The 69th edition of Manila FAME, the premier design and lifestyle trade fair of the Department of Trade and Industry, through the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (DTI-CITEM), runs April 25-27, at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.
No one is feeling more anxious than DTI-CITEM executive director Pauline Suaco-Juan. “I feel like a thespian who’s days away from opening night,” she says. “There are butterflies in my tummy because I know there are so many variables that could affect what happens this weekend. I’m just praying everything goes well.”
For this year’s theme, Heritage Reimagined, “Our goal is to highlight the most iconic styles and elements of past products, and reintroduce them through modern interpretations,” Juan says.
The latest edition will feature new faces, most notably fashion stylist Vince Uy, who has been tapped as creative director. Uy was Juan’s closest collaborator at Preview magazine, where she held the editor in chief post for 15 years. Uy was the creative director for 11 of those years.
Also joining Uy are interior designer Nix Alañon, and fashion editor and brand consultant André Chang. Together with FAME veterans—industrial designer Stanley Ruiz, lifestyle and industrial designer PJ Arañador, and shoe and accessories designer Maco Custodio—they complete the consultant pool for the show’s product development program, Design Commune.
Juan discussed developments in this year’s edition of Manila FAME and why—and how—her many years in content creation and publication served her well in recreating and retelling our local design heritage.
Lifestyle: What learnings helped inform this year’s edition?
My past life in publishing producing stories about the newest, hottest, and latest was responsible for the infusion of new talent into this April’s show. I was intent on bringing in new talent and fresh eyes to Manila FAME—not just to its creative direction, but also to Design Commune.
Vince Uy, our creative director of this edition, has been a long-time collaborator. He is one of the most creative and prolific minds working in the industry today, but unlike me, who has been going to Manila FAME since the ’90s, Vince was not a regular visitor.
So he was able to assess the show without the sentimentality that inhibited change. An example: Vince aims to style our Design Commune vignettes using color and minimalism, rather than an abundance of organic accents such as wood and tropical plants that are normally associated with our tropical modern aesthetic.
What is the Design Commune?
Design Commune is CITEM’s merchandise development initiative that we formally launched in October 2017. Even before there was a Design Commune, CITEM has already been doing its own merchandise development program.
Every edition of Manila FAME has had its own unique theme independent of the editions that came before it. This is how it stands out and distinguishes itself every year from all previous editions. With “Heritage Reimagined,” we highlight the classic and traditional design sensibilities and reintroduce them with a 21st century filter.
Manila FAME has been around since 1983, and I wanted our product designers to mine our design archives. I didn’t want to start with a brief summarizing the latest design trends. I wanted us to look inside ourselves, to be inspired by what is Filipino.
This month’s show will host the fourth edition of Design Commune. The program aims to nurture a community of creative prime movers and their collaboration with local manufacturers. It’s designed to encourage and promote a constant output of well-designed products that meet the demands of the international market. Like the October 2018 edition, we worked with a pool of about 90 exhibitors, and will be able to produce roughly around 900 new products to showcase to our buyers this April.
How did you go about choosing consultants?
I was quite curious to see how Manila FAME’s veteran designers—Stanley, Maco, and PJ—would work with these new names. I’ve known and worked with Vince, Andre, and Nix in my years in publishing, and have the utmost respect for their design sensibilities.
As creative director, Vince is responsible for the overall look and feel of the show, from graphic design to our special setting. Stanley Ruiz and Nix Alañon worked with our base of furniture and furnishings exporters on new designs. Maco Custodio and PJ Arañador designed fashion and home goods for our Artisan Village craftsmen in Zamboanga, Antique, Marawi and Albay, producing goods that made the most of the province’s raw materials.
Aside from curating our new show feature, the Fashion E-Tailers program, Andre Chang also worked with our current roster of fashion exhibitors, going through their company archives to give their classic designs a fresh new spin.
How is this year’s Manila FAME going to be different?
Since being appointed in August of last year, we have made efforts to revitalize the Manila FAME experience by injecting it with fresh perspectives and introducing new show features. These efforts include our initial steps in the digitalization of the trade show experience by introducing the digital dossier, Touchpoint, and the Manila FAME app.
Touchpoint is a curated collection of stories about Filipino culture, design and craftsmanship, where we compile stories about our exhibitors and their products on our website (http://www.manilafame.com/Touchpoint/About).
We’ve also revamped our social media coverage, particularly on Instagram, which we’re using as a bulletin board of sorts to chronicle what’s happening within the Manila FAME community.
For this upcoming edition, we are also introducing the Fashion E-Tailers special setting, which will feature the country’s rising fashion entrepreneurs from the online marketplace. Andre, our fashion sector product development designer, helped us put together a diverse group of 22 up-and-coming fashion labels. This program aims to grow a new generation of Filipino fashion brands.
What were the criteria for the participants? Are you optimistic that there will be more brands joining in the next editions?
The Fashion E-Tailers were handpicked by André. Based on the turnout of the very first iteration of this setting and the responses of the brands to the fashion consultancy and curation of André, we’re expecting a significant increase in participating brands in the next edition of this special setting.
Another new highlight is Create Lab. It’s designed to inspire and motivate people from the creative industry by providing interactive stations that allow FAME’s exhibitors and visitors create their own logos and use stop-motion technologies right at the trade show floor.
It serves as a special sneak peek into the creative experiences and networking opportunities that await trade show attendees at this year’s CREATE Philippines.
How many foreign buyers do you expect this year?
We are expecting to see an increase in the total number of buyers this year especially since we have a growing domestic market. Based on the pre-registration figures, we are hoping to get at least 300 foreign trade buyers for this edition especially from our priority markets including the Americas, China, and Europe. It should be noted though that the number of pre-registered buyers is normally only about 30% of actual buyer arrival.