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How Mark Wilson’s wearable history made me rediscover him in another light — on the dancefloor |

Modern Living

How Mark Wilson’s wearable history made me rediscover him in another light — on the dancefloor

FEAST WITH ME - Stephanie Zubiri - The Philippine Star
How Mark Wilsonâs wearable history made me rediscover him in another light â on the dancefloor
A year and a half ago, Mark Wilson launched a jewelry line, Caro Wilson. (Caro is his Filipino mother’s maiden name, and Wilson is his American father’s last name.) The line is inspired by Filipino folk forms and techniques, including weaving, braiding, and casting. He also incorporates colonial forms, like anting-antings, originally cast in brass, but now cast in sterling silver, and gold-dipped and/or oxidized. Caro Wilson: Art, Home, Jewelry is at SM Aura until the end of March

While our paths had crossed several times in the usual circuit of Manila socials, the first time I ever really got to know the interior and lighting designer Mark Wilson was on the dancefloor. Not just any dancefloor, but a crazy light-up dancefloor at the lavish ’70s disco party of a common close friend. There are times when you are just drawn to people. And, at that very moment to the sounds of Boney M, we were perfect partners in the boogie. As we were dancing, I couldn’t help but admire the incredible piece of jewelry he was wearing. On top of his black ensemble was a bib necklace of silver interlocking chain maille and what seemed what was floating on top of it was a very fine hammered gold mask. “Mark, how beautiful!” I exclaimed as I reached out to touch it. “Oh my, please be careful,” he replied. “It’s over a thousand years old.”

 As it turns out, he was wearing a piece of excavated Filipino gold dating from 1000-1400 AD. He later on explained to me that much of the excavated gold in the Philippines are from this era and from the Surigao and Butuan regions. The nerd in me bubbles over in delight at the idea of wearable history. I love pieces that have thought, meaning and symbolism. Pieces that have a lengthy story attached to them and designed with passion and intent. This is exactly what you will find in the designer’s jewelry line: Caro Wilson.

“What I’m so inspired by is folk culture in the Philippines; this bracelet is inspired by the ones you find in Baguio market made of rattan,” he shares of his iconic braided bracelet. He works with local silversmiths and goldsmiths to perfect these designs and highlight their skills. One of which is an 85-year-old artisan who may be the last person who knows how to do the very fine “Double Coil” filigree. It is traditionally used for floral designs, but Mark updates it into more modern and geometric styles. There are also a few more religious pieces inspired both by local Catholicism and his being drawn to Buddhism. One of my favorite pieces is the Begara necklace which represents the Dharma Wheel. He feels as though these are a tangible spiritual reminder of “our admission that we have to rely on something outside ourselves.”

The busy man is currently working on several interior design projects for his firm WE Design, which he founded with partner, architect Nikki Escalona-Tayag, in 2013; Caro Wilson is a passion project that fulfils his artistic side. “My interior design jobs make me work on a large scale, so it’s really nice to work on a small scale. To really use my hands and control the product entirely.”

In that light, Mark also restores and refurbishes vintage Filipino furniture dating from the 1920s to the 1960s. “It took me over two years to accumulate,” he shares about the pieces displayed in his current pop-up at SM Aura. “My specialty would be bleached narra. I find that narra, although with a beautiful grain, has a very red and saturated tone, which would have been fine for our lolas but not as relevant today.” Old pieces which would have felt clunky in a contemporary setting now have a fresher appeal.

Apart from the furniture and the jewelry, one can also find curated artworks from the Acuzar collection for sale. Focusing on early to mid-career artists, pieces from Buen Calubayan, Alan Balisi and Ronald Ventura adorn the walls of the retail space.

Caro Wilson: Art, Home, Jewelry is currently open at SM Aura until the end of March. A portion of the sales will go to Bellas Artes Projects.

“The foundation has become very close to me. We designed their gallery space in Makati as pro-bono because I wanted to give something to them. We had a great fit in terms of the founders’ understanding of art and my understanding of art.”

Mark has an art history background with a BA in History of Fine Arts from Harvard University. Which explains his attention to detail and passion for reinventing all things old without losing its integrity. He is also a student at heart with two masters degrees: masters of Fine Arts Lighting from Parsons New York and masters of business administration from IESE Barcelona.

“Bellas Artes Project is a true foundation. They bring in art from Mexico to Paris and even Africa, and you pay nothing to see it. Now they are developing a more educational program in partnership with UP. It was a way for me to help them achieve that milestone.”

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Art, Home, Jewelry is open until March 31 at the G/F of SM Aura.



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