LUXURY retailer Rustan’s is embracing sustainability with the Rustan’s Eco-Living Soirée running this month. More interestingly, it’s also onboarding a lot of local brands.

During an event on July 6 in Rustan’s Makati, on view were the products of brands like Caljje (abaca rugs), Calfurn (a luxury furniture brand from Pampanga), and Ugu Bigyan (pottery from Quezon by artist Augusto “Ugu” Bigyan). Other brands included local clean beauty brand For Keeps, with soaps made with coconut and pili oils, and Gourmet Farms, with lettuce chips and other healthy products.

In an interview with Michael Tantoco Huang, Rustan’s Senior Vice President for Development and Support, he discussed why sustainability is an important value for the retail chain. In recent years, more companies have embraced sustainability to adjust to changing moods and a changing planet. Luxury is keeping up, with many brands adopting, for example, renewable materials and the like. “I think it’s more for how we have to think about the future for our kids,” said Mr. Huang.

“My parents would show me the way the Pasig River used to look — it used to be blue. With the way things have gone, I know it’s because of technology and development. We gave way to all of this. But what we forgot to do is make sure that we don’t destroy the things around us,” he said.

Internally, some of the measures they’ve taken to reduce their carbon footprint is to reduce their travels when meeting with their foreign suppliers. As well, “We’re looking into using recycled papers for our packaging, or even recycled plastics. That’s in the works,” he said.

Rustan’s is best known for bringing foreign luxury brands to the Philippines, but in recent years, they’ve begun to carry more local luxury brands. For example, there’s Randolf, a barong brand by local designer RJ Santos, showing off colorful embroidery and more casual looks for the traditionally staid barong.

“Our founders (his grandparents, Bienvenido and Gliceria Tantoco) have always said when they first started the business, it was bringing the best of the world to the Philippines. They also made sure that we had a Filipiniana section to promote Philippine products,” said Mr. Huang. “It’s our own. Why don’t we work with these people as well? Why don’t we also help them?”

Citing for example, Calfurn, which makes furniture for resorts around the world, he said, “People go abroad, and they see it, and (they say), why can’t I have it for myself?” here in the Philippines. — JL Garcia