Tablescaping saw a huge resurgence during the pandemic, with many seeking to make dinnertime more special. It has also became the perfect pasttime for Filipinos, who are very much into entertaining and hosting gatherings.
One such brand that celebrates Filipino hospitality through their uniquely designed plates is Casa Juan. Michelle Fontelera, founder local fragrance brand Zen Zest, thought of creating dinnerware that would spark conversations.
"Very Filipino mentality lang ako na parang every meal is family gathering. It's a bonding moment where the family, we get together. Kaya nga dito diba boodle fights, mahilig kasi tayo kumain and that's part of our culture. That's part of our tradition," she told PhilSTAR L!fe.
"I create plates kasi it's something that they (local bazaars) don't have—plates that feature everything Filipino," she added.
Explaining her love for plates, she said: "Whenever I'm abroad, like London or anywhere in Europe, even the States, I would usually buy plates in the thrift markets, vintage stores... I would carry so much plates whenever I go home from a trip. Kasi I really get inspired with what I see," she said.
At Casa Juan, which is named after her son, Michelle partners with different artisans and designers like Rajo Laurel, KAAYO, painter Jose Honorato Lozana, and children's book illustrator Kora Dandan Albano, among others. Through their products, Michelle hopes that the Filipino culture and tradition will live on.
How does your Filipino heritage/culture influence your brand values and identity?
The purpose of the Filipino inspired designs is because I'm very nationalistic. I also want to educate people on what we have. I want to educate people about our textiles, how they are made. I what to educate of about our endemic plants, endemic flowers, endemic birds.
And we also have the Larong Pinoy collection, the Street Food collection. Parang gusto ko something nostalgic, mga designs na, babalik tayo sa childhood natin.
Gusto ko kasi yung plates ng Casa Juan to be to be available worldwide to be exported abroad so that on an international level, the people, the consumers, not only will they have nice plates in their homes, but there's also a story behind each plate.
How often do you come up with collections?
We have around three to four designs a year, but now we are also working with weavers in the Cordillera in Mindanao because we are also incorporating mga placemats table runners and whatnot. Kasi that's also something that I'm very passionate about yung weavers natin because that's part of our culture.
Prior to the pandemic, that demand was very below. And that's one of the reasons why the children of these weavers don't want to weave anymore. And diba stopping tradition, dun na lalo sa parents, mawawala na sa culture natin. And to be able to help them make their businesses lucrative, I need to have a demand.
What obstacles have you faced while creating your brand?
Logistics. Like for weavers, medyo malalayo. So hindi ko sila magagawa all at the same time, I still have to go to the north to for to visit the other weavers there. Tapos sa Mindanao, I was able to touch base with them through the Likha event of Mrs. Marcos and Department of Tourism. I was able to get suppliers and meet the weavers there.
It's also a challenge, I guess, for people to buy products using local weaves that are a bit pricey. Because some of our local weaves, not all, they're really a bit pricey. But I don't think they're expensive because when you go abroad, say Turkey, the rugs are half a million pesos because they're handmade. Sabi ko "Bakit? Handmade din naman mga tela dito."
How has social media helped your brand?
What I like about social media is I'm able to tell the stories of our designs. I'm able to talk about the birds that we feature in our plates. I'm able to educate our customers na, "Guys, sa Pilipinas lang meron ganitong flowers." I'm able to talk about our rich culture, our rich country.
How would you want your customers or your clients to feel when they're using your products or your plates?
When they use my plates, I want them to be proud of our roots. I want them to be proud that they're Filipino. I want them to be proud of our country and our culture.