Olivia & Diego Upcycled Jewelry

Olivia2There was a time when I thoroughly enjoyed making friendship bands. I would spend hours strapped into a chair by my desk knotting together all sorts of designs and color combos to best fit the intended wearer. Once in a while, my friends and I would make a whole bunch and sell them in school for a few measly pesos. I made them so often so often in my tweens that I’m pretty sure I could make one today without a problem.

You can picture how my mind was brought back to those simpler times when I first had a glimpse of Olivia & Diego‘s bracelets through my friend Elaine Abonal‘s Instagram picture. But it was when i discovered that this Mindanao-based jewelry line goes beyond being your usual friendship band love by using old t-shirts and other recycled materials to make their pieces that I became especially interested.

OliviandDiegowebsiteI asked Yana Santiago, owner and founder of Olivia & Diego to share a little more about her vibrant accessory line. For those interested, Yana would love to offer some of her products to three of my readers. Find out more at the end of the post.

What exactly is Olivia & Diego? How long have you been around?

Olivia & Diego is a start-up handmade accessory brand that sells upcycled jewelry made out of old t-shirts and office supplies. The brand was born last August 2013, a week before the Kadayawan Festival in Davao City. We got a booth at the annual trade fair in the city and decided to make several whatnots to sell and promote artisanal handicrafts.

Olivia5Where did your brand name come from?

The story about the name is really random! My friend and I went on weeklong surfing trip a week before the Kadayawan Festival. We spontaneously decided to not stay in a fancy place and instead borrowed a tent. We met a family of backpackers from Morocco; the couple’s names were Olivia and Diego. Even for a short while, I got attached to them – I was so inspired by their passion for travel and life. I named the brand after the couple to remind myself of the things that really matter in life: relationships, family/friends, freedom and of course, Off lotion. Just kidding about the Off lotion. (laughs)

Why the decision to use recycled materials to make your products?

Even before the brand was created, I was aware that millions of clothing end up in land fill sites. Although we recycle garments by making them rags or “pamunas”, it’s not enough. So I decided to upcycle shirts to show that they could still be made into beautiful accessories, an alternative to rags/pamunas.

Olivia3Who makes your pieces? 

My friends and I make them! They have been very supportive ever since the launch of the brand. As the demand of products is increasing, I’m currently conducting workshops/small training seminars with stay-home mothers for possible employment opportunities.

Would you call yourself a social enterprise or is this something you hope to become in the future?

Personally, I am passionate about social entrepreneurship. During my college years, I became part of non-profit organizations and sociat enterprise businesses (AIESECRags2Riches). I don’t just want to make a profit, I want to make a difference. A social enterprise could be a possibility in the future.

Can you talk us through your design process? How do you know what to create and what color palettes to use? How has living in Mindanao influenced your designs?

I create mood boards or gather photos for inspiration. I was a fashion student, and we used to make color stories, which I do before I make a sample. However, I let my friends (who help me do the items) experiment with different colors, which would explain the different color combinations of yarns and ropes. Living in Mindanao, I was exposed to different cultures. I’ve been sourcing for indigenous fabrics to incorporate in some of the jewelries for a new collection.

Olivia4How did you learn to create these types of accessories? 

As a Clothing Technology graduate (UP Diliman), I was exposed to different methods of creating garments and jewelries. I guess I learned some techniques from my design classes and some were results of accidents – really, sometimes I just do whatever and it turns out okay and I tell myself, “Yeah… this could work.”

Do you plan to expand your line in the future? Can people customize pieces?

Right now, some clients have been asking me to customize for special occasions. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been sourcing some fabrics (T’nalak, Yakan, Hinabol) for the future collection. Yaaay, exciting!!

Where can people purchase your items? Do you ship internationally?

People can purchase our items on Facebook. Yes, we do ship internationally! We’ve shipped items for a trade show in Los Angeles (this was the reason why we had to create the fancy Spring/Summer 2013 catalog) and we’ve shipped items in Australia for a buyer. These can be arranged through e-mail.

Olivia1What do you love the most about your brand?

I love how the brand is an avenue for local talents and empowerment. I love how the brand makes everyone involved in it environmentally and socially conscious. My friends and the people who have been helping me with the production and training programs really did surprise me because I never thought they were passionate about arts & crafts. I do get a sense of fulfillment from bringing out God-given talents in others and I do hope my friends do too.


Olivia & Diego would like to offer three lucky Cat JL readers a chance to own some of their upcycled jewelry. This lovely gift is open to readers worldwide. You know the drill:

1 Leave a comment sharing why you’d like to own one of their pieces.

2 Three lucky readers will be chosen randomly by Olivia & Diego and contacted via email on October 4. 

3 A minimal shipping fee will be required if chosen. 

For more information email them at oliviaanddiego.ph@gmail

Or check out Olivia & Diego’s Facebook Page | Website | Instagram

(Update: Winners have been selected. Thank you for joining!)