Kyla Olives Laurel: On motherhood and creative entrepreneurship

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Kyla Olives Laurel
Kyla Olives Laurel. Photo by Kurt Alvarez

Through creative brands The Olive Tree, Ola Haus, and Ola Bebe, the young mother’s diverse roles connect together in a circular fashion


In the whirlwind of modern life, juggling multiple roles is often the norm rather than the exception. Kyla Olives Laurel seems to embody this ethos, as she blends her roles as photographer, creative director, and entrepreneur with motherhood. 

“I thought I was going to be a photographer,” Laurel reflects, a sentiment echoed in her role as both the photographer and manager of The Olive Tree, Ola Haus, and Ola Bebe. She recalls how her journey began with invaluable experiences as an intern at Silverlens, a prestigious art gallery, where she gained insights into the convergence of art, business, and creativity.

Kyla Olives Laurel
Photo by Kurt Alvarez

“I was an intern at Silverlens for 10 years and ongoing. I feel Silverlens was one of the biggest influences in my life, in terms of how to run a business, how to organize people, how to organize files, and how to be very professional. In terms of art, it opened my eyes. We would do artist lunches. Artists would talk about their body of work and why this color or material is out there. It was eye-opening for me, then as a college student, that everything had a reason.”

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After graduating from De La Salle University in 2014, she finished with a double degree in advertising management and communication arts. Laurel also cites a summer course she took in Central Saint Martins, London, for textile design, which proved essential in her later pursuits of fabric-centered brands. 

I’ve always dreamed of having a clothing brand. I think fashion was always my first love. That’s actually why I did photography, just because I love fashion so much. There is so much I’m really grateful for with what the universe has given our brand, and the journey we’re on.”

As a second-generation linen maker at The Olive Tree and a visionary entrepreneur at Ola Haus and Ola Bebe, the young mother’s diverse roles converge seamlessly—from designing linens to weaving colorful vessels and clothes with multicolored cords.


The Olive Tree

After graduating from college, Laurel was invited to join the family business, The Olive Tree, which was started by her parents years before, and was then a dormant company. Under the mother company Casa Kyla, The Olive Tree supplies bed linens, fine napkins, tablecloths, and a range of other linen-based products made in a factory in Marikina by workers who have been with the company since the very start. The brand also collaborates with a group of embroiderers from Laguna for their expert embroidery skills.

The Olive Tree Philippines
The Olive Tree. Photo from Kyla Olives Laurel

Since 1990, the company has supplied hotels and restaurants. “My concept was to bring the hotel and restaurant experience to the home,” she says. “I grew up with my family doing this business for a long time so it was natural for me to pick it up and modernize it for consumers who are like-minded people and love quality design. ”

As creative director, she brings her experiences in the world and art to her work. “I did my first collection, which I called ‘Ceramica,’ inspired by travel and patterns of ceramics from all around the world… For a time I was still interning for Silverlens during art fairs. Beside me were the photographs of Jake Versoza. I got inspired by the photographs and how beautiful the precolonial tattoos were. That drove a collection for Artefino and it did well. Since then, every year I do a collection inspired by Filipino tradition.”


Kyla Olives Laurel’s homegrown brand Ola Haus

While Laurel works closely with The Olive Tree in her capacity as creative director, the universe had other projects in store for her.

“Honestly I wanted to do my own brand. The Olive Tree was a family business and there’s always that feeling of wanting to be independent, doing your own thing, and building your own brand. I really like making new concepts, so this [Ola Haus and Ola Bebe] was the perfect opportunity for me to do that.”

Together with husband Jay Laurel, she went on a trip to Spain for a friend’s wedding. “We were in the Gothic Quarter walking around. We were inspired by how organic everything looked, and how everything looked so cool—just naturally cool, creative, and Bohemian. And it just existed on its own, like it was always meant to be like that. When we came home, I felt like I had time to do something more. I was going to have a baby. And then, of course, I needed to add one more stream of income.”

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At the time, her father-in-law offered deadstock cords that were supposed to be sold wholesale. “I thought, I could make stuff out of these beautiful cords. It was the pandemic and our businesses weren’t doing so well. One of my girls in finishing started making floor mats or retaso. I asked her if she was able to do sideline projects. So I drew my first sketches of the bags and she came back with our first-ever sample. Then in two weeks, we launched our first collection. That was Ola Haus.”

And so the brand was born, featuring multicolored bags in bright pinks, yellows, and sea greens. The brand features lines like the “Lukot Lewk” with summer-colored blouses in “ponkan” or “hot lime” while the button-downs give the immediate feeling of freshness, which are appropriate for the tropical climate. “Ola Haus is super upbeat. The people are unique and they like happy things.” 


Ola Bebe

Soon after Ola Haus, Laurel gave birth to her baby girl named Barcelona. “I had ideas of stuff I wanted her to wear that I couldn’t find in the market… But it was destiny when our old mananahi who resigned from Casa Kyla, who was actually our master cutter and pattern maker, came back. I asked her if she wanted to work with me on a small project I wanted to do. Ever since the first day she came in, we never stopped working. It’s been three years.”

The selection of clothes features vibrant coordinates for little people that match the carefree, joyful feelings of childhood. Some sets feature flowers and foliage in undulating patterns. “All of the designs are easy to put on. My daughter hated putting stuff over her head. So it was so hard to look for cute stuff that I could just snap on. That’s why the earlier designs were all two pieces you could tie from the side. Or the opening of the neckline was so big that the kid wouldn’t feel like their head was going to get stuck.”

READ MORE: Motherhood & me: On balancing self-care with responsible parenting


Linking motherhood and creative entrepreneurship

Balancing motherhood and entrepreneurship (especially of multiple brands) can seem challenging, but Laurel makes it look easy. Perhaps it’s because of her brands that connect to the home and show the brighter, lighter side of life, especially of childhood. But Laurel seems to balance it all through active, engaged parenting.

“My daughter’s in her Princess era now. Everything must be a dress. She comes with me to the office and she’s interested in the brand and in design. She even puts textiles together to match dresses. She models all my collections, and we have fun with it. I recently launched button-downs with Ola Haus and I shot it together with Ola Bebe—it only took 30 minutes because my daughter loves the clothes and loves modeling the clothes. 

Kyla Olives Laurel
Photo by Jay Laurel

“My friend told me, your life will change as much as you let it change. Of course, there were sacrifices earlier on when my daughter was still young. But when I get home, she’s with me. I bring her into the office. So the biggest change is accepting that things will slow down a bit more because you’re a mother. Maybe before I could finish 10 things in a day. And now maybe five. Just because she needs my attention. Like today, she’s with us in the office. And now she wants to color, so I need to watch her color while I’m doing quotations.” 

“There are some days that one brand is the highlight of the day, another day is another brand. I take things day to day. I don’t really let it overwhelm me. The worst thing is when you hit that wall and you can’t design, you can’t create, your brain is closed.”

I ask Laurel what her Mother’s Day plans are, to which she answers that she’s doing a golf tournament. Besides handling three brands, she plays golf competitively. “I don’t like stopping. I think my daughter knows that. Maybe that’s why she’s like that also, she likes being busy. But also, I feel like I can’t not mention that I have a really good tribe of people supporting me. It’s not like I’m raising my daughter alone. My husband is so supportive. My family is so supportive, I have a really good yaya that I can fully rely on. And I feel like that sort of gives me confidence to just keep going, and keep working.”

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