This New Home Accessories Brand Makes Local Materials Like Rattan and Abaca Cool
For industrial designer Ana Bernardo, it had always been a dream to marry local craftsmanship and materials with purposeful design. That's exactly what she achieved with her recently launched home brand, PULO.
PULO stands for Purveyors of Local. It also means "island." Ultimately, PULO aims to tell the stories of the Philippines' many islands and its people by showcasing original designs alongside the work of artisans from various regions?—from the Cordillera Region to Leyte.
Bernardo says she's always enjoyed connecting to people and the fact that she's able to do that through design makes it even more special.
"Working in corporate as a designer has taught me a lot of things but I've yearned for the long and personal interaction with the makers and the process of making it that I knew I had to leave the city and explore the open roads to get that," says Bernardo.
Bernardo serves as founder, creative director, and chief designer of the brand. The company runs operations from a base in Bataan, where Bernardo grew up. In two weeks’ time, PULO will launch an official website that aims to ship its wares worldwide and distribute through its partner home stores and boutiques.
With a career that spanned working with top home retailers such as Williams Sonoma, Neiman Marcus, Target, Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, Anthropologie, and others, Bernardo has an eye for great design. She had all the know-how and the connections to local sources to start her own furniture and home accessories line. And to the industrial designer, PULO is a dream come true. Through her pieces, she gets to glorify otherwise humble materials such as rattan, abaca, bamboo, and clay and with them, create elegant and luxurious fixtures for the home. Each PULO piece is inspired by the little details that give its partner communities its own character.
Bernardo also finds that she thrives in a limited environment. When asked what she found most different from the corporate setting, she says it's in the mode of communication.
"Furniture retailers are heavily connected with technology and logistics whereas some small craftsmen have challenges to even getting a signal on their mobile devices. Communication and logistics play an important role in this process because it's what gets you results. It's what refines the design and gets the products to the consumers. It's also one of the most efficient processes in working with top retail brands."
When working with these local craftsmen, however, it takes time to pass on the method and create a steady system because she can't design and produce the production scheme as she would with a big company. From this, she expressed the enjoyment she feels in connecting with the artisans, no matter how much longer the process takes, because "it makes our world a little smaller and more connected."
Similar to the production of slow fashion lines, it may take time for PULO to release its next collection. There is a plan to unveil a new collection on a quarterly basis to iron out any kinks that the craftsmen may encounter in product development and to refine the system. This seems to pose no problem with the designer. "I like having that pause with people," Bernardo says. She later adds what makes each release special: "You can expect more product and artisan stories as we go further because our items are rooted in stories and conversations we've shared along the way. Aside from the design, it is the story of how the piece is made and on the people who made it that will be highlighted."
At the heart of the PULO brand is not only locally made home crafts that uphold traditional practices, but the purpose to help the communities where these artisanal pieces were born. Thirty percent of the profit from each piece goes to its partner community and the team works with a diverse set of “employees.” PULO artisans each come from different backgrounds?—from indigenous communities to families that have been doing their craft for generations. They also provide employment to domestic abuse survivors, stroke survivors, and a PWD group.
The team treats their artisans as partners and recognize that without them, PULO would not exist. It’s in their hand-crafted creations that Bernardo's contemporary designs are realized and local traditions survive.
For more information, email [email protected] or follow them on Instagram and Facebook @purveyorsoflocal.