The market for local finds is thriving, and this includes finely crafted jewelry brands that seem to perpetually multiply online. While there are many brands to choose from, the designs that these proudly Filipino brands spew out tend to become repetitive. It’s become a game of "who can do it better," from acrylic earrings, to monogram necklaces, to bejeweled statement necklaces. In the throes of such competition, however, emerges a niche brand that deviates from the norm. Right now, that brand happens to be Juan and Maia, an online jewelry store that just launched back in September.
What makes this brand one to watch out for is its simplicity in the truest sense of the word. Currently, Juan and Maia offers darling pearl necklaces featuring thin gold chains and a single teardrop pearl. There are also two-way earrings that can be worn on the lobe or as an ear cuff.
While it’s tempting to describe the brand as "minimalist," it doesn't quite capture its essence. Timelessly Filipino is what Juan and Maia is, and to put all cards on the table, it is also very modern—the founders created the brand to act as a platform for gender-neutral jewelry to grow and to be made available when they’re ripe for the picking. A breath of fresh air, indeed.
Learn more about Juan and Maia below from founders Gaby Asuncion and Jamo Baron:
What made you start your online business? Tell us about its conceptualization.
Gaby: I was actually looking for a creative outlet for when I’m not doing school work and Jamo was always good with business, so we decided to combine those two passions and conceptualized a brand that showcases our love for all things local.
Jamo: Gaby and I [have] always wanted to start a business together and selling online is one of the easiest ways to do it. But before coming up with our concept, it actually took us a pretty long time before we found what we actually wanted to do.
What’s the story behind the name "Juan and Maia"?
Juan and Maia are our first names. We both have Filipino-Spanish-influenced full names and because of our love for the Philippines, we figured, ‘Why not create a brand focused on local products and the culture of the country?’
It’s very rare to find an online shop that solely focuses on pearl accessories. Why the use of pearls?
Gaby: For our first collection, Perlas ng Silanganan, we really wanted something personal that would reflect us and be able to tell a story through our products. Growing up, I loved spending time with my Lola by staying in her room and watching her arrange her jewelry collections. I guess that’s where my love for pearls and jewelry started, and I’m really happy Jamo learned to appreciate them as well through his mom and sister.
Jamo: For starters, Gaby loves pearls. She got this influence from her late Lola. I also grew up seeing my mom and sister wear pearls almost every day, and I guess I grew to appreciate them as well. Also, since we wanted to focus on the local aspect, the Philippines is known as the Perlas ng Silanganan—what better way to showcase that than to sell pearls, right?
How are your products made?
All our products are sourced and handcrafted by a local jeweler. We write down and sketch our ideas on paper then discuss what materials to use, how it should look when worn and everything. We also take a long time choosing and filtering out the pearls we use because we really want to ensure the quality of our products, especially since it’s jewelry we’re selling.
Where are the pearls from?
All the freshwater pearls we use are sourced from Mindanao.
A lot of brands these days promote Filipino culture. What do you think sets Juan and Maia apart from other brands?
Gaby: As I said, we want our products to convey a story to our customers and a part of that is the process of creating our products. For us, promoting Filipino culture isn’t just about selling local products, but actually shedding light on the craftsmanship behind each and every product.
Jamo: What sets Juan & Maia apart is that we’re offering a product that is not easy to find. A product that is not only timeless but affordable as well.
What kind of market are you trying to tap? Do you design for women with a particular lifestyle in mind?
Gaby: Given the name of our brand, we aim to have a gender-neutral market through our next collections. We want all our items to fit in every Juan and every Maia’s lifestyle and bring out their Filipino pride whenever they use our items whether they’re in the city or at the beach. We believe that the possibilities for our brand are limitless with the amount of creativity in our country. Who knows, we might just release jewelry for men in the future.
Jamo: As of now all our products are for women. But later on, we plan to sell items for men as well, that’s why we named it Juan & Maia so that it can be a brand for everyone! Pearls are essentially timeless. This makes our market very wide and allows us to have customers as young as 16 years old, but also as old as 60!
Tell us about each product under the Perlas ng Silanganan collection. What was your design process?
Gaby: Each product under the Perlas ng Silanganan collection is actually named after our lolas who, for us, are the perfect examples of timeless Filipinas. I feel like they resemble the pieces they’re named after in terms of their style and flair and we could definitely imagine them looking amazing in their respective pieces.
Jamo: This is actually very special to us because it is named after our lolas who are very dear to both of us. Each piece was inspired by our lolas on both our mother and father’s side, respectively. Luningning and Ninay are my lolas on my mom and dad’s side respectively while Perlita and Merina are Gaby’s.
I see that you recently launched a holiday giveaway of a piña clutch bag. Will this become a mainstay in your brand?
Gaby: The piña cocoon pouch was actually our packaging for the first collection, so it came free with every piece! In the effort of minimizing our waste from packaging, we opted for a locally crafted pouch that our buyers can also use to keep their jewelry nice and clean. We try our best to keep our packaging exciting and in line with each collection, so we can’t tell yet how long the piña cocoon pouch will be available.
Jamo: The piña cocoon pouch actually comes with all the products from the first launch. We’re both still trying to study if this is feasible for all launches, because of how difficult it is to make them.
How do you see the future of Juan and Maia? What kind of products can we expect?
Gaby: We hope for Juan and Maia to connect people to our Filipino culture through our products and stories. We’re actually releasing a couple of limited edition items for the holidays, so make sure to stay tuned for that! We have so many ideas for the brand, but we also believe in being careful and not rushing into anything to maintain the quality of each collection. As a collective brand, you can expect different types of items that you can effortlessly incorporate into your lifestyle. Whether your style is street, laidback or dressy, we want to be relatable to every Modern Filipino/Filipina.
Jamo: Honestly, we envision Juan & Maia to grow as much as we can. We put our heart and soul to all our products and we want to be able to share that with everyone. You can expect bolder designs, and more products in the future. Hopefully a launch for men, too.
Since you mentioned that you might release a men’s collection soon, do you have designs in mind?
Gaby: We don’t have any final designs yet, but we’d definitely love to design men’s clothing—pieces that would keep them comfortable and fresh in our tropical climate, and maybe accessories to complement their outfits.
Jamo: Nothing final, but other than clothes we also want to look into accessories for men using local resources.
Are you looking into other local materials to use in the future?
Gaby: Of course! If there’s one thing we would want to focus on, it would definitely be our materials. I believe that’s where every product starts and it can help enhance the product’s function as well. We would definitely love to make use of many more local materials and explore various textiles made from natural sources.
Jamo: Another thing we really want to do is find a community that has an endemic material that we can use. This will help us create more opportunities and [build a] sustainable brand.
Aside from pearl earrings, what other accessories can we expect?
You could definitely expect more accessories such as necklaces and earrings using different materials and in new styles in the future. We also want to be more gender inclusive to stay true to our brand name which is why bags and hats are part of the other accessories we have in mind. For the near future, we will be launching a few limited pieces as an extension of the Perlas ng Silanganan collection just in time for the holidays.
Describe Juan and Maia in three words.
Modern. Effortless. Exciting.
We always create and conceptualize each item and each collection with the Modern Filipino/Filipina in mind. We want our products to be an effortless part of their everyday lives, but still keep things exciting through new ideas and designs.