Danielle Muzones

Welcome to Sarap Stories - your space for Asian American representation, inspiration, and insights from real AAPI makers in the Sarap Now marketplace.

Headshot of Hana Kirchhoff, founder of Filipinta Beauty

Source: Hana Kirchhoff

Hana Kirchhoff founded her brand Filipinta Beauty by accident.

One day, lying in bed while breastfeeding her firstborn son, she opened the Notes app on her phone and conceptualized Filipinta.

At the time, she was making a fake brand for her design portfolio. Little did she know, her concept was so compelling that it would soon go viral and sell out again, and again, and again.

Read on to learn how this founder went from designing packaging to building a beauty brand that celebrates and embraces Philippine culture.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tell me about yourself - your name, pronouns, and brand.

My name is Hana, my pronouns are she/her, and my brand is Filipinta Beauty – a conceptual makeup brand. We’re planning to expand the brand beyond makeup soon.

Hana Kirchhoff, founder of Filipinta Beauty sitting on the floor painting.

Source: Hana Kirchhoff

Do you identify as AAPI or an immigrant of Asian heritage? What were your experiences like growing up or immigrating to America – whichever applies?

I moved here eight years ago when I was 25 to live closer to my then-boyfriend, now-husband. I lived in Richmond, Virginia first, and then we moved every year to Los Angeles, New York, and now upstate New York.

I don't know if I consider myself Asian American yet, but I've been here for a while.

I thought I was so westernized when I lived in the Philippines, but when I got here I realized it was so different. The people, the culture, the food – I didn’t have rice for three months! I was really confused.

Childhood photo of Hana Kirchhoff, founder of Filipinta Beauty in the Philippines.

Source: Hana Kirchhoff

Even now, I'm homesick, to be honest with you. I still find those little bits and pieces of the Philippines in a lot of things, like with my cooking.

That's why I made Filipinta Beauty in the first place. I don't want to lose my connection to the Philippines.

In my teenage years, I lived in an area called Project 3 in Quezon City near Manila. I loved living there. Outside, there are Jeepneys and tricycles. There are basketball leagues and volleyball leagues. A lot of fiestas. So many people. It’s very loud and lively!

Childhood photo of Hana Kirchhoff, founder of Filipinta Beauty riding a bike in the Philippines.

Source: Hana Kirchhoff

It was also an interesting place because there wasn’t a large divide between the middle class and the lower class. You could cross the street and be in a different class.

Growing up, my Mom was always making candles and sewing clothes. She instilled her creative spirit in me. We would do a lot of thrifting and fix up clothes together. So, when I said that I wanted to go into a creative degree in college, she was so supportive. My Dad was supportive too.

Childhood photo of Hana Kirchhoff, founder of Filipinta Beauty, and her Mom.

Source: Hana Kirchhoff

What was your “A-ha!” moment that inspired you to create Filipinta Beauty? Walk me through what led you to launch the brand in 2019.

When I moved to New York in 2017, I got a job as a product and packaging designer. In that job, I was able to learn the technical parts of packaging design and I decided that that was what I wanted my specialty to be.

That same year, I gave birth to my first son, so I was in bed a lot. While I was lying there, breastfeeding my son, I realized I needed something to do.

So I opened my Notes app on my phone and came up with the idea for Filipinta. It was supposed to be a fake brand that I was creating just to add to my portfolio. I was really into makeup and fashion, so I was inspired to make more makeup-related packaging.

I worked with my now-business partner to design an eyeshadow palette and two lip glosses that paid homage to goddesses of the forest. Every shade in the palette had a story and corresponded to forest mythology.

I knew someone from work who was a supplier, so I asked him to supply me with 50 pieces for a photo shoot. It was all fake, but I wanted to make it look as real as possible for my portfolio.

In 2019, I posted photos and it went viral! It was sold out in an hour, and I was like, wait – what's going on? So I ordered some more, and it just kept selling out. That’s when I realized I had something here and decided to do this.

Tell me about a challenge you faced while growing the brand. How did you overcome it?

In the beginning, I didn't know any of the legalities around having a business. My job at the time was to make designs for other companies, so I never had to worry about registering for a business or anything.

One of my biggest challenges was around FDA registration. When we were exclusively selling products in the Philippines, our packages were held up in customs because I didn’t know that the product had to be FDA-registered. I ended up having to pay a fee to release them, which cost us 90% of the money we made in three months.

On branding – we love how you’ve tapped into nostalgia and embracing Filipino culture. Tell us about your branding and why you made certain design decisions.

Before I even started Filipinta, I made five years’ worth of concepts, so everything we launch is intentional.

Right now, Filipinta is in its “food era.” I realized food is such a big part of our culture.

I tapped into my childhood a lot, especially for concepts like the Fish Ice Cream Balm. Every time I opened that damn ice cream tub, there was always fish in there!

I loved my childhood and my parents made it comfortable and wonderful. So here in the U.S., I'm pretty lonely, to be honest with you, and this is my way of connecting back to the Philippines.

What advice do you have for aspiring AAPI entrepreneurs – anything you wish you knew when you started?

Please do your research on the business side of things. A lot of research goes into cosmetics – it’s similar to the food industry. Every time we release a collection, it takes three to four months to formulate and to do everything correctly. If you're not doing your research, there are several things that can go wrong or surprise you.

Representation matters. We’ve seen a few Filipino icons emerge in the mainstream beauty world, like Bretman Rock and Patrick Starr. What do you think about Filipino representation in beauty – is there more room to grow?

Oh yeah, there’s room to grow. Filipinos are the second-largest Asian American group in the U.S., but not a lot of us are known. Every time I see a Filipino winning and getting recognition, I get so happy.

In the makeup industry, I don't think I know a Filipino brand right now that's fully Filipino. For more representation, I think we need to embrace our roots more. The Philippines has been colonized many times in our history, and it's only recently that I'm seeing more brands celebrate pre-colonization sentiments. I’d love to see us embracing our roots rather than being more Westernized or mainstream.

What’s something you love about your culture that you wish more people knew about?

The food! Especially Kamayan, or Boodle Fights. Food is how we celebrate and communicate. It’s a huge part of our culture.

What are your favorite childhood snacks?

There's a lot! I love the Lumpia brand cheesy snacks. And Choc-Nut. I found a Choc-Nut spread and it is HEAVEN. I don't like peanuts in general, but Choc-Nut is the best.

Halloween is coming and it’s a big moment for makeup. Do you have any tips for picking and achieving a fun makeup look for the holiday

Lean into being funny! For me, Halloween is not only for scary makeup. I like to go the more comedic route with my looks. For example, basing your Halloween look on your favorite snacks. It’s something new and different.

What’s next for Filipinta? Anything else you would like to share?

This October, we’ll be doing a TikTok series on Filipino folklore and makeup for Halloween. We’re also planning to expand beyond makeup soon, but staying in the realm of self-care and skincare.

Keep an eye out for updates on our Instagram @filipintabeauty and filipinta.com.

Check Out Filipinta Beauty in Sarap Now’s Marketplace

Try Filipinta Beauty’s purpose-driven makeup that celebrates and embraces Philippine culture.

1 comment

Minecraft has become a cultural phenomenon, inspiring books, merchandise, and even educational versions for schools. https://mcbilgi.online/

Leave a comment

Read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

Related posts

  • Sarap Stories: Halmi Founder Hannah Bae

    Sarap Stories: Halmi Founder Hannah Bae

  • 15 AAPI-Made Holiday Gifts Under $50 That Will Make Anyone Happy

    15 AAPI-Made Holiday Gifts Under $50 That Will Make Anyone Happy

  • 6 Simple Ways to Celebrate Filipino American History Month

    6 Simple Ways to Celebrate Filipino American History Month