“LUXURY” isn’t what immediately comes to mind when you say “local.” But luxury retailer Rustan’s makes the local chic with its exhibit Celebrating the Finest of the Philippines which is on view at the fifth Floor of Rustan’s Makati until June 22.
Displays of crafts from indigenous people from the north to the south of the country, from Ilocos to Maguindanao, are on display, augmented by food products from local producers, as well as jewelry by Silnag and assorted items of Filipiniana dress.
Displayed side by side with global luxury brands, it gives one a certain sense of pride — and the prices are up there with the giants too: there are embroidered silk and piña items priced at P22,000 and above. Items set with semiprecious stones, as well as lucky charms from the Cordillera region are more modestly priced.
The exhibit also paves the way for some of these producers to supply the Filipino luxury retailer all year-round and not just for special occassions. “We wanted to give these small business owners a chance to be able to sell their products on a year-round basis,” said Michael T. Huang, Rustan’s Vice-President for Store Development. He pointed out that many of these sellers will only be found once or twice a year at trade fairs and such. “It might not even be just for a year,” he said, hinting that some of the exhibitors may become permanent suppliers.
“It’s always been a passion,” said Mr. Huang about filling sections of the store with Filipino goods, jostling for space with brands such as Kate Spade and Meissen. “My grandmother, when she started the store, one of her goals was to promote Filipiniana. Back in the day, when she started, she wanted to give these small business owners a chance.”
While his grandmother, Rustan’s founder Gliceria Tantoco, ironed out deals with Oleg Cassini and other global fashion giants back in the 1950s and ’60s, she also saw fit to promote local designers such as Criselda Lontok.
Rustan’s is known for bringing in foreign luxury goods that wealthy Filipinos might have had to travel abroad for back in the day. While Rustan’s is owned by a Filipino family, could there be the spirit of a Filipino identity in the displays of glossy foreign brands? “Our slogan before was ‘Bringing the best of the world to the Philippines’,” said Mr. Huang. “I’d like to think that giving the Filipino a chance to get these products and have them here for them to buy — I guess you can say it’s a service that we’re very proud of.”
In connection with the exhibition in Rustan’s Makati, a special cooking workshop with celebrity chef Him Uy de Baron on making Filipino food with a modern flair will be held at Rustan’s Shangri-La on June 21. The workshop is open to the public. — Joseph L. Garcia