Fragrance tycoon Michelle Fontelera introduces us to her newest baby— Casa Juan
Long gone are the days that a household brings out foreign tableware for special occasions. You don’t need to look past our shores for exquisite dining sets, because Michelle Fontelera has fused her passion for homemaking and Filipino art to create Casa Juan. Enamored with the beauty of our country, her love for sprucing up her home led to a business that’s driven to spread global awareness on Philippine culture.
After many years of success with her main business, Zen Zest, Michelle has expanded her horizons to include businesses in homeware. She launched Dos Casas Homeware with her cousins, in 2019, and Casa Juan Filipino Dinnerware just this year.
Both brands sell dinnerware, but Michelle explains, “The difference is that Casa Juan sells originally designed dinnerware with a Filipino inspired theme. It’s very challenging to design dinnerware because I first have to do a lot of research about Philippine culture, since the brand aims to promote our culture and heritage.” Her latest collection includes a collaboration with famous Philippine designer, Rajo Laurel, which sold out in just 12 days!
Culture is served
Michelle’s love for homeware stems from her travels abroad. Her luggage coming home would always be filled with plates and other quirky home accents that she would find in small shops overseas. Much like how she started Zen Zest, which she says began as an obsession with fragrances, she turned that passion into something she could build on.
“The idea for Casa Juan came about because, for around two or three years, I was addicted to going to the Filipino Pop-up Bazaars like Artefino and Katutubo Market. I loved being there and looking at all the beautiful things that were designed and made by Pinoys. I am a big lover of everything Filipino. From paintings, to furniture, clothes, shoes, blankets etc. One day, I just told myself, ‘Why not combine my love for plates and my love for everything Pinoy.’ The result was Casa Juan.”
According to the entrepreneur, she believes that everyone appreciates having a nice meal with beautifully curated tables. “When you have friends or family over, it’s a conversation starter. It is also a way to make your guests feel more special. Beautiful tables also make food look and taste more delicious— but I think that one is psychological,” she adds with a laugh.
Always uplifting local
When it comes to inspiration, the mother of two shares that she dives into doing proper research, browsing through books, and of course, from the places she’s visited around the Philippines. “It’s hard to think of a nice concept that will translate beautifully onto a plate. A lot of things inspire me to create the concept for plates— Endemic birds, flowers, or fruits. I also like researching about our indigenous tribes and their beautiful craft. I focus on one element and think about how it would look on dinnerware, and how an artist can modernise the design”
She also gears towards local handicraft makers for different tabletop items for Casa Juan, adamant in showing support for the local scene, “I want to support not only Filipino Artists, but Filipino crafts as well. Our crafts are so beautiful and meticulously made.”
With a mission in mind and the business-know-how to back it up, the veteran businesswoman envisions Casa Juan growing as an international plate brand in the years to come.
“People from different parts of the world, with different nationalities, will know more about the Philippines when they buy our plates. We explain each design on the box, and I want them to see the beauty of our culture and traditions.”