ITO KISH at Manila Fame 2012
15 March 2012
My love affair with Manila Fame goes a long way and started when I used to visit the PICC (Yes it used to be at the PICC Plenary Hall and all its meeting rooms) just to look around for inspirations. That was in the mid 80’s. When I moved to Jakarta, I did buying trips for Matahari to find materials that can be used as props for visual merchandising. Through the years I have attended up to the time it was being held at the World Trade Center then to SMX. I was even a judge for the Katha Awards when it was at the World Trade Center.
Manila Fame has wowed a lot of foreign buyers and even the local market. It’s a showcase of Philippine pride when it comes to decors and Christmas trimmings and even fashion accessories.
Aside from Manila Fame, there is Manila Now which gathers together some of the biggest manufacturers of furniture in the country. I have visited this event only about 3 to 4 times. No one can argue that we can come up with pieces that are world class.
Then there is Cebu Next, an event held twice a year to showcase the talents of Cebu designers and manufacturers with their own furniture show held in Cebu almost the same time as Manila Now. I was once invited to be a judge there.
And there is Bijoux Cebu, a gathering for those who make costume jewelry, fashion accessories, bags and other related items.
Last October, they all have merged sort of like Voltes 5 to strengthen their presence in the market and compete with the other trade shows in the region. I think it is a wise move.
Today is monumental for me. For the first time, I am exhibiting a 6 piece furniture and décor collection at the Manila Fame. Something I have never imagined in my whole life.
I asked myself why I want to exhibit and here are some answers:
1. Running the store and doing projects like Amanpulo, Globe, Ayala land to name a few, I was itching to do something else to challenge myself. So I decided to do product development as an option.
2. A friend told me that her ID professor discouraged her students to intern in my office because I did not study interior design and I am not licensed despite my history of work in the last 20 years. Interestingly, her students can intern in my office for furniture design. But I am not a furniture designer, I have no portfolio for that. Several times I have ripped off pages from design magazines and showed manufacturers how I want that furniture modified to my requirements, but I don’t count that as designing furniture. The teacher is so clueless about what I do. I have done more than 25 projects the last 7 years and they do not want to allow a student to intern with me because I am not licensed or a graduate. Sad. So when I accepted a student for internship for furniture design I accepted her for the simple reason I needed extra hand with the petty things that I think my senior designers shouldn’t be bothered with.
One afternoon, one intern asked me, sir which furniture have you designed here (referring to the collection in the store). And I was dumbfounded because I have nothing I can be proud that I designed. With that in mind, I decided to do product development so as not to embarrass myself in front of an intern if asked which furniture I designed.
My next step was to get my inspiration for my collection. I was trying to figure out what should I do? I don’t think I want to do those cutting edge designs where a chair will look like a spaceship and look alien. I counted out being innovative or whatever it really means because the word innovative is so big. I will not try to claim to be original because nothing out there is an original anymore. Everything is either an improvement of something that is existing, a combination of 2 concepts or a copy.
So I said if I will do something that will be identified as Pinoy, I think it is important that the pieces have a clear identity. I want to be inspired by all things Filipino. My works will express my belief in local materials and craftsmanship that is distinctly Filipino—thus paying tribute to my rich heritage. I do not want to be different and lose my identity.
The Art of the Archipelago
For my collection, the first inspiration is the near omnipresence of balusters in vintage Philippine design. From its humble beginnings as seating and storage, to ventanillas that allow air to flow in and out of the homes Filipinos grew up in, to decorative details in staircases, the baluster is an icon in Philippine lifestyle. I want to give it a new twist to be appreciated by a new generation.
The beauty of Philippine design and culture-Vigan
It took me a year to finally get the 6 pieces done (6 designs, but one design has a one and two-seater), and I am very happy with the results. The collection is a mix of approaches – from a very simple treatment to a more technical one (making sure the console tables and bookshelves will stand) to a dramatic presentation. I also decided to name all of them after my mother and her 5 sisters – Gregoria, Concesa, Flora, Francesca, Romana and Elpidia who were all part of that beautiful era of the Philippines where tradition and culture were given a front line.
The pieces. The Gregoria named after my Mother
The Francesca cabinet
Detail of the Romana bookshelves
Me and my mother
Thank you to my creative staff most especially Miel Cabanez who helped me translate my ideas into drawings. Nyo Zamora for working so hard and his willingness to learn. Manny Rotairo for coordinating every move. Also thanks to Jerome Gomez and Carlo Tadiar for the editing help, Isabel Gatuslao for the wonderful font, Vito Selma for the push and Oliver for believing and encouragement.