These Filipinos are turning top designer heads in Paris

Published May 22, 2021, 1:00 AM

by Jules Vivas

Global tastemakers single out FAME+ brands at Maison & Objet and more curations

TRADITIONAL TOOLS Paper clay vase by Indigenous

In weaving, each fiber, color, and intricate pattern represents a great deal of Philippine culture. It preserves history and tradition but, more important, grants indigenous communities the attention they need and deserve. Weavers, community leaders, entrepreneurs, and artists have become more empowered these days considering how the craft now reaches the international market. Handloom weaving is constantly changing and, as it stands, despite the global health crisis, the art form is alive, arguably getting stronger.

A favorite on the Paris trade fair Maison & Objet and More (MOM) is the Cheque bench, a creation of FAME+ exhibitor Jim Zarate-Torres. This piece of furniture caught the attention of Italian design duo Andrea Marcante and Adelaïde Testa, whose design studio, Marcante-Testa is one of Italy’s most innovative. The design firm has had consultancies with brands like LondonArt and Ceramica Vogue. It also collaborates with the public sector to introduce interior design in neglected spaces.

Zarate with his artisans gives life to unfeeling, gray metal, turning it into light and delicate works of art. The Cheque bench is a wonderful example, made out of orange and mint powder-coated steel.

INDIGENOUS SEAT Cheque Bench by Zarate Manila

Zacarias 1925 in collaboration with designer Migs Rosales was shortlisted by award-winning creative director Patti Carpenter. On its surfaces are whimsical, multi-colored weaves by master artisans, whose exquisite craftmanship and skill capture the brand’s contemporary approach to the alteration of an object’s function and form. Among the many luxury brands Carpenter and her firm carpenter + company/Trendscope have designed, sourced, and produced for are Bloomingdales, Crate & Barrel, and Ralph Lauren.

Included in the three design and decorative-product picks of Nina Tulstrup and Jack Mama—the creative couple behind the East London multidisciplinary design firm StudioMama whose portfolio boasts of projects with BMW, Bloomingdales, and the Danish Embassy—is the paper clay vase by Indigenous. This designer piece is part of a vessel collection that used abaca and cogon grass with natural starch, which results in material that’s solid yet lightweight.

CHAIR-ISHED WEAVEThree-legged table – Zacarias1925

Several other pieces by Philippine designers housed on FAME+, the digital trade and community platform launched by the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) for the country’s home, fashion, and lifestyle sector, are also turning top designer heads, having made their way to special curations at MOM.

Among those picked under “The collector’s mindset,” is the Sol Side Table by Stonesets International. The piece asserts individuality while fitting into any greater whole. The fixture is part of a collection that proposes sleek and unembellished pieces, each with a contrasting color to slice through the austere form.

SURF THE WIND Layag Hanging Lamp by Hacienda Crafts

In the canon of Philippine design excellence are compelling stories that make up an important component of every meticulously done object. Hacienda Crafts’ Layag Hanging Lamp has made a mark in the selections under “creating stories,” thanks to the story of the fishing villages of Manapla woven into the hanging lamp’s concentric rattan rings bound by cotton cord. In design, narrative, and function, the lamp, aptly called layag, the Tagalog word for sail, shines the light on the residents of these fishing villages in Negros Occidental, who learn the craft of weaving fishnets at a young age and pass on the art and the knowledge to their children in turn.

To CITEM executive director Pauline Suaco-Juan, the Philippine participation in trade shows is testament to the ongoing effort to build the digital capacities of the agency and its stakeholders under the new normal and as we pivot to a new world. “We’re very excited to be facilitating trade and export, primarily done in the digital sphere, by providing our partners with the necessary content,” she says.

In its participation in the first-ever edition of MOM last year, the Philippines caught the eye of trend forecasting authority WGSN, as well as that of typically untapped audience segments in physical trade shows in the country, such as buyers and media from Brazil. 

STONE TABLES Sol Side Table by Stone sets International

Pauline adds that through content production, where preparations were made while the country was in various iterations of community lockdowns, CITEM and FAME+ exhibitors were able to establish quality digital storefronts. This led to exhibitors realizing the importance of content. “Especially on digital and it’s the flick of a finger and you have half a second to capture potentially thousands of eyeballs, arresting photos are a must,” explains Pauline. 

Handloom weaving is constantly changing, and as it stands, despite the global health crisis, the art form is alive, arguably getting stronger.

Spearheaded by the CITEM, the Philippine participation in MOM is part of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) agency’s fulfilment of its export promotion mandate, supporting and Philippine designers, brands, and MSMEs as they step on to the global stage.