What an expressive age ours is. Design is everywhere and creativity is unprecedented. The recent inaugural Maison&Objet Asia held at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Center in Singapore was tangible proof of this.
Clear, too, was the fact that the venerated Maison&Objet Paris touched down in a region that continues to grow exponentially. From now on, the trade show will be held annually in Singapore. Already I saw signs that read: “See you again at Maison&Objet Asia March 2015.”
Modeled after Maison&Objet Paris, the first Maison&Objet Asia offered an exclusive trade-event format that facilitated export-oriented Maison&Objet Paris exhibitors to develop lasting business relationships with the economically dynamic Asian region, opening the door to new markets.
The importance of this event to regional manufacturers and designers, including those from the Philippines, could not be underestimated. It is a big deal.
The opportunity to leverage on Maison&Objet’s well-established international business platform and reputation served precisely as the launch pad for the brand Design Philippines.
And yes, we are ready. We have been busy.
A branding initiative that positions the Philippines as a sourcing destination for finely crafted products for the global market has been established, and has been named Design Philippines.
As a design movement, it nurtures and emphasizes the creativity and culturally driven aesthetic sensibility of a globally competitive and passionate community of Filipino designers and uncelebrated craftsmen.
Design Philippines has taken shape and now speaks with recognized authority while pushing its charm in the multifaceted world of design.
This isn’t the only new thing about the country’s participation in Maison&Objet. There’s more, and it’s big.
In keeping with its Parisian tradition, Maison&Objet Asia presented its first Designer of the Year award to Kenneth Cobonpue, who has made a strong and favorable impression in global design.
Selected from a field of top Asian designers, he is now an ambassador for Maison&Objet Asia. It is precisely this recognition that makes Filipinos more sensitive to quality. It is a breakthrough that inspires delight and drives our designers to compete aesthetically on a global scale, a designation that we can all take pride in.
The brand Design Philippines should be supported by all sectors of trade and industry.
Because our own style, global presence and exposure are all crucial to branding, Citem executive director Rosvi Gaetos says: “Citem continues to nurture the creativity and originality of a globally competitive community of designers and craftsmen who make us proud in our brand-building initiatives abroad. Our overseas presence in select international shows has propelled Design Philippines to become a recognized authority in the world of design.”
And while Cobonpue’s contemporaries have made significant strides toward the innovative and groundbreaking use of handmade artisanal techniques and materials in their designs, already a Lilianna Manahan has emerged.
We bagged yet another award when Manahan was chosen as one of six Rising Asian Talents, with the rest coming from Indonesia, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand.
Manahan belongs to a design development program of Citem called Red Box.
Under the mentorship of Manila FAME creative director Budji Layug, young designers work closely with local manufacturers who fabricate their designs and concepts resulting in stylish outputs. The exchange of expertise and know-how benefits designer and manufacturer. After all, manufacturers need to grow and retool their lines, while designers need to flesh out the bones of their designs.
These are joint exercises, (with many trials and errors in between) in practical application of creative thoughts and dreams. Both designer and manufacturer/artisan have to share their worlds, to evolve.
In the venue, while the rest of the stars and heavyweights in global design were minding their fabulous booths, Design Philippines was holding up beautifully.
All the booths were immersive environments rather than just a grouping of settings. Aesthetics was pervasive even if function still ruled.
The old consumer values like comfort, cost and durability still counted, but aesthetics weighed in more.
Where once upon a time a chair was just for sitting, now it satisfies all the senses: going beyond function, it now has to please.
Like form following emotion and form following instinct, design now must elicit the right feeling.
And here is where the selling point of a successful 21st-century brand comes in. The exhibitors, a total of 272 brands, all seem to have this mindset, from the venerated Italian brands to upcoming companies.
This is why Maison&Objet Asia laid out in a 6,000-square-meter space was buzzing.
“The outpouring of support for Maison&Objet Asia from all over the world showed that there is a huge potential for both European and Asian designs to grow and flourish together. This is especially so in a country that places such an emphasis on design as Singapore,” explains Maison&Objet Asia managing director Philippe Brocart.
The participation of Design Philippines in Maison&Objet Asia was organized by the Department of Trade and Industry and its export promotions arm Citem (Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions).
The seven designers and manufacturers that comprise Design Philippines for Maison&Objet Asia are Kenneth Cobonpue, Cebu Fil Veneer, Domicillo, Industria, Ito Kish, Schema, and Prizmic & Brill.
Working with artisanal expertise and materials that range from abaca and polyethylene to metal, wood, glass and leather, all adhere to a strong aesthetic imperative and an understanding of what drives consumer spending in the 21st century.
The importance of Design Philippines as a brand is crucial. Designers and manufacturers need to fully grasp the concept of branding and the potential economic returns it can bring.
An industry-led interior design and lifestyle summit was held during the trade show and featured talks on interior design, selling, trends and inspirations, future directions and innovative concept stores by renowned design and aesthetic adapters, such as Tom Dixon, Paola Navone, Cobonpue, and Vincent Gregoire, lifestyle director at Trendlab-Nelly Rodi.
Cobonpue’s keynote speech as Maison&Objet Asia’s Designer of the Year paid tribute to the unknown craftsman, as he told his story, which was one of family, artisanal workmanship, commitment to sources and process, and a love for what he does.
The talk by Vincent Gregoire of Trendlab-Nelly Rodi, a trend forecasting company that analyzes the creative context of design, was informative and gave insights into the whole Maison&Objet Asia debut. Starting from the 1980s to 2016, he gave an overview of sociocultural and economic factors impacting the global furniture and home decorators market.
Gregoire named eight Ws that are impacting our lifestyle today, namely: web, words, we, work, worlds, weather, wow and women. He also named four directions for 2015-2016, namely, Promised Land, Atlantis, Conquistadores and Nextplorers.
These directions and inspirations will be key aesthetic influencers. Innovations will come from new frontiers as well as the more flamboyant elements of nature combined with the latest technology.
The romance of old materials and historical designs will be around, but new uses will be found that will create new feelings for a new generation of consumers.
Undeniable was the presence of interior decoration brands whose roots are embedded in fashion, like Missoni and Fendi Casa.
Echoing runway trends in interior furnishings, they are increasingly sought after in important luxury projects. I mentioned this to Layug and asked him what his thoughts were about this.
“Design is in everything now, a global phenomenon, and fashion dresses up the home through colors, textures, shapes and personal expression. That luxury fashion brands and fashion designers are now part of creating whole environments was a natural thing to happen. We see fashion appearing in new areas with much greater flexibility of form and function,” he says.
Design Philippines has entered a stage where it charms and excites. It’s a good space to be in, but the challenge will be to stay ahead of the usual expectations and surpass them.