: 1) some are very conscious of wearing “body fit” items like rash guards and so look for something loose, and 2) some like the sun protection idea but want it in a garment that they can take on and off, or wear loosely.”

The sun protection factor is serious, too. “The fabric undergoes a treatment that blocks UVA and UVB rays. There is a rating system, and our fabrics pass the highest rating. UPF50+ means ultraviolet protection factor, and 50+ means it blocks about 98 percent of UV rays.”

The fine print on the labels notwithstanding, the garage in Lahug stocks up on world-class gear that has a social conscience, and looks pretty darn good in and out of the water. Syv’s impossibly fit form not included. You’ll have to work on that yourselves.

TAGS: Banago, Blood Red, boardshorts, Cebu, David Harris, Engineered Sailing Gear, hooded rash guard, Mona Polo, rash guard, Rash guards, Renee Patron
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