(SPOT.ph) From mantra pendants, name-plate necklaces to charm or friendship bracelets and couple rings, accessories are a stylish way of showing what (or who) is important to us, and one brand who totally gets this is rising local accessories brand Pulseras by Kim and its spin-off fine-jewelry line, Love, Susie.
A crowd favorite at craft pop-ups and bazaars, there is always a line at Pulseras by Kim, especially for the customizing services for their gold-filled bracelets and necklaces. Now that they just opened a brick-and-mortar shop along Maginhawa Street in Teachers Village, shoppers can take their time browsing for the perfect piece and then have it personalized on the spot—whether it's adjusting the length of a necklace to layer with your existing pieces or engraving a meaningful word, name, or date on a pendant.
“We get a lot of guy customers looking for gifts for their girlfriends,” shares Kim Tiam-Lee, owner of both Pulseras by Kim and Love, Susie. “We help them pick out pieces, especially when they show us photos of jewelry their girlfriends have hinted about. 'Gusto niya ng necklace na nakasulat 'yong pangalan,' they say.”
The Power of Words
“From the start, that's always what Pulseras by Kim was about—customizing necklaces and bracelets. I was inspired by the power of words and mantras—the way we tell ourselves, 'this is my word for the year, I want to embody this,” shares the architect-turned-jewelry maker. And because Tiam-Lee was often allergic to the accessories available in the market, she decided she would create her own line of hypoallergenic, skin-friendly, gold-filled or gold-plated accessories with a stainless steel base. “My skin used to turn green from cheap jewelry, so I was looking for a mid-point—I couldn't afford real jewelry at that time, but didn't want cheap fast-fashion ones that would stain my skin or break easily.”
Combining her love for words and talent for handcrafting jewelry, she began selling Pulseras by Kim online as a creative side hustle to balance her day job in the family business. Soon, the line grew to include bangles, anklets, pendants in different shapes, zodiac signs, religious medallions, and earrings. “We noticed people have super specific preferences for hoops—from size to thickness to texture—so we offer them in different versions, from big hoops to the tiny ones that are really popular.”
What keeps clients coming back for more is Tiam-Lee's knack for keeping up with trends while staying on brand. “Even though our pieces are pretty classic, it always helps to put our own spin on what's uso,” she reveals.
Apart from their signature personalized pieces, a consistent bestseller is the three stars and a sun earring stud set, inspired by the famous ear cuff worn by Catriona Gray when she was crowned Miss Universe. “Since our brand is more minimalist, we came up with a mini version that you can wear quietly every day, and it still sells well up to now. I noticed a lot of people are into Pinay pride, and it's so nice to see. And even foreigners who attend our pop-ups want to buy it as pasalubong for their friends back home.”
From Online to in Real Life
Tiam-Lee takes her own pretty photos, updates her IG page at least once a day (“Apps like Planoly really help to visually plan and manage posts,” she tips), and now has a following of over 30,000. Because customers wanted to see the pieces in person, she started joining bazaars, which were hit or miss. “At first, I would join these big, commercial bazaars, but the customers cared more about finding cheap, fast-fashion accessories than appreciating how the pieces were made. But when I started joining the craft bazaars, that's when we found the right market.” She also approached stockists such as Common Room, The Craft Central, and Hey Kessy as well. “Having my pieces on display on their shelves bolstered brand presence in the market I wanted to attract, and helped the brand grow organically.”
And when a space in the creative hub of Maginhawa opened up this year, Tiam-Lee decided it was time to take the leap and open a brick-and-mortar shop—a dream come true for a young entrepreneur. The tiny, cozy space reflects the brand's delicate, minimalist aesthetic with simple display shelves, an accessory bar for trying on the pieces, plants (“I love plants!” Tiam-Lee enthuses), and inspiration corners.
The best thing about opening a shop, no matter how small? “It establishes trust, because the customer knows na pagbabalikan mo kami [they can hold us accountable], instead of online where some just don't reply and simply disappear. At least they know they can come here, even just for repair—say you want to have a clasp fixed for example, we'll do it, free of charge.”
In time with the opening of the Maginhawa store, Tiam-Lee also launched their line of bespoke fine jewelry called Love, Susie, in collaboration with her sister Tiffany. “It's dedicated to our Mom, Susie, who passed away in 2015,” shares Kim wistfully. “She would bring us to jewelry fairs, or gift us with simple jewelry to celebrate occasions, and she's the reason I started Pulseras by Kim in the first place. She even helped out at my first bazaar," then points to a picture on the shop's wall. "We would always say that one day we would be the ones buying her jewelry. But it never happened. So we made the Love, Susie line as a tribute to her, in fulfillment of our promise.”
Sharing the same minimalist, “barely there” aesthetic of Pulseras by Kim but in more precious metals, Love, Susie offers silver, gold vermeil, or solid gold jewelry that can be considered investment pieces. The capsule collection features customizable birthstone rings with naturally-mined stones, as well as simple bands, all made by local craftsmen. Eventually the line will expand to include necklaces and bracelets as well. “The rings have to be pre-ordered, and if you don't know your ring size, you can come to the store to get measured,”says Tiam-Lee.
A fitting tribute to their mom, their original mentor, confidante, and inspiration, Tiam-Lee describes the Love, Susie line as “beautiful, reasonably priced, ethically sourced, and handcrafted pieces that you can love forever or pass on to people you cherish.”
Pulseras by Kim is at 72 Maginhawa Street, Teachers Village, Diliman, Quezon City. For more information, visit Pulseras by Kim's website or follow Love, Susie's Instagram page.
Pierra Calasanz-Labrador is a former magazine editor turned freelance writer, stylist, and author of two poetry books (The Heartbreak Diaries and Dear Universe). A staunch advocate of pretty, Filipino finds, follow her local treasure hunt on Instagram.
Photos by Toto Labrador