Fashion
The Partners Who Started Kayu Share How Ivatan Culture and Their Love of Nature Inspired the Brand
Yes, you can save the planet and still make money!
IMAGE Kayu | instagram.com/kayu.ph

For a lot of fashion brands, their pieces are usually crafted at the expense of nature, but not for Kayu. Inspired by their love for nature, Reiner loves the mountains while his partner, Loreene loves the sea, they decided to craft a closet staple for both guys and girls—a watch—using the beauty of the wood. Read on and find out how these two partners started Kayu out of their love for nature.

How it started. "We had a very simple kickoff last November 2016 via social media. Since then, we already have a whopping 60k following."

Why Kayu? "I initially wanted to give a wooden watch as a gift and after searching online and even in malls, I wasn't able to find the perfect fit and look that I wanted. I ended up getting a pen and had it customized to the way that I wanted it. But along the way, since I was into numerous revisions of design to perfect it, the idea of offering wooden watches to the public, with consideration of the Filipino built, popped out and the rest is history."

The message. "Kayu's mission is to encourage people to spend time with nature. In this age of technology and in this world where almost everyone is busy, we want to remind them to breathe for a while and spend time with Mother Nature. We believe that in one way or another, this will give you either peace of mind or adrenaline rush that will connect you even more to your true self, to the goals of your life or even to the things that really matter."

Entrepreneur. "Being an entrepreneur is definitely challenging, but at the same time very fulfilling. It was definitely challenging at first. We have our day jobs since this business just happened by accident. And as the business expands, we need to put more time and effort to further strengthen the brand and satisfy our customers. But it's fulfilling at the same time because we didn't expect that the market would immediately appreciate our products without any drastic marketing or promotion. Plus, it stretched us as individuals. We were not business people or entrepreneurs to begin with, but along the way, we learned so much more about handling a business and life in general. It's always good to know that we can still do more."

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Aesthetic. "Definitely minimilastic."

Choosing the look. "When the idea of wooden products popped out, we just knew 'that's it' (probably influenced by our love for nature's simplicity). While the goal is to really make it simple, the Filipino built is always in mind. There are a lot of products out there, but we always visualize if this will be perfect for the Filipino people."

Drawing inspiration. "The inspiration of our Kayu wooden watches all came from Batanes. Ivana is a municipality in Batanes, where my favorite church (San Jose de Ivana Church) is located. The church is nearly 250 years old whose façade is close to the color of maple, used specifically by Kayu. Another inspiration was Masari, which is derived from the Ivatan term Masari that means dark. This is to highlight the beauty of the walnut wood that darken and smoothen over time with the help of your body’s natural oil."

Partners in crime. "Working in a team makes handling the business easier for us because we know have found the right partner in each other. We capitalize on each other's strength, skills and resources. We also believe that it's important that you have not just the same interest, but more importantly, the same vision and values."

Little challenges. "First is stocks! We didn't expect that the market would be very good to us to the point that we ran out of stocks on our second month! And since these are wooden watches, it takes time to replenish it. It was just sad to say that we were sold out and we didn't have stocks anymore. Second is building the physical store. We understand that there are still some trust issues doing online businesses and around 15% of our inquiries are asking for physical store. At that time, we didn't have one. But now, we are happy that we are in 3 locations in partnership with different businesses as well."

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Staying original. "We try to keep our designs unique. Every part of a Kayu product is carefully thought out and meticulously designed by Ivatan hands. For wooden watches, we opted for materials that will surprise people how beautiful it can become over time. As for our bamboo sunglasses, Kayu incorporated and engraved along its temple Baybayin, mistakenly known as Alibata to support our products' inspiration and mission. When it comes to our designs, we also aim to maintain the simplicity of its design ensuring that our products are still close to its natural state. Lastly, we keep it affordable despite the challenge in coming up and delivering wooden products, we see to it that the market can afford it."

What's next? "The vision of Kayu is to be known as a Filipino brand supplying and showcasing unique products with a touch of creativity from different indigenous community. We started with Ivatan in Batanes and we are open to explore ideas, talents and products from other places to incorporate in our crafts. We believe that Filipinos are very talented and creative and we want to actively promote and showcase it worldwide."

To young budding entrepreneurs. "If there's an idea on your mind, take the first step and just do it rather than regret and say 'what if I tried that.' Know that there's no guarantee if the decision we will make is right or wrong. That's why we need to put all our efforts to make that decision right. However, if you will not take the first step and if you will not even try, how would you know if you made the right decision.There will be a lot of challenges and even failures along the way, but what's important is to take the first step, believe in yourself and just go for it."

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Know any young entrepreneurs? Leave a comment below and you just might see them on the site next week!

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About the author
Janelle Yau
Fashion and Beauty Assistant
The Rebecca Bloomwood of Manila. I spend half of my time obsessing about the latest fashion craze, and the other half overthinking and over-analyzing just about anything under the sun. When I’m not busy as a bee playing with fifty shades of pink lippies, you can probably catch me swiping my plastic for yet another pair of shiny, pointed gold flats.
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