BY FIEL ESTRELLA
PHOTOGRAPHS BY NIKKI BONUEL

The printed products of The Olive Tree deserve a second, and maybe third and fourth, look.

It’s not only because the designs are eye-catching and beautiful—there are multiple elements and fine, elaborate detail to them that, when examined closely, are able to tell a whole story.

“When you look closer, you see something else [in them],” explains creative director Kyla Olives. Since taking over four years ago, she has overseen the creation and designs of over a dozen collections, taking inspiration from the Philippines, including ceramics, tropical imagery, legends and folklore, and tribal tattoos.

 

Left: The Olive Tree creative director Kyla Olives 

 

An offshoot of Casa Kyla, which supplies hotels and restaurants, The Olive Tree extends the company’s collaborative and creative approach to decor to the home. Pillows, beddings, placemats and coasters, even bags, pouches, and handheld fans carry tasteful and personal designs, from monogrammed embroidery to rich and colorful prints.

“A big part of Olive Tree is being able to customize,” says Olives. “An important thing [in decorating] is to understand that your space is yours, and if it makes sense to you, then just do it.”

The Olive Tree has a small showroom in Marikina’s Loyola Grand Villas, which Olives is in the process of renovating and redecorating, and also sells products online or via pop-ups at trade fairs like ArteFino. When they began participating in the latter, which calls for Filipino-inspired products, Olives’ approach to the shop’s collections became more purposeful, focusing on what she calls “muses” and representing many different aspects of the country’s culture: its people, its regions, and its stories.

 

Throw pillows, available in various shapes, from the Indayog collection

 

“Usually we focus on Filipino aspects that are very simple, that we elevate,” she says, adding that she’s always looking to create pieces that are unique and meaningful, but also playful and quirky. “I really wanted to do [Filipino folk dances] because I feel like within the Filipino culture, music and dance has always been the main thing that connects everyone.”

Their new collection, “Baliktanaw,” pays homage to traditions of days past that, fortunately, are very much alive (if rare or overlooked) today. Half of it is comprised of prints, featuring five muses—weavers, caravans or men selling baskets off the back of a carabao, sorbeteros, women at palengkes, and the game luksong tinik—with running themes such as brooms, baskets, fruits, and ice cream cones.

For the other half of the collection, Olives has worked, for the first time, with real-life weavers for hand-loomed bedspreads, bed throws, table linens, and bucket hats. “I’ve always wanted to work with artisans,” she shares.

Since March, she has traveled to Ilocos Norte to work with two groups of weavers as part of a project with Philippine Commission on Women. In Paoay, she worked with the Nagbacalan Weavers Cooperative to create inabel fabric, which makes use of a four-pedal loom. And in Sarrat, she worked with the San Jose Multipurpose Cooperative for binakol, which makes use of a two-pedal loom. The products are study, Olives marvels, and they evoke nostalgia with classic color combinations and new patterns.

 

Apart from throw pillows, napkins, placemats, coasters, and lifestyle items, The Olive Tree produces custom bedroom linens (above and right)

 

The partnerships have resulted in an exchange of ideas and knowledge between her and the weavers. She’s especially excited for the bucket hats, which are sewn on-site in Sarrat. The patterns were sent to the weavers, allowing them to create their own hats independent of the venture with The Olive Tree. “They are very interested to learn how to make new things,” she says. And if the collection does well, she’s very excited to keep working with them, even with such a long drive just to make the trip.

 

 

Olives is also collaborating with local brand Pundesal for patches to apply onto the bucket hats, through which she hopes to generate mass appeal among younger clients—they get to appreciate their heritage with a fashionable and functional item woven and sewn by hand. “Bucket hats are back, according to Vogue,” she says sagely. The hats are also double-sided and reversible, with different prints on each side. “So you get two bucket hats in one!”

Olives takes pride not only in the fact that The Olive Tree is, for the most part, locally designed, sourced, and made, but also in the diversity of its customers. “The worst thing, I think, as a business person is putting Olive Tree in a box and not being approachable to other clients,” she says. “Several of my clients are actually people that work abroad or live abroad and they want to have something Filipino in their house.”

The brand’s designs may tell many different stories, but they also have one unifying message. “Filipinos should be proud of their cultural heritage,” she says. The tinikling, a carabao, palm trees, and bamboo stalks may be ordinary and mundane to some of us, but that doesn’t make them any less worthy of appreciation. “For [my clients overseas], they don’t see them much anymore, and they want to be reminded of it.”

Such is also the case for weaving. It may be a long-running tradition, “but not a lot of people do it,” Olives muses. Through this collection, which releases at the end of the month, “the [weavers] are reassured that what they’re doing is beautiful and important. Natutuwa sila. It’s very fulfilling.”

For orders, log on to theolivetreeph.com.

Grooming by Vida Non Jaucian

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