A HANDWOVEN, hand-dyed rug is used in lieu of a Christmas tree skirt. The yellow pillows on the day bed and the orange fabric of the coffee table echo the shades of the partially hidden HROcampo painting.
Mix-and-match style of young moms leads to retail success
It’s been a hectic year for sisters-in-law Charlene Carlos and Leona Panutat, owners of the popular L’Indochine at SM Aura. Aside from tending to the store that carries a selection of homeware and ladies’ apparel from around the region, they also set forth on two-week-long buying trips practically every month.
“It was, and still is, very difficult for me because for nine years I was a stay-at-home mom. I arranged playdates for my three kids, I attended to all their school needs. When we would go on family trips, I would come up with workbooks for them, describing the places we planned to visit. I would even include portions that they were required to answer,” Carlos said.
Panutat encountered the same situation when she would have to leave her very young son. Fortunately, the Filipino family is one filled with many willing members.
When they finally opened L’Indochine in May, they were surprised at how warmly they were received.
“People would come weekly just to check if we had put out any new items on the shelves,” Panutat said.
“It was very fulfilling especially since we purchased items from Cambodia, Myanmar, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand based on how they appealed to the two of us. It was really just gut feel, so it felt good—in a way—to be proven right.”
Now, however, the two have realized that researching on colors and on upcoming trends in fashion is the more logical thing to do.
They have also begun collaborating with a few suppliers on pieces made only for the store.
“I’m more of the classic, preppie type while Leona is more boho, eclectic. When we see things that might look better in another color or fabric combination, we suggest it to our suppliers,” Carlos said.
Two of their initial collaborations have resulted in loose vests made of two fabrics in contrasting prints, and delicate chain necklaces with words that affirm and declare like “Loved,” “Courage” and “Dream.”
“When we came out with those necklaces, we sold 200 in one week,” Carlos said.
Panutat is a stylist who knows how to layer jewelry to great effect. At dinner two weeks ago in Carlos’ home, she wore a ring shaped like an eagle’s talons and a scarab pendant.
“This is one of the big trends for 2014,” she said, fingering the pendant. “Insects as jewelry accessories.”
The good thing about the pieces sold at L’Indochine is that they can be used with items a woman already owns. This holds true with the homeware as well.
Working with what you have
In the Carlos home are vignettes that combine pieces from the store with those her family already owns: a lucky pelican made of hammered steel roosts on a stack of books on a coffee table; a heavily embroidered pillow shares space with over a dozen other throw pillows on a day bed, their colors picking up the hues of an HR Ocampo painting.
In one corner of the living room, a cabinet painted with gold leaf serves as pedestal for a gold jar casually draped with a chunky necklace from Cambodia.
Instead of a gaudy holiday skirt for their towering Christmas tree, Carlos used a beautiful rug handmade by farmers during the off-season.
She is particularly proud of her daughter’s room, however, which she has taken to calling “the L’Indochine room” for its preponderance of pieces from the store— whether it be the bedspread, the sheets, the pillowcases or the decor.
“We’ve noticed that our customers are well-traveled. They’re aware of the trends; they’re certainly not baduy so we really need to keep abreast of the trends as well,” Panutat said.
This early, the two are already considering opening another branch.
“We still need to find the right place but once we do, it will be located in an SM mall,” Carlos said.