What first strikes you about Paula is her height, unusual for a South-East Asian, (it's from her fathers Spanish side), then it's her beauty, and to top it off, she's super friendly and gracious. I first got to know her brand through Instagram, @gustoko, and was really curious as to how and why a gorgeous girl from the Philippines landed so far on our shores. More often than not, it's for love and I was not wrong! Paula Figueras, a former model and tourism graduate, was working at the front desk of a Macau hotel, when through her Portuguese boss, she met her now husband, also Portuguese. She now owns a cute little shop called GustoKo located in Entretanto, the indoor market in Principe Real. It carries precious clutches in natural woven fibres, lacquered wood, and covered in sea shells. They are such unique pieces, all different, and a good change from the blingey options that are available. You'll also find straw totes in a multitude of colours and patterns, and carefully chosen pieces of jewellery.
She started her brand on impulse after visiting one of the Philippines' biggest handicrafts markets in 2011, with her sister, an interior decorator. Whilst running around viewing furniture, Paula realised that there was a whole area dedicated to fashion accessories, brought into Manila by craftsmen from all the provinces and islands of her country, and that most of the buyers were foreign, not Philipino. She met a community whose village and machinery had been devastated by a typhoon, and found out how much they needed funding to help pay for new equipment. The first pieces for the shop came from this locality to help these destroyed villagers.
After a very positive feedback from her Portuguese girls friends, then some help from the Philipino Embassy, Paula decided to open GustoKo. In Philipino it means I like it, Gusto= Like and Ko= Me! Perfect accessories for all your up coming parties and weddings!
Q&A with Paula
5 unmissable places to visit in the Philippines: " Boracay, a wonderful beach resort; El Nido, Palawan, a protected area perfect for snorkelling and diving; Bohol, is an island in the Philippines (and not just a resort). It's like a complete nature destination perfect with beaches, lakes, mountains and wildlife; Makati City, a modern part of Manila and any street market in the Philippines, as I feel this is the best way to get to know the people and their lifestyle. "
Your favourite dish in Portugal:" I love Arroz de Marisco, and unfortunately I called it Paella in the beginning but my husband indignantly corrected me! I realise how important food is to the Portuguese!"
Places you like in Portugal: " I love Tomar, especially the aqueduct, as one is able to walk along it; the Convento de Cristo also in Tomar; Lisbon city centre, I find so full of culture and charm, and it's ever evolving thanks to the tourist boom; and vineyards, anywhere, as we do not have them in Asia, and I love to see the little trees full of grapes! "
Secret to looking good:" I take our style back to the Spanish colonialists, a 300 year influence, and the women adopted their style. We were also impacted by the later presence of the Japanese and then the Americans. It has made us a very tolerant and open people, and we adapt well to new situations. We Philipino's tend to eat very healthily, plain rice, no salt, no oil, a lot of vegetables, and I think that's how the women keep their looks late into life."
Fashion and Me: "I really like to dress for comfort mostly, and I normally only wear basics and come summer, only cool and loose outfits, nothing tight. Normally I will dress up for an occasion."