German home accessories designer Detlef Klatt created a special gallery showcasing the best Philippine-made products, including holiday décor, in the October edition of Manila FAME (Furnishings and Apparel Manufacturers’ Exchange).
Dubbed as “Manila Gusto,” the 225-square meter gallery had a wide range of accent pieces such as vases, carved candleholders, framed mirrors and decorative food covers from 21 local makers selected by organizers of the biannual furniture and home accessories exhibit.
The gallery’s name paid homage to how the city first made an impression abroad with such products as Manila hemp and Manila paper, said Klatt, who was introduced to the Philippines in the late 1990s as a buyer for his own German-based company.
After selling the company a few years ago, Klatt returned full time to his first love, which is designing. Apart from his background in product and graphic design, Klatt has a master’s degree in floral design.
He also designs for a number of Filipino companies, whose products were featured in “Manila Gusto.”
“Of course, gusto is the Latin and Tagalog word that connotes something about taste, something you really like,” he noted.
Klatt also did last year’s product gallery, a smaller one measuring 90 sqm and inspired by street-style graffiti.
“Not only is this year’s gallery bigger, but the concept is very different,” he said. “People familiar with my work say it’s still me, but the look is very different. At the end of the day, it’s not about me. It’s all about the products.”
This year was also about elegance and a return to decadence, as the entire Manila Gusto gallery was decked in black with touches of gold to enhance the beauty and craftsmanship of items on display.
Many of the items “have swirls, curls and neobaroque touches,” said Klatt.
Home accessories in black and white, with metallic accents such as gold and copper, dominated the gallery.
Grouping the products
Klatt and his collaborators featured Philippine varieties of coffee and chocolate. He turned a small area by the gallery’s entrance into a coffee shop for visitors to sample these products.
Klatt has become so familiar with the best the country has to offer that the range of products and materials didn’t overwhelm him.
“One way to group the products is through their materials,” he said. “A section may feature products made of wood, for instance, but because you have such amazing craftsmen, you can produce products with different treatments and interpretations using the same materials.”
To achieve a semblance of order, he grouped certain products according to color. He purposely avoided using too many colors.
Before drawing up a design for the gallery, Klatt spent a month visiting the chosen firms to familiarize himself with their products.
To this day, Klatt is still amazed at how Filipino craftsmen could come up with products with classical elements while using indigenous materials such as rattan, abaca, mother of pearl and handmade paper.
Compared to other Asians, Filipinos have a much better understanding of Western taste and lifestyles, he said.
Klatt attributes this to a shared religion—Christianity—between the Philippines and the West, and the fact that the country was a Spanish and American colony.
Because of their beauty and unique qualities, Philippine-made products also appeal to large segments of Japanese, Chinese and Middle Eastern markets.
“Your understanding of Western aesthetics is innate,” he said. “Thanks to your unique history and heritage, Filipino craftsmen can easily adapt to the demands of the market. When these sensibilities are interpreted using indigenous materials, Philippine-made products have a way of standing out from the rest.”