Designer, Photographer, Entrepreneur, and Co-founder of Agos
Mica Ferrer on understanding what it means to trust your process. From struggling with career choices to overcoming fear underwater, the artist shares how to deal with self doubt.
Portraits by Crissy Joson and Fourth Faronillo
How do you describe yourself as an artist?
I’m not really sure how to describe myself as an artist. I actually didn’t seek out to be a photographer or a graphic designer. I’ve always been insecure about not formally studying design and photography. But I guess as I got older, I became more comfortable in describing what I do rather than what I am.
I remember there was this advice for those struggling to do creative work and it said, “Be the verb, not the noun”. To focus on making something rather than being something. That hit me. I used to get an intense case of Imposter Syndrome—that fear of people finding out you’re not good. That quote helped me get through my self-doubt and just focus on the act of making art or design.
Sometimes I’d just whisper to myself and say, “I design logomarks” or “I take film photos of seascapes” whenever I feel insecure about my work. It’s silly, but it really works. It takes away the pressure of constantly labeling yourself, especially online. It’s just so crazy how your overthinking can be the only thing keeping you from doing your craft.
"I remember there was this advice for those struggling to do creative work and it said, “Be the verb, not the noun”. To focus on making something rather than being something. That quote helped me get through my self-doubt and just focus on the act of making art or design."
You did branding and photography for several start-ups while also starting your own brand with Agos. What did you love about that experience?
I think what I loved most about that phase of my work life was having two perspectives at the same time. I knew what it was like to be a hired designer and a start-up owner.
I was always learning from both sides of a branding project. Whatever I learned from building a start-up, I would use that when solving a brand problem for a client. The same goes with Agos. I would use the branding tricks I’d picked up from projects and applied it to our business. It was a constant learning process. It was hard, but fun. That unique experience made the work I do for Agos and other start-ups more meaningful.
What kept you motivated?
I think what always motivated me was knowing I was helping business owners express themselves. Much of what branding does is to help a client search for an identity and a purpose. The same goes when shooting for other brands. In brand photography, you’re sort of building the personality of a brand—the vibe, the models, the props, the environment. It’s a constant exercise of expression for the team behind the business.
When branding is done right (not just making a logo design or a packaging design), it becomes a meaningful experience for the clients. They learn to define clearly why their business matters to them personally while also finding the purpose their business needs to have. I wish all brands would try it at least once. It helped us in growing Agos, for sure.
"We have envisioned Agos empowering women to feel good about themselves, especially when in the water—to never feel restricted."
How would you describe Agos as a client?
I still find it tricky to describe Agos as a client. I think it’s because I can be biased. But sometimes it was tough from the perspective of being a designer. I knew our budget for branding or marketing and that restricted me right away before planning anything. But I eventually saw it as a good thing since most local brands have budget limitations. I quickly learned how to empathize with clients who had similar problems.
I also learned Agos was one of those brands that knew its brand purpose right away when it started. We’ve had a few rebranding sessions, but the purpose remained consistent over the years. Some of the brands I’ve worked with had a difficult time figuring this out. But that’s not a bad thing. It’s a good challenge for any client or designer to help each other align the purpose of a brand with its goals as a business.
Where did you get your love for the island and the beach travel?
I grew up with parents who loved the ocean. My parents were always dragging us to beach vacations, even before I turned one. One of my earliest memories was sitting on some big bamboo raft in the ocean while my parents were eating lunch. It was just part of growing up. Learning to swim was as important as learning how to walk. I personally feel knowing how to swim is such an important life skill to have.
It’s also just amazing how we get to live in a place where we have too many beaches to count. Not many countries can say that. Knowing that just grew my love for the beach and the ocean.
Where do you get your strength and courage when you're in the deep or in the sea with waves?
Actually the ocean still makes me nervous. I’ve always wanted to be a licensed scuba diver, but I can’t seem to pursue it yet. But I think the real trick is not to think about what you can’t see. I just have this notion that if you don’t panic in the water, you’ll be fine.
It starts with the mind, I guess. Your mind has to be in the right place before you can do anything physically, especially in places as unpredictable as the ocean. In the same way, swimming, surfing, or diving can be scary because you’re solely relying on yourself every second that you’re out there.
I guess that’s why the ocean can be a healing environment. It makes you face your relationship with yourself—your physicality, your breathing, your mindset. It asks your whole self to be present in the water. And when you eventually learn how to embrace it and not fear it, it can help you in ways you never thought it could.
What were the obstacles you experienced when Agos?
I was already a graphic designer working in branding when Agos took off. It was difficult, but I just hoped that my work away from the business would help it in some way in the long run.
Maybe one thing we’ve always struggled with was expanding the reach of our swimwear. Scaling had always been tricky since it required time, money, and manpower—we just didn’t have those. Even today, we’re still technically a micro-business. It’s tough, especially when you’re in a saturated retail market. But we’ve always tried to work with what we have. Always trying to focus on our customers. As long as they’re happy with what we’re doing with swimwear, then we’ll keep going.
I just feel success is really measured by longevity—how long you can stay in the game. We’re still designing swimwear because people still feel we need to do it. That’s really something we can never take for granted.
"The ocean can be a healing environment. It makes you face your relationship with yourself—your physicality, your breathing, your mindset. It asks your whole self to be present in the water."
What do you think hindered the growth of Agos in the start?
I think business is really about people. I feel the growth of a start-up is always connected to the lives of the people behind it. The people creating a venture should always be aligned with each other in some way.
For us, it just so happened we both had other things going on other than the business. Our time was always divided when we started out. That stalled our growth as a company, for sure.
But looking back at it now, what happened was a blessing. Ea and I sort of had the same struggle in terms of devoting time for the business. It was like we were thrown into different lanes, but we were still headed in the same direction. Luckily, we survived that first chapter of “growing pains” and are now able to work more on the business. In some sense, we have always been aligned. I think we got lucky in that way.
What was your vision for Agos or has it changed over time?
When we started, our vision for Agos was as simple as becoming a local surf and beach brand. But that changed when we launched our first bikini collection. When we started receiving thank you messages from women saying they were finally able to enjoy the ocean while surfing or swimming, we instantly knew we were making something more than just a bikini. We also understood what they meant because we’ve had several traumatic bikini experiences. Ever since then, we have envisioned Agos empowering women to feel good about themselves, especially when in the water—to never feel restricted. We want them to enjoy the ocean, whether it’s through surfing, swimming, diving, or any kind of water sport.
I guess it’s similar to how when you get older, you eventually become more of yourself. Agos just had to grow up a little so it can become more of what it was meant to be—a brand for women who love being in the ocean.