Adrienne Charuel is one Filipino woman who makes us proud.
A multi-faceted artist, she founded Maison Metisse, a house of fashion that pays tribute to Philippine indigenous fabric.
After studying Fashion Design in ESMOD (École supérieure des arts et techniques de la mode) in Paris, she moved to New York where she became enamored with Japanese Saori weaving, a free form, Zen-based weaving style.
This special interest opened possibilities for Adrienne who soon explored other mediums and crafts.
Today in her own Maison Metisse, clients take their pick from an array of creations that highlight her interpretation of the art of Ai-Zome, Macrame, hand embroidery and natural dyes. The resulting creations combine both international flair and the artist’s personal identity anchored on her Filipino roots which she explored more deeply by interacting with local artisans.
As we count down to Christmas and make our list of gifts to loved ones, I am sharing with you a recent conversation with Adrienne who graced TribuneNow’s Spotlight, a Thursday afternoon talk show featuring outstanding Filipinos in various fields. With me anchoring the interview was Dinah S. Ventura, my lifestyle section editor.
I hope that your selection of unique gifts would widen as Adrienne shares with us the mindful process that goes into creating everything beautiful that is found in the House of Metisse.
As Adrienne herself told us, all her creations are “designed to bring beauty, value and joy into the lives they land in.”
Furthermore, she explained, “Maison Métisse is a manifestation of my dream to touch lives and create freely with no boundaries.”
Through Maison Metisse, Adrienne looks beyond home without leaving it. At the same time, she looks within and discovers that what is Filipino transcends space and tradition. Her roots thus have not remained still but have reached out to different directions. Thus, the Filipino in Adrienne shares what is inherently hers, at the same time accepts the world’s offerings that she considers worthy and beyond manmade bounds.
Daily Tribune (DT): Tell us about your interest in weaving. It all started in New York, we understand.
Adrienne Charuel (AC): I came across some weaving studio in New York and so, I asked myself, ‘Why don’t I try weaving to relax?’ and I did and actually really enjoyed it to the point that it became my part-time job. Then I started selling my creations there.
Back to my roots
DT: How did New York affect you and influence you in your art and craft?
AC: In New York there was also a lot of movement about sustainability and slow fashion so it got me interested because I eventually worked for the girl who owned the weaving studio.
DT: What was special about her work?
AC: She was all about natural dye, sacred art, and it really inspired me to pursue my goal for myself. So I started weaving there and when we had to go back to the Philippines in 2018, it gave me a chance to go back to my roots and it was always what I wanted — to incorporate my Filipino heritage into my creations.
DT: How did your return to the Philippines bring you closer to your Filipino roots and identity?
AC: I started learning about some tribes while I was doing some soft studies about natural dyes. I decided to take a workshop with an ethnic tribe in the Mountain Province in Luzon, and it was amazing.
It was just three days of one-on-one with the tribe and I accidentally discovered a lot of things about my identity, about the Filipino and about our kind of craftsmanship.
DT: Where did that initial learning lead to?
AC: This time, I asked myself, ‘Why don’t I combine my mandala garments with the creations of this tribe?’ So it was really nice and I realized that they were kind of in poverty and I kind of wanted to empower them to improve their work and life because I was there for three days. So, I attended another workshop, but I also got to know them. I got to talk to them about their life and I was like, ‘Okay, this is like the missing part of what I want to do.’ I wanted to create something and empower others while sharing the Philippine heritage everywhere.
DT: Can you tell us more about your journey as an artist? It was literally a journey from one place to another.
AC: Well, actually. It was after college when I went to New York for the first time… So, I took summer tours. Then I studied fashion design in Paris. I was weaving bags before by myself. There was an emphasis on sustainable lifestyle and it just happened naturally that I wanted to incorporate tradition into my craft, from the selection of materials to the creation of a dress or bag or an accessory. Everything is mindfully crafted.
DT: Has your craft made you happy?
AC: Yes, it has made me really happy. You know I wanted to know more about beautiful things or more of the spirit of things. When something attracts me, it makes me feel good. And I guess that is what I want, that I create things. I feel good creating things.
DT: We understand Jose Natori, the international designer, has been a good mentor to you. Tell us about her.
AC: She’s actually very nice, but she is also straight to the point. When she’s giving me advice, she’s doesn’t really sugarcoat. She tells me the truth about the industry.
Friendly but cautious
DT: Your business depends very much on people who supple you with the fabrics of the ethnic. So, can you tell us a little bit more about your interactions and experiences with them?
AC: Well, I visit them every month. Again, I’m very hands-on so I like to go there and it’s not just about work; it’s also my time to get to know the community. We always share a meal there. So it used to be monthly when we could really be in front of each other. You have to really touch it; you have to feel the fabric and it’s so hard for me to decide things. I have to take a photo or video. It’s a bit more challenging now.
DT: Which tribes are you working with? Which parts of the Philippines?
AC: One is a weaving community that’s 40 minutes away from La Paz town. I used to take a bus for seven to 10 hours. It was an ethnic tribe and we worked together.
DT: How did they receive you? Were the cautious or suspicious?
AC: Actually, when I first met them, they were really friendly, but they were a bit more cautious in earlier times when they were being exploited. Some would buy fabrics and they wanted to resell them 10 times the original amount. Yeah, they have a lot of horror stories. They were friendly, but it doesn’t mean they would trust you right away.
The future is Filipina
DT: Would you tell us about your project, ‘The Future is Filipina?’
AC: I started to see Filipinas trying to assist other people as much as they can during the pandemic. So, these women have been inspiring me so much. I think the future is Filipina. And so, I started thinking it is a great way to showcase it, that the Filipina women are our future. I reached out to them to ask them to help me send the message to inspire Filipinas of all ages, that they have a lot of power and we have so much to look forward to if we would work together and inspire other Filipinas to do the same. That’s why I invited five Filipinas to inspire other Filipinas.
DT: Who are involved in the project?
AC: I reached out to some women, namely, Josie Natori, Cherrie Atilano, Berna Romulo Puyat and Isabelle Delgado.
DT: Are you selling something that would raise funds for the project?
AC: So far, of the shirts that we were selling, 20 percent of the proceeds will go to Teach for the Philippines which is a profit organization that helps Filipino youth acquire a proper education. We have very positive feedback and we were also about to launch a new series with the ArteFino ladies this time.
DT: Are your products sold abroad? Have you been reaching out to the international market?
AC: That shirt would go mostly to the United States and Switzerland. We’re just happy because they support our brand and our artists which of course support our charity. They get to know more a little about the Philippine ArteFino.
DT: Do our fabrics create a good impression on non-Filipinos? How much do they like our craftsmanship?
AC: They are intrigued because we have a tropical fabric, we have the pineapple fiber, the abacá, and when I educate consumers about it, they get really intrigued because it’s not a common material. Another fabric is made from a local sugarcane. They find it really interesting because… in Japan, Mexico, Latin America, they would have different sugarcane, while our piña fabric, I think, makes us different and unique in terms of natural resources.
DT: You’re helping a lot of weavers and promoting their kind of design, but do you also incorporate what you have learned in Paris into their local designs and weaving? Are there international elements in your products? Or are they mostly traditionally Filipino?
AC: For the brand, it’s not purely Filipino; that’s why we called it Maison Metisse. I want to mix a lot of cultures and aspects with different things. I have to respect people’s tradition so I really can’t alter something. What I do is weave the fibers I want to weave together. For example, cotton and pineapple, we weave them together. The international aspect is more about the silhouette of the apparel and also like my dyeing techniques or the colors that I choose how we put it together.
So, I really can’t touch it because it’s their tradition so I would have to work on changing the colors if they think it’s okay. Their tradition must come first because I’m just borrowing their identity because I don’t own the tradition of embroidery.
Fight for your dream
DT: What is your advice to other young women about their career choices?
AC: You have to find what you really want to do because life is hard and full of challenges so if you’re not doing what you are passionate about, you will go through all the hard obstacles. It will be tough. So, you just have to find one thing. Find yourself and what you love to do and be tenacious in achieving it. Fight for your dream and dream big. It has to scare you because if it doesn’t scare you, it’s not a big dream.
Just go for it and give it your all and at the same time, of course, don’t forget to have your values, to be nice and respect people, respect yourself and love yourself. I think we have to do that to ourselves first before you really pursue something.
Achieving any dream is never really easy. That’s the truth, so go for it and find anything that moves you. Keep your head up and stomp it off.
You also kind of educate yourself about the products that you buy. Get to know the stories behind the item and the brands you want to support and I think right now it is important for all of us to support local and encourage community. Doing this is like a snowball effect, you help yourself but you also end up helping other people.