Style Living Self Celebrity Geeky News and Views
In the Paper BrandedUp Hello! Create with us Privacy Policy

#LifeLokal: How ARAO radiates beauty through the country's own golden South Sea pearls

By JUSTINE PUNZALAN Published Jun 10, 2023 11:16 am Updated Jun 10, 2023 11:32 am

Apart from diamonds, pearls are a girl's best friend. These gems, which come in white, silver, or golden, all have a timeless beauty that never fails to enhance the splendor of their wearers.

Filipino entrepreneur Mirabel Rosar has been familiar with the power of pearls since she was a young girl surrounded by women who are fond of wearing the gem. The Australia-based Pinay, however, later discovered that there's so much more that pearls can do than beautify their wearers.

Pearls, according to Mirabel, are also capable of shining light on an entire country, particularly the Philippines—the home of the golden South Sea pearls alongside Indonesia.

This then inspired her to dive into entrepreneurship with ARAO Fine Jewellery, her premium accessory brand which "curates timeless, accessible, and versatile pieces with the Golden South Sea pearl at its center."

Quintu necklace and earrings

In an interview with PhilSTAR L!fe, Mirabel revealed that she built ARAO with the desire to promote the Philippines as the source of golden South Sea pearls globally. 

She began, "When we launched Arao in 2020, the Philippines had a lot of pearl brands but at that time, they weren't talking much about the source, which is the Philippines. It was more about making it look foreign. Because in reality, we have a lot of pearls being bought by international luxury brands, but they don’t mention where it’s from because it’s already created into a jewelry. So that’s what I really wanted the world to know, that golden South Sea pearls are coming from the Philippines."

ARAO was Mirabel's leap of faith after leaving her long, cross-country career in marketing and brand management. Although the employee-turned-entrepreneur had difficulty leaving the security of having a steady source of income, starting her jewelry brand gave Mirabel a sense of freedom, in addition to the pride of representing the country through her artful pieces.

"It started when I met my German husband Till while I was on vacation in Bali. He was very surprised to meet someone from the Philippines who can speak well. And a lot of his friends from other parts of Europe weren't aware of the Philippines so what really inspired me was to share more about our country," she recounted to L!fe

ARAO founder Mirabel Rosar

Apart from her English skills, Mirabel's foreign peers began to take notice of her homeland through the locally made accessories that she wore.

"When I started living abroad—in Switzerland, Australia, then Hong Kong—I realized a lot of people are interested in our local products," she said. "Because when I go out,and I would shop in the Philippines and then go back to where I was living, they'd say, 'Oh, it's such a nice necklace.' And I'd say, 'Oh, my friend made it. That her business.' So a lot of things from the Philippines got noticed."

Having noticed that, Mirabel's husband then urged her to put up a business promoting the Philippines. The golden South Sea pearls came to mind when her mother-in-law visited the country and asked where she could buy pearls. "So coming from Germany, seeking pearls in the Philippines, I found that as an opportunity [to start Arao]," Mirabel said.

What were the challenges you faced while building your brand and how did you overcome them?

The first was supply. Being a new entrepreneur, I took advice from people, and one advice was, if you need something, just ask. And I realized when you ask people, there are so many people who are willing to help. So I asked, "How can I source this?" and '"Who knows a supplier?" My network of friends helped me build that supply chain. It all comes together once you ask.

The second one was the name when I was already settled on doing pearls and fine jewelry. I was really thinking how to name the business because to me, it has to be representative of something, and I wanted it to be Filipino but also universal. It took me months to choose "Arao" with an "O" because I went through several lists, and then encountered some trademark hurdles. And then Arao finally came about, which I think is the biggest blessing.

Speaking of, what inspired you to choose Arao as your brand's name?

The word "arao," it translates to sun in Filipino with a "W" but also, it's the root word of araw-araw which means every day. So when I thought of pearls, I wanted to develop something that would be like #EverydayLuxury, something that they can wear every day and really bring out the best in them. So that's why we have our tagline, "Let your light shine," because we feel with the products that we have, women are given the chance to discover the light within and let it shine.

Eleanor earrings and Sinag necklace
Who designs Arao's jewelry and are they only sold in the Philippines?

I designed the first connection and then we have several collaborations with various designers. So for our first collaboration, we partnered with Joan Bitangcol where she photographed our pearls with some elements that she printed in a silver satin scarf. That's what we did for our Alchemy by Arao collection. Last year, we had a collaboration with Joanique which was founded by Malou Araneta. She created several Keshi pearl designs inspired by her visit to Peru. We also have our creative director Luis Espiritu who's actively looking at the designs and seeing the collection, making sure that it's very, very relevant to the market that we serve, which is more modern classics since we're looking at everyday luxury.

So where are the products produced? So we have two parts, some are produced in the Philippines and some are produced in Hong Kong. And it's produced mainly where it's served. So we have two pop-ups as well. The one in the Philippines is in Greenbelt 5 in a store called AC632 and in Hong Kong, we're currently available in Novel Fineries at the Peninsula in Hong Kong.

Kuntur necklace and earrings
Apart from raising awareness on the origin of golden South Sea pearls, how does Arao advocate for women empowerment?

One of our pillars would be what we call "Women of Pearls." We know that pearl applies to all women, even men. So every month in the past, we featured women who has an inspirational story and let their light shine by telling their story on social media. We were featuring women from various fields, from banking to arts. These women are very inspirational, and knowledgeable, and share a lot of wisdom about their specific industries. So being able to build that relationship within that community has enabled us to grow and penetrate Hong Kong with Arao. 

What do you want your customers to feel when wearing ARAO jewelry?

I would like the customer to feel very much like themselves and very empowered. We invest a lot in individual empowerment, meaning whatever they have to share inside, we encourage to bring them out. Apart from that, we want our customers to know that Arao our jewelry is a modern classic, it’s not just a trend, but rather, it can last generations, like an heirloom being passed from one generation to the next. So  I want them to feel that they are valued and that through this jewelry, a part of them can be passed on to the next generation.