In 1995, Aurore Roiland, a Frenchwoman from Nantes, Brittany, was sent by charitable organization Les Amis Soeur Emmanuelle on a humanitarian mission to work with street children in the poorest areas of the Philippines.
Instead of feeling pity and despite the difficulty of her work, Aurore fell in love — “literally fell under the charms of the country and its people” — and decided to stay, settling here in 1999 with her husband, Damien Roiland, a doctor of philosophy and communication consultant.
They adopted a Filipino daughter, Marjorie, whom Aurore calls “our daughter of heart,” and had a son, Louis-Paul, who was born in the Philippines and is now 13 years old.
Stemming from her love for the country and the Filipino artisans she met on her travels, Aurore, together with Marjorie, founded Liwayway Ph, a home-décor and fashion company that showcases Pinoy craftsmanship and Aurore’s own love for l’art de la table.
What is your experience as a French person living in the Philippines?
I take the country as a whole and I savor these joys and put up with these inconveniences. No place is perfect.
Why did you name your company Liwayway?
Marjorie, the co-founder, reminded me of this name that I liked very much: its sound, its writing and its meaning are very evocative to me.
When and why did you start it?
For the past 25 years, to finance the foundation’s projects, I have been traveling around the Philippines to buy handicrafts in order to sell them in France, but also in Singapore or Hong Kong to the French community. Over the years, I helped craftsmen improve their designs to make their creations more “saleable.” Marjorie, who is also the project coordinator of the foundation, asked me then, “Why don’t you create your own brand?” This is how the Liwayway adventure began in November 2017!
Do you design all your tableware?
All our productions are thought of in the Philippines and 99 percent of them are made in the Philippines, right down to the packaging and giftwrap! I conceive the designs, I have a passion for l’art de la table and design in general, and Marjorie takes care of the commercial part. Together we ensure the follow-up of the production.
Which local artisan communities do you work with? How did you discover them?
That’s what I like the most with Liwayway: highlighting the savoir-faire, the expertise of Filipino artisans! It’s incredibly rich: dexterity, willpower and multiplicity. That’s what for me qualifies Filipino craftsmen. So we work with wood carvers, embroiderers, weavers, potters, painters, dressmakers… We call upon minorities specialized in activities such as pearl weaving. All of them are very small craftsmen who work in their garage or on a table outside their home.
Each project requires a minimum of six months of work. Some of our products have taken more than a year to finally be presented. As for production, Liwayway is, above all, a team of two: Marjorie and me.
Before the pandemic, what was your style of entertaining?
I love to entertain and please my guests above all! I was brought up in the French way, where entertaining is important. We have to give ourselves a little bit of effort. Fashions have evolved in France: we take less time to entertain and we have to be quick and simple. I’ve stayed in the fashion of yesterday! I don’t have a particular style, but I’m more into color and floral. I do according to my mood, the season, and the menu. I like my guests to be comfortable and happy. You also have to think about adapting to your host: his culture, his age, and his personality.
Can you give our readers tips on how to make beautiful and memorable table settings using pieces from Liwayway?
Always try to tell a story or express your feelings about the Philippines. Consider that the objects come to tell us a story at the table. These icons are invitations that will arouse questions and curiosity among your Filipino or foreign guests. You can mix and match our pieces if you impose a dominant color code or a clearly identifiable theme.
What are your main design inspirations?
My travels in the Philippines and encounters with men and women whose savoir-faire is unique. The discovery of fauna and flora: I never get tired of it since the very first trip to the Philippines in 1995!
How did you tie up with Bench and the Katutubo Popup Market?
We had the privilege of being invited by Mons Romulo to a first sale at Katutubo in April 2018 at Manila House. Since then, we have been regularly invited to participate. And we are delighted. The organization is perfect, with a very nice disparity of local products. The atmosphere between the merchants and the organizers is excellent, the payment for the brands is done in record time, which is a very appreciable and respectable point, because it should be remembered that we remain small brands, with a short treasury, and our craftsmen can obviously absolutely not wait for the regulations.
I notice you ship worldwide. What is the biggest or most responsive market for your Philippine-made products globally?
Yes, we sell internationally to USA, Hawaii, Australia, Canada, UK, and Malaysia! Our first customers are the balikbayans who want to bring a little piece of their homeland for them or for friends. So the salt-and-pepper shakers and iconic containers are easy to transport and are appreciated for their finish.
And our wraparound pants are sold a lot also abroad. For the little story, it was a pair of pants that I received in 1995 at the end of my first mission in the Philippines. Since then, my little sister Ana and Marjorie wanted us to reproduce it, which we did with great success.
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All designs are available at www.liwaywayph.com . For more info, call them at 0905-457-7043, email email@example.com and follow @liwaywayph and @liwaywayhomeph on Instagram.
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