BY FIEL ESTRELLA
PHOTOGRAPHS BY NIKKI BONUEL
Ask her how she found herself on the path she’s taking now, and Kyla Olives would launch into the short version of it: “I fell into it,” she quips. “I was tricked into it!”
Short story long, however, it actually makes some sense. Olives was right out college—she majored in Communication Arts and Advertising Management at De La Salle University—and applying for jobs when her mother suggested that she take charge of graphic design for a family business that focuses on home decor. “It did super well,” she says of that initial project. “My mom was like, ‘Bakit ka pa maghahanap ng trabaho kung pwede mo na siyang patakbuhin?’”
And that was how Olives became creative director of The Olive Tree.
For four years, she has been conceptualizing collections, managing the website and social media, running numbers and other business-related tasks, and personally selling at pop-ups and the store in Loyola Grand Villas. Olives dabbles in photography as well, shooting at events and for catalogs and lookbooks. She also, of course, does the product shoots for The Olive Tree herself.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a micro-manager,” she muses, “but I do like making sure everything is well done.” She adds that she wouldn’t quite call herself a graphic designer—her focus tends to be trained more on branding. “It’s very instinctive for me,” she says of her attitude towards design. “My design process is: I read a lot, I watch a lot, I try to get inspired by lots of different things, I listen to music. So in a way, I sort of over-stimulate myself and then I incubate.”
She admits to being pretty “obsessive” when it comes to researching her collection ideas, which often have elaborate themes and built-in stories related to Filipino culture, including mythology and national symbols. Her design philosophy, however, is simple and direct: “One, I need to like it. Two, it needs to be interesting. And three, it needs to resonate with a lot of people.”
Becoming an entrepreneur may not have been in Olives’ initial plans, but it turned out to be a good fit for her. She had taken some business classes at school, and a short course in London for textile design. But a lot of it comes from her blood. “If you work in a family business, you can never part from it,” she shares. “In a way, you sort of still get scrutinized by your parents. But it’s nice, because there are some things I learn on my own, too.”
“My design process is: I read a lot, I watch a lot, I try to get inspired by lots of different things, I listen to music. I sort of over-stimulate myself and then I incubate.”
A lot of what she’s learned happened to be about following her gut, trusting herself, and seeing where things go. “Like knowing if this is going to be right or wrong, or if this is going to work or not,” she explains. “And just succumbing to it, letting it happen. You need to take risks and just learn from them.”
It also helps to believe in the work you’re doing, and while Olives doesn’t really have a background in interior design, she has garnered some crucial insight into making your house a home. “I think creating your own space is so important, because when you come home after a busy job, or a stressful work environment, you really just want to come home to a place that feels like yours,” she begins. “And I feel like you don’t really need to spend so much money working on it. But having pieces that matter to you or resonate with you or you feel is beautiful, I think, will also help create a beautiful space.”
So, yes, Olives fell into running The Olive Tree—but she also chose to do it for herself. “When I did my first collection, I realized I can be happy doing this,” she recalls. “When the collection is done, it’s really fulfilling, knowing you did everything you could to make it beautiful.”
“I love my job, really,” she adds. “Even if it’s really stressful at times. It’s a dynamic job. There’s a lot of growth connected to it. And if I could use [the skills I learned in school] to help my family, then I would rather just do that.”