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ARTE FINO 2017’s ‘Presente’, A Cultural Christmas Pop-Up At Power Plant Mall

A semi-gusty breeze has flipped our calendar page.  Hello, December.  Holiday rush shopping is now in full swing, despite the lack of that fuzzy Christmas feeling.  The struggle is real and we get the gist that the world needs a huge pat on the back.  We seem to be lacking a solid bit of ‘pasko’ nostalgia this time around.  On top of a tough year, the thought of Christmas shopping may feel like a looming square on your checklist. Restoration of a more relevant and meaningful side of gift-giving for struggling shoppers would indeed be a gift in its own way. 

 

For attendees of last August’s 2017 first Arte Fino artisan fair, good news!  Arte Fino is back this time with “Presente”, a limited-edition holiday mini-fair at Power Plant Mall formed by a handful of past volunteers of MaARTE.  Arte Fino’s eye-catching Filipino artisan expo venture re-opened last week as a pop-up for the holidays inside Power Plant Mall, Rockwell for the whole month of December.  Arte Fino’s Christmas pop-up entrance is purely lit and ready to receive shoppers on the 2nd floor (near Uniqlo) welcoming buyers beneath a glowing burst of white parols

We caught Arte Fino’s "Presente" launch and ribbon-cutting moment at which Charo Santos-Concio, Yvette Fernandez, and Audrey Tan-Zubiri were also present.  This opening of course included Arte Fino’s busy-bee board members: Marimel M. Francisco, Mita B. Rufino, Maritess M. Pineda, Cedie l. Vargas, and Susie B. Quiros.

 

The delightful array of products and merchandise available at Arte Fino are handpicked from among local quality vendors and designers.  The main thrust behind “Presente” as a cultural retail project is that as a buyer you get to bring home the best of what is loved and local along with genuine details or stories about the origin of every item you purchase. 

“At the heart of Filipino life and style is an interdependent relationship between artist-entrepreneurs and consumers where, through connection and collaboration, everyone is inspired to reimagine, innovate, and elevate Filipino craftsmanship.” – artefinoph.com

Arte Fino president Cedie Lopez-Vargas reveals that they didn’t originally plan to do a holiday themed event. “This is the first time we’re attempting a Christmas pop-up.  Over the years we deliberately stayed away from the Christmas season because what we wanted was for people to be able to focus on the advocacy; what’s behind the product, the artisan, the process, the material that’s behind it, and not on the gift-giving.” Cedie notes that these days, shoppers and browsing crowds are way more informed than they used to be about potential purchases.  

Audrey Tan-Zubiri shows of her purchased earrings from Emblem Jewelry

 

“People ask!” Cedie explains, “What we feel is we have brought our buyers to the level where they understand what they’re buying and they appreciate what they’re buying.  We’re trying to test this now at Christmas.  How do you put purpose, intention, and advocacy into your Christmas shopping? Most of the products have tags that speak about the communities that make the products.” 

Susan Quiros, who we spotted welcoming people into Arte Fino’s pop-up, works with the group as a director of operations, admin, and logistics.  Many of the vendors they’ve worked with multiple times have also received their group’s input on their merchandise each year, based on customer feedback.  “We really needed to get our name out there because it’s the first year.  We put in a lot of parameters, like the selection of our vendors.”  Even Casa Mercedes fan craftsman, Monchet Olives, having supported the women on the Arte Fino board since their MaARTe days, continues to promote and believe in their advocacy. “A term I like to use a lot is ‘global local’ we want to build artisan-ship which is world-class.  In anything you do, it has to be relevant, you need to make a product relevant today.  I speak for myself and I speak for everybody else.”

Susan Quiros welcoming us to Arte Fino’s Presente Holiday Pop-up at Power Plant Mall

 

According to Susan, interested vendors shouldn’t think they need to appear ethnic in order to partner with Arte Fino. “It must be something Filipino-made.  It could be a different material but made locally.  It doesn’t always have to be ethnically woven material.  We also wanted to feature our local designers.”

One such product designer is Kara Sumabat.  Her in-demand brand, Halo Halo Store, where she spearheads product development is a massive crowd favorite.  They prove that not every type of product at Arte Fino is necessarily handmade, just locally made.  Halo Halo Store produces machine-woven items from recycled plastic, a more durable and water resistant alternative to regular basket-weave products.  Post ribbon-cutting we were already seeing their outdoor mats and bayongs in tinted sweet pastels being taken from their stall in batches by swarming customers.

 

Kara shares that it’s the machine-weaving that allows them to produce a lot in one go.  “We use recycled plastic predominantly so we make a lot of products.  For now, we focused on the home.  We have the ‘sopas’ which are basically ottomans, we have mats that can be used in the garden [for picnics or at the beach], we have a lot of bayongs that can be used as laundry bags/market bags, different things.”  Halo Halo have been around for about three years now so joining Arte Fino in a bazaar or expo sort of setup isn’t really a new experience for them.  Like some vendors, Halo Halo Store won’t be at "Presente" for the entire month. Others will come in when others leave, so it would be good to catch them soonest. 

There are also more familiar accessories brands like Davao-based label Crystal Seas.  Carmaela Alcantara, the designer, shared how Crystal Seas was formed to make a difference in impoverished communities in Davao and provide a safer form of livelihood for families.

The eye-catching object at Crystal Seas’ stall is their new Macaron Bag collection, inspired by the tiny French pastry and available in 7 colors named after flavors

 

“It was really our goal more than a decade ago to provide training and to give better livelihood choices for Mindanaoans.” Carmela points out, “So we want them to earn something from the work of their hands without having to leave their families behind.” Crystal Seas is the only Mindanaoan design brand among around nearly 20 Filipino brands represented at this year’s IFFT (Interior and Home) show in Tokyo. 

In contrast to brands that have been around awhile, newbie vendors like Raisa Tantuico-Vargas, had a rookie taste of being part of a famed retail pop-up where the holiday crowd would be seeing her chic jewelry brand, Sanxi, for the first time. “We just started this year, maybe October.  My sisters and I grew up with my Lola and she loved jewelry so we were always exposed to it.” 

Raisa Tantuico-Vargas wearing Sanxi’s disc dangler earrings

 

“It’s sterling silver and we really just wanted simple structural shapes, something timeless and not too intricate, just really minimalist.”  In the beginning, the Tantuico sisters merely marketed directly to friends and relatives to jumpstart their brand.  At the moment they only have an Instagram account (@shopsanxi) to cater to the online market, but a site is underway. “We stock some, but if we don’t have your piece we can make it [upon order].” 

 

Presente by Arte Fino will be at Power Plant Mall Rockwell everyday until December 31, 2017

Open from 10am-10/11pm

 

For updates follow ArteFinoPH.com on Facebook: facebook.com/ArteFinoPH/

and Instagram: @artefinoph

 

Photography by Julia Arenas