by Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com
GINA Alexander. Her name is popular among Hollywood celebrities like Beyonce, Penelope Cruz, Elizabeth Taylor, Jennifer Lopez, Sharon Stone, and Oprah. Even male celebs Ben Affleck, Kobe Bryant, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger patronize her trade. Who is Gina Alexander and what is her claim to fame?
The lovely Gina Alexander, a FilAm designer, is famous for her unique line of high-end photo handbags. Gina’s handbags have appeared on the Dr. Phil Show and mainstream magazines as Elle, People and US. Gina has also been interviewed several times by Oprah.
With husband Richard Bryan Alexander, Gina started her business in their garage. Her business has expanded since then into a sizable office and number of employees in Burbank including a warehouse and a showroom to boot.
A former beauty queen (Miss Philippines Los Angeles 1985; Miss Gardena, California 1987), Gina Lopez Alexander was born in Torrance, California.
She studied at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising after high school and began to work for different fashion designers.
“I’ve always loved accessories,” Gina told the Asian Journal. “I designed jewelry first and then worked at Fragments Showroom and sold Rafe bags [and] Isabella Fiore bags. I worked for Sue Wong, Rampage, and Isabella Fiore. That’s where I gained my experience in sales and design. My work with high-end designers kept me always working with quality. I also studied fashion in Europe and went to Christian Lacroix’s Couture house and Chanel’s Couture house in Paris. I went backstage before a fashion show and gravitated towards all the accessories. Also, visiting fabric mills in Italy sparked my love for printing fabric,”she further added.
She credits her entrepreneurial skills to the training she got from her parents, especially her dad. Her father, Cesar Lopez, instilled in Gina and her siblings the idea of working for one’s self and not for anyone.
“I had no money. I borrowed from a friend and he gave me 10K in cash as a gift. We started out in our garage and then we opened a kiosk at the Hollywood & Highland Retail complex followed by another one at The Grove. Now, we are [being] sold at Nordstrom, Macy’s, ICE Accessories and Saks Inc. department stores, ebags.com, 40+ boutiques nationwide and over 600 professional photography studios worldwide,” said Gina.
“My father immigrated to Los Angeles in the 1950’s from Laoag, Ilocos Norte with just $50 in his pocket. He was a visionary and everything he wished for he got, because he has an unwavering faith and confidence stronger than a lion. He was resourceful and financially creative. He was an entrepreneur at heart. He and my mom, Imelda – also from Ilocos – were the first Filipino couple to own a Denny’s franchise in the US in California. Their business grew so much we owned hotels, restaurants, a limo service and a lot of property. I watched him play cash flow buying a lot of apartments. He told me once ‘why get one pay check when you can have 300?’ (he had a hotel with 300 units in it). I think that’s where I learned about leveraging at age 10 years old. He made me and my siblings work so much. He never paid us, he would just say that “this is better than going to an Ivy League University. The best education is [working] hands on’,” Gina said.
“After my father’s death about 12 years ago, I learned about him more and more, especially his philanthropic deeds and humanitarian efforts – like the time he helped those Filipinos who were abandoned in the ocean on a boat and were left to die. He took action and rescued them. My father was always giving to the Filipino community – it didn’t matter what province you were from, he supported everyone who loved Filipinos -that’s what I loved about him the most,” said Gina.
Cesar’s philanthropic legacy lives on. Gina who donates a percentage from every bag sold to Hope for Children, an orphanage in the Philippines. She has received enthusiastic assistance from loyal customers, family and friends. Her recent celebrity fund-raiser garnered over $148,000.
After a series of heart-wrenching trials in trying to conceive a child (she almost died from an ectopic pregnancy), Gina and her husband Richard were able to adopt now four-year old daughter Katelyn thru the international adoption agency HOPE FOR Children Worldwide. Through her generosity in donating a portion of sales from “one bag at a time,” to the Hope for Children orphanage, Gina is helping kids find adoptive parents.
Gina’s story has inspired best-selling author Jack Canfield (The Secret, Chicken Soup For The Soul) to feature her in an infomercial. The infomercial will be broadcast around the world to promote his book, The Key to the Law of Attraction.
“I shared about how I had failed businesses and [how] implementing the Secret and positive thinking changed my life. After reading The Secret and The Key to the Law of Attraction, I started attracting positive things around me. Our business became a multi-million dollar company, I adopted my daughter Katelyn, and my marriage changed because my husband and I started looking at the positive things about each other vs. the negative. One of my biggest dreams was to have my own philanthropy. I shared about losing several children, invitro, surrogacy, adoption where the mother took the baby back at the hospital. And now, (thru the HOPE orphanage) I have 50 kids in the Philippines who I want to take care of. So I have 51 children,” Gina said.
“After filming, the executive producer was in tears and said I was on the high frequency of bigger and greater things to happen. She wants to do a documentary on my life and a book,” Gina added.
Gina tries to visit the Philippines once a year, but said that she would like to go more often to see the kids that she helps at the Hope Village. She may just do that soon since she has been approached by several people from the Philippines to expand her business there. Gina revealed that a meeting with Rustan’s is in the works.
Aside from visiting orphans, Gina’s other favorites from the Philippines include “the massages at the Mandarin Oriental which is to die for, Cebu,and Ilocos Norte. Puerto Azul, Boracay and Palawan are on the list to visit. And of course, the Shangri-La hotel buffet — that’s incredible. There, she gets to enjoy her favorite food: halo-halo, kare-kare, beef bulalo, and “always adobo.”
“I love my life and what I do. I’m living the life [that] I love!” said this one-of-a-kind lady like her one-of-a-kind bags.