We had the good fortune of connecting with France Malvar and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi France, do you disagree with some advice that is more or less universally accepted?
There’s a couple but I guess if I had to pick one that encompasses them all, it’s “Do what you love.” This isn’t to say that there aren’t people out there who are or who have become successful after following this advice because I’m sure there are lots. I do think that this statement comes from a place of privilege and that much like everything else in life, there’s a season and time for following such advice. There’s always a socioeconomic factor to consider among other things and the reality is doing something that you love or doing something you are passionate about doesn’t always mean it is the wise choice to do so or at least not yet. I believe it varies greatly depending on circumstance- will it put food on your table or a roof over your head?
We’re all different- different environments, different needs, and we come across opportunities at different chapters in our lives. I think to simply give this advice without considering what a person’s needs are at a specific moment in one’s life may be more detrimental than helpful.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
LFI is actually a pandemic pivot. I’m a former early childhood educator, having had different roles in that industry for 14 years. I taught in the Philippines and here in the US too. When schools shut down at the start of the pandemic, I had a moment when I asked myself what else I could do. Design has always been something that interested me and something I’ve always dabbled with, having spent the majority of my life in the Philippines in my parents’ beautiful home and exposed to my mother’s impeccable taste for interiors. After much discussion with my husband, I took the leap and enrolled online at New York Institute of Art and Design. I also finally had the time and opportunity to completely focus on natural dyeing- an art form that I’ve been practicing and experimenting with for a few years now. You know when I said at the start of this interview that doing something you love can come from a place of privilege? Whether the opportunity to pursue something you want came because of circumstances handed to you or because of sacrifices and choices you previously made… I’m always conscious of that. For my exploration of natural dyes, textiles, and starting a brand, I guess the timing and circumstances aligned in a season of my life when I could pursue something I’ve always loved but didn’t really have the option of doing so before. Launching a business is a product of a series of decisions, of choices. I certainly wouldn’t have jumped into launching my brand right after university. I’ve always had a penchant for design but if you asked me 14 years ago where I see myself in 2021, I would never have guessed natural dye and home decor work. I studied Sports Science in university thinking I’d go into medicine and then ended up teaching children. Yet after all that, I found myself at a crossroads during the pandemic with the opportunity to re-invent myself and finally pursue a form of art and design. Patience is always key, preparation is important, and timing is everything.
My brand is rooted in stories and values that matter to me. I say this often on my Instagram, Lu France Interiors is an extension of myself in brand form. It represents values and causes I strongly believe in and it is made up of thoughtfully curated pieces that truly impact and move me. I’m extremely vocal about these values and causes too and they are a huge part of my why and how in running Lu France Interiors. I grew up in the Philippines and only moved here after university, went back and forth for years, and then finally moved permanently here again last 2017. Much of my naturally dyed work is inspired by me being Filipino. If you browse through the dyed textiles that I make, you’ll learn that they are named after Filipino words and they are products of moments and memories back home. My scent collection made in collaboration with Terra, is also inspired by my life and my family’s home in the Philippines with scents like Sampaguita, Mango Calamansi, Dama de Noche, Leche Flan, etc. Every spray and every candle really pays homage to my culture. I have a pillow cover collection in collaboration with a social enterprise in the Philippines called Anthill Fabric and you’ll find that the pieces that we came up with are all proudly made of handwoven Philippine textiles. I genuinely feel a connection to my work and the pieces that I carry. They are memories and stories made tangible and I love being able to share my culture through them.
I also carry work by artisans and makers from different parts of the US and the world. If I thoughtfully curate the pieces I carry online, I also carefully choose the makers I collaborate with. I use my values and principles as my guide- sustainability, preservation, uplifting, and honoring of traditions, and a love for all things handmade.
In a nutshell I’d say Lu France Interiors is a journey. It is my story and one that is still being written, ever evolving but strongly anchored in the values that make me.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m currently based in San Diego so I’d drive them through the coastal stretch of La Jolla, Del Mar, Encinitas, and Carlsbad. We can hike Torrey Pines and then go to my favorite beach at Fletcher Cove followed by a trip to this awesome Filipino restaurant, Carin de Ria in Encinitas for lunch. There are many amazing small boutiques there too that we can check out. If we have time, we can swing by Balboa Park and then I can take them to some of my small business favorites for dinner- White Rice, Bao Bar, and Chris’ Ono Grinds Island Grill at Liberty Public Market or we can try some of the restaurants in the Convoy area.
Next day, I’d love to take them to LA and visit the Getty Villa or Getty Museum for all things design and drop by Koreatown for good food.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Although I run Lu France Interiors on my own, I wouldn’t even have the option of launching a business during a pandemic if not for a couple of people who made the decision possible.
For starters, my husband, Paolo who has and always will be my rock and solace. Starting a business and running it by yourself is challenging as it is and even more so when you launch and do it during a pandemic. Pao has been a supporter in more ways than one- my driver on his off days from work, helping me pack orders, my helper and sales associate during pop-ups, motivational coach when I wake up in the wee hours of the morning in a panic while thinking about my business, etc etc. In a nutshell, he makes my life easier and takes the bulk of the stress away.
A very special shoutout also goes to my parents whose support in everything I do in life will always be immeasurable. There will never be enough words but I am grateful, so grateful for them and I thank God every day for having them in my life. I’m Asian, Filipino and in our culture it’s not uncommon to hear of comparisons, or to be at the receiving end of the pressure to be in a certain profession or meet a specific expectation. My parents have been so supportive of my decision to start this business. It’s funny, my mama often shops on my website even if she can just buy directly from me. I’m now her go to online store for presents to her friends. On their recent anniversary, my papa bought one of my naturally dyed scarves for mama without asking for a discount… and if you know him personally, you’ll probably laugh and agree that that purchase was fueled by love and support!
My sisters and brothers-in-law also deserve a special shoutout. Not only do they constantly support my business through their purchases but they also spread the word about Lu France Interiors or take amazing photos for me to post and share.
If you check out my website (shoutout to my designer, Studio A in Singapore!) and explore the pieces I make or carry, you’ll discover that my brand is made up of stories. Stories of different makers, creatives, fellow small business owners, and artisans and so I’m always grateful for their support and humbled by their trust for sharing their talent and skills with me. I’m constantly inspired by them and the work that they do.
Lastly, in the 9 months or so since launching my business, I’ve been fortunate enough to have built a solid community, a loyal group of customers in different cities and states. I’d name all of them but then this article would be way too long, so I trust that they know who they are. I’ve become friends with most of them, connecting through Instagram and I am truly blessed to have come to know them through my brand.