How Being Bipolar Pushed This Young Entrep to Start Her Own Biz

"Being bipolar was no longer an obstacle. I understood then that what others deemed to be my weakness was just another strength waiting to happen."
by Janelle Yau   |  Sep 2, 2017
Image: LOCA |
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One common misconception about having a mental illness is that it's a barrier to success. But we say, having a mental illness is a sign of strength and 25-year old Martinna Mañalac proves exactly that. Diagnosed with bipolar disease, Martinna chose to fully embrace that side of her, capitalize on it, and channel her energy into creating a business—LOCA. "I have a mental illness and as much as it has pained me in the past, I consider it now to be one of my best assets. I see the world in two different worlds and there is nothing more beautiful about that," she shared. Read on to find out how Martinna embraced her mental illness and channeled her energy to create a money-making biz!

How it started. "Loca started on the day that I was diagnosed clinically bipolar. See, I have spent four years in advertising, doing campaigns, and advertisements straight from a brief that was molded by the opinions of my superiors and my clients. It was a great run, but I felt like I was slipping from what I really wanted to do. I wasn’t content with what I was doing and with where I was at the time. I knew that I had to break free from all of it. For the first time, I wanted to do something that I could consider mine–something that I knew I was doing all for myself. I wanted to create.

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"I wanted to tell the world my story: that it’s okay to have ups and downs, it’s okay to be different, it's okay to be a little bit crazy; so I turned my disorder into an outlet, and I did it through fashion.

"I am Loca. But what started as a form of self-expression, later on, became a narrative that other people could relate to. Being bipolar was no longer an obstacle. I understood then that what others deemed to be my weakness was just another strength waiting to happen."


Why LOCA? "I come from a tropical country and though swimsuits are always in fashion, most people only really wear them to the beach. I wanted people to find relevance in my brand anywhere and all throughout the year, so I created bodysuits instead. Loca can't cover up every nook and cranny of your skin. It shouldn’t. What Loca can and will do though is empower you to feel your best in every Loca suit that you wear."


Aesthetic. "I've always believed a woman should be two things: sophisticated and sexy. These two words are key in shaping my brand’s aesthetic. Everything is bold and simple, focused on the right cut, shape, and silhouette; but each piece should also be a bit naughty–just enough to show the inner cray in you."

Loca is craywear, at its most sophisticated.

Young entrepreneur. "Being a young entrep is absolutely hard. When I started Loca, I had no financial backup. I was 25 and had a full-time job that consumed most, if not all of my hours. I remember doing sketches in my lunch hour–approving, editing, and laying out photos in between work. I started from the bottom and built my way up. More than a year ago, no one even knew who I was or what Loca was. Now, it is a brand that people and stylists trust. I take great pride in that."


Drawing inspiration. "From Amelie to Pulp Fiction, from Audrey Hepburn to the Kardashians, from Balmain and Versace to what my two-year old nieces are wearing."


Flying solo. "I am the sole owner of Loca. However, I do work with a supplier who has more expertise and experience in sewing and creating patterns. There is no actual team, but there are people–photographers, models, videographers, HMUAs, and brand people who have been with me since day one. I consider them Loca’s family."


Little challenges. "When I started Loca, making people believe in the brand was the hardest. I came from nowhere and I never thought of myself as a fashion designer. I was never sure people wanted to see what I had to offer. But I think once you've set your mind and heart into something, and you've decided that it is what you really want to do, and apply every bit of yourself- you are bound to do something great. People will see that. They will believe in you and your brand.

"Right now, making enough profit is the biggest challenge. See, digital behavior is very different from regular consumer behavior. As an online shop especially, you have to key in that though people may like your product, that doesn't directly translate into sales. At the end of the day, you just got to learn to be more creative so you can build more trust–and eventually, sales will follow."


Staying original. "We try to look different because we are different.

Loca is more than risqué swimwear. It's a character.

"Every piece Loca has to offer is tailored to be different and playful. We like to create pieces you've never seen before, or better: never dared to wear. Underboob cuts, chokers, and exceptionally low-cut necklines, dressed in equally naughty names and quirky models. It’s all about sending the message- Loca isn't afraid."


What's next? "Opening both a digital and physical store is the main goal for Loca in the next few years. We’d like to be able to continue to work with more creative people in fashion, advertising, and all kinds of industries. Hopefully, we manage to get more exposure so we can continue to build the community we started and engage a larger audience for when we release our next collections."


Entrepreneurial philosophy. "To be an entrepreneur, you need to stop wasting time living someone else’s life-building someone else’s dream. Take time to find in your heart to know what you really want and follow that no matter what. Truth is, not everyone is capable of following their dreams. Dare to dream, follow through, and continue dreaming even when you fail."


Before this world believes in you, you have to believe in yourself first.

To young budding entrepreneurs. "Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. You will fail not only once, but how you manage to keep your head up is what makes the difference."

Know any young entrepreneurs? Leave a comment below and you just might see them on the site next week!

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About the author
Janelle Yau
Fashion and Beauty Assistant
The Rebecca Bloomwood of Manila. I spend half of my time obsessing about the latest fashion craze, and the other half overthinking and over-analyzing just about anything under the sun. When I’m not busy as a bee playing with fifty shades of pink lippies, you can probably catch me swiping my plastic for yet another pair of shiny, pointed gold flats.
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