It’s the grandest showroom of the best and the brightest—and the latest—in Philippine design and crafts
“What we present to you is the first step into our digital future,” said Pauline Suaco-Juan, executive director of the Center for International Trade, Expositions, and Missions (CITEM), at the launch of Fame+, Manila Fame’s new digital trade community platform that connects Filipino artisans to a wider global audience. It’s a milestone in the 35-year history of Manila FAME as an international trade show and also in the history of promoting the Philippines as a design brand.
INTO A NEW FRONTIER
“One of the most challenging aspects of this endeavor has been the digitization of CITEM itself, of the Manila Fame team and our stakeholders in terms of strategy, work processes, and support system, including manpower and technology. To be quite honest, there’s still a lot to be learned, a lot of training to undergo, a lot of tweaks that need to be applied to the site itself,” adds Pauline. “But I am beyond proud to have shown you the product of two year’s planning, design, and build.”
Already, Fame+, which went live on Oct. 22, is a single mighty stride into a new frontier, into a bigger world. Representing the digital shift and evolution of Manila Fame as a champion of Filipino creativity, the new site transforms the once bi-annual physical event, in which designers, artisans, and entrepreneurs would interact with buyers and enthusiasts, into a platform accessible anytime (24/7!), anywhere on the planet. And because it is a borderless space, there is so much more room for Filipino creatives and manufacturers and their crafts to showcase themselves to a much wider online community.
What’s more, Fame+ looks good. “I was browsing through the website and I have to say: Fameplus.com is #legit,” said Rep. Toff de Venecia, who was among the speakers at the launch. “It’s chic. The feel is upbeat. The stories are compelling. And the writing is impeccable. Overall, it’s a mood. This year’s digital migration of Manila Fame has given us validation that the government is moving in the right direction, not only in our pivot toward online and the 4th Industrial Revolution, but also with pursuing a creative industry agenda for our nation. I dare say this because it feels like we are finally looking at these growth areas from a more grounded perspective.”
24/7 VIRTUAL SHOWROOM
But more than a digital version of the trade show, Fame+ is in fact a whole new world, where exhibitors can be onboarded just as easily as buyers can register and even make their transactions. What’s more, it has great features, such as the online magazine Touchpoint, where stories and content are shared for both information and inspiration. There will be digital events, focused on information, creativity, and entertainment, to keep users engaged.
The benefits of joining Fame+, according to CITEM,” include the 24/7 year-round promotion of products in a virtual showroom, a digital storefront for each exhibitor, complimentary digital content production and curation for 100 exhibitors, one-on-one consultations with product development specialists, and access to forecasts and industry insights to keep stakeholders updated on the latest trends. The website also has messaging and conferencing features to connect exhibitors with buyers and other brands and manufacturers. CITEM will allow exporters to build their online presence and enjoy these benefits at no initial cost until October 2021.”
“Fame+ is set to complement the export promotion initiatives of CITEM and take it a notch further on the digital sphere,” said DTI undersecretary Abdulgani Macatoman, who opened the launch program, along with Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, who delivered the keynote speech. “This platform will give our MSMEs (micro, small, and medium enterprises) a brand-new way of promoting their stories and craftsmanship that they wouldn’t normally be able to do in a physical trade show.”
Our lofty ambition, is to build a home for our home, fashion, and lifestyle community, so that the whole world may find them, and connect with them, online.—Pauline Suaco Juan
STORYTELLING IS ESSENTIAL
Storytelling, to Pauline, is among the foremost tools with which to navigate the world. One of the most respected pioneers of magazine publishing in the Philippines, she once likened her new medium at CITEM to a magazine page: Each booth at a trade fair is a page in a magazine full of stories. “If there is one thing we are bringing with us into this aforementioned digital future, it’s the conviction that storytelling is the best way to promote excellent products,” she said. “We designed Fame+’s product catalogue to work hand in hand with Touchpoint, where we are able to tell the stories of the materials, techniques, traditions, and people that make these products possible.”
Fame+ is only one among the many things CITEM has in store for the Philippine creative economy. Also launched along with the digital site are many other projects and programs such as Design Commune, a pilot program that tries to reimagine the process of product development and prototyping, and PH x Tokyo, a design incubation and mentorship program, where 10 young Filipino designers have been chosen to break into the very discerning Japanese market. Also launched was ITIM: Material Manipulations in Black. “It was supposed to be our presentation in Milan Design Week,” explained Pauline. “The container bearing our products was already at sea, when Italy locked down. Instead, we’ve produced a hybrid presentation, a digital exhibition you can see on your screens and an on-site exhibition at the art gallery Aphro Living in Karrivin Plaza on Pasong Tamo.”
Toff, who has been a strong voice in Congress pushing for reforms and programs to give the creative industry, as well as Philippine arts and culture, the support it needs, calls the launch of Fame+ a momentous occasion. “May it be remembered that the year 2020 was when Manila Fame went digital and turned a problem into a panacea of inspiration to address our pandemic woes,” he said.
There are dark clouds overhead, but the future is bright indeed. But first we have to create it—and together.