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Shopping & Services

Shop of the Week: L’Indochine

This lifestyle shop sells bright and colorful pieces from different Asian countries

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Photography: Paolo Feliciano Pictorial Direction: Joanne Enriquez-Bohol

In L’Indochine, each item has a story. Holding an embroidered quilt, senior merchandising manager Charlene Panutat-Carlos tells us a bit of its history. “The embroidered pieces are from the Hmong tribe [of Vietnam]. Girls as young as five years old learn how to embroider. The older they get, the more intricate their designs are, because in their tribe, the design shows how fertile they are, which makes them more popular with the boys!”

Charlene and senior marketing manager Leona Laviña-Panutat are more than happy to share with their customers the story behind each of L’Indochine’s merchandise. That’s because the sisters-in-law, who love to travel and are drawn to “all things beautiful,” have carefully handpicked each piece. “We like decorating our homes, and we love to shop! That’s primarily the common ground. Leona’s the type who could go to a flea market, pick out a gem, and style it in her home; or if it’s a piece of clothing, it’ll look so rich and expensive,” says Charlene.

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On the other hand, Leona describes Charlene as someone who’s very persistent when it comes to shopping. “Just to search for that one perfect piece, walang uwian until she gets what she’s looking for!”

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Named after French Indochina—composed of the countries Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam—where the items have been carefully sourced, L’Indochine doesn’t offer the same tourist-y fare seen in our local tiangges. “Most of the items are by artisans who have inherited their skills. The sad thing is, when we travel to these countries, we notice that these crafts are dying. Also, if in the past there were 200 families doing it, now there are only two families left.” The indigo batik, for instance, is not a factory-printed tablecloth. “It’s really dyed from the indigo plant, then waxed by hand. It’s really labor-intensive. In fact, the girls who make those, their hands are permanently blue,” says Charlene. To this, Leona adds: “We like exposing our customers to these types of products to let them know that these exist.”

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Perhaps it’s Leona’s and Charlene’s belief in the value of their merchandise that makes L’Indochine stand out in a sea of home and lifestyle stores. Customers are deliberately made privy to the history of their purchases. You’re not just buying something that would spruce up a corner in your room—you’re also bringing home a piece of Asian culture with you.

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