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Arts and Culture

Kenneth Cobonpue sticks to ‘100% Filipino,’ never ‘Made in China’

Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino global design superstar Kenneth Cobonpue admitted that there had been many offers for him to manufacture his designs abroad to lower his works’ prices, but he declined every opportunity and held firmly to his roots.

“The philosophy of our company is 100% Filipino – designed, made, packaged, everything is conceived here,” he proudly answered Philstar.com’s query about the origin of his designs for his new brand, KCurated, at its recent launch in Rustan’s Makati.

“The biggest challenge is to make it more price accessible and that’s why most of the things you see are made in China – injected plastic, mass-produced, and that’s really the challenge,” he professed.

“I have a lot of ideas, but sometimes when we make it, it becomes so expensive. We’ve got invitations to produce in other countries, but it would go against our advocacy (to produce in the Philippines),” stressed the celebrated industrial designer.

Like his furniture that first rose to fame after having found their place in the homes of Hollywood stars like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, KCurated pieces are made in Cobonpue’s workshop in his hometown Cebu using local materials, and from there, are shipped to stores all over the globe. 

“It’s always a dream of every designer to have your designs in every home and we make it possible through this brand,” he said of his new home accessories label, KCurated, which is now available exclusively at Filipino luxury department store chain Rustan’s.

“With our furniture, it’s always other countries first, but for this collection, it’s Philippines first,” he declared.

“We’ve always wanted to work with Rustan’s; we just couldn’t find the right formula. Finally, we have this brand and it’s perfect for Rustan’s,” enthused Cobonpue, noting that the department store chain has more stocks of KCurated than his own stand-alone stores for now.

“It’s a new brand, actually… the collections are varied but they’re all very whimsical, characteristic of my designs.”

Each piece has its own inspiration, he said. The miniatures, for instance, are 1/6th versions of his iconic chairs like Dragnet, inspired by Cebu fishermen’s fishnets; Yoda, which takes inspiration from the “Star Wars” Jedi master and brings to mind Cobonpue’s 2019 collaboration with the Disney franchise; and “Bloom,” available in five colors represented by the designer’s 2022 collaboration with Korean pop group Blackpink.

“We still work with celebrities, with Louis Vuitton and Gucci occasionally… The celebrity thing, it’s important but it’s not something that I’m up to date with,” he said, adding later on in his product tour that he made the miniature chairs for design students who go to his Cebu workshop for a field trip. 

“They couldn’t take my chairs home, so we made these (miniatures) for them.”

The label also includes the jewelry or trinket holder Amelia – inspired by migratory birds in Orango Island in Cebu; the Haw Haw tray for one’s coffee set, inspired by the Filipino song; Wick Candle Warmer that gives “beautiful shadows on walls;” Nest Bowl set of two baskets available in different colors and made from upcycled excess materials from Kenneth’s furniture; Shuttle Wine Holder inspired by a space shuttle’s assembly deck; and Diwa lamps that nod to Ifugao Bulul, among many others.

Prices range from P1, 450 for a set of two mice Nibble decors; to P28,000 for the Little People Table Lamp, one of the designer’s most classic designs also available in different sizes at his shops. Cobonpue is set to open a new store in Bonifacio Global City’s Grand Hyatt Residences with a café and art gallery.

He assured that all his products are sustainable as they avoid using plastics and prefer using 100% of their materials like metals, which are all handmade. 

After all, being locally made in itself is sustainable, stressed the designer who insists that everything he designs would be sold all over the world bannering his name and “Made in the Philippines.” — Video by Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo; video editing by Anjilica Andaya

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KENNETH COBONPUE

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