With acrylic earrings and beaded barrettes popping up everywhere, there’s no denying the appeal of a statement accessory. While scrolling our Instagram feeds, AMAMI, a local jewelry brand that uses indigenous techniques, caught our eye because we’ve never seen designs like theirs before. We asked Danielle Tan and Christine Tiu, the 25-year-old entrepreneurs behind the brand, to tell us more about AMAMI, their process, and how they come up with their designs.
What is AMAMI?
“AMAMI is a social enterprise that works to revive endangered Filipino jewelry traditions while empowering and providing local artisans with sustainable livelihoods. Our creations showcase the art of filigree, an indigenous technique where fine metal threads are expertly twisted and molded to form intricate designs.”
How did AMAMI start?
“We met way back in kindergarten, and growing up we’ve always known that we wanted to pursue a meaningful venture together that had a societal impact. In school, we joined socially-oriented orgs and spent a lot of time doing volunteer work such as visiting hospitals and spending time with chronically-ill children. After we graduated, however, we found it harder to look for avenues to give back.
“We met the plateros while working on a research project. One of them was on the verge of leaving his family to look for a blue-collar job abroad, as many before him have already had. We wanted to convince him to stay, so we decided to help him and his fellow artisans generate some income by selling their jewelry to our friends and family. Then we thought, ‘Why not help them long-term by turning this into a full-fledged business?’ That’s when AMAMI was born.
Why the name ‘AMAMI?’
“We wanted a uniquely Filipino name that would best represent our story. After months of brainstorming to find the perfect name, we finally thought of naming our business after one of our tambourines called the ‘amami.’ We’ve always been fascinated by the amami bead not just because it was the most beautiful and intricate bead we’ve ever come across, but also because of the historical meaning behind its name: ‘Amami’ stands for ‘Ama Namin’ and represents the ‘Our Father’ bead of rosaries worn as necklaces in the past.”
What challenges did you face when you were starting out?
“One of us was working full-time (Dani) and the other had an internship and graduate studies (Christine), so we had to learn how to manage our time and balance our other commitments. In the first year of our business, we also had to work on AMAMI from separate countries, one of which prohibited the use of apps like Facebook, Instagram, Google, and WhatsApp, so communicating proved to be a struggle.
“We also had to get creative and find ways to make the business work despite having limited resources and experiencing time pressure (since we were trying to convince one of the plateros to stay in the Philippines). It really helped that we knew that taking the entrepreneurial path is always a risk, so we pushed ourselves to keep going despite all the uncertainty and challenges we faced.”
What sets AMAMI apart from other local jewelry businesses?
“AMAMI isn’t set up like a traditional business where profit is the ultimate goal. As a social enterprise, we are driven by a social mission. We aren’t just a brand that sells jewelry—we have a responsibility toward the people we work with. We know that these people’s lives and livelihoods depended on our work, so we knew we couldn’t just stop; it would be like giving up on our artisans-turned-friends who’ve placed their trust in us.
“So far, our biggest turning point as a brand is when we helped finish the construction of the roof of a platero’s home in October 2018. We felt that shedding a year’s worth of sweat and tears was totally worth it, especially knowing that he and his family no longer have to risk electrocution and flooding in their home because of our work. At the end of the day, we’re here because of our 'why'—our partner artisans really are at the core of why we do what we do.
“Apart from the social aspect of the business, another thing that sets us apart is our use of the art of filigree, a traditional jewelry-making method that’s integral to our Filipino heritage. Our products are unique because we use traditional techniques to create classic and timeless designs. In the past, you would only see tambourine beads in rosaries and statement necklaces worn by women in Filipinianas. But now, you can see them in earrings, rings, and bracelets that you can wear to work, a chill weekend affair, or even a night out.”
What’s your next step as a brand?
“We want our jewelry to cater to women of different ages and preferences, so we will definitely experiment with more designs. We will also continue to preserve and promote our Filipino cultural heritage and strive to create an even greater impact on the lives of our partner artisans. Exciting times ahead; this is just the beginning!”