It’s FAME season
Raisa Tantuico-Vargas (The Philippine Star) - March 14, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines -Handmade and sustainable seem to be the norm nowadays and if handmade has a place where it is glorified, that would be in Manila FAME. Dubbed Asia’s only lifestyle and design event, Manila FAME has come a long way from being a tradeshow to a platform for design in the country. It showcases raw Filipino talent and craftsmanship in an era of machines and modern materials, setting us apart from the rest of the design world. Our exquisite craftsmanship, still largely done by hand, by artisans, and the clever use of local materials is a visual feast, not only to the tradeshow buyer, but to the curious minds as well. Whether you are in the business of design or not, Manila FAME is a treat to the senses and a reminder of the immense Filipino talent we are surrounded by. At the heart of the tradeshow are manufacturers showing their pieces mainly for export, but what is more interesting are the collaborations between local designers and manufacturers, who are continuously coming up with innovative, functional designs that fuse both local craft and age-old traditions with contemporary perspectives.

One of the few names we may have heard of is Kenneth Cobonpue (who recently won a designer of the year award at the Maison et Objet Asia Show), yet there are so many others following in his footsteps. This year’s show will carry the Urban Resort theme, providing a contrasting backdrop of resort living amidst the urban megacity we inhabit, and showcasing our very best — from furniture, to accessories, to fashion. Below is a brief roundup of who or what to watch out for in this week’s show.

• Vito Selma

Although a familiar face in Manila FAME, his booth designs and his products always leave us anticipating his next move. His deft use of materials and fresh perspective bring about a strangely familiar feel that attracts us to his work, which plays with a lot of geometry and repetition, creating pieces that border playfulness and complexity. At a very young age, he has shown in several countries and continues to be recognized for his work. Some of his clients include the late Nelson Mandela and various royals from around the world.

For this edition of Manila FAME, Vito Selma will be launching six (or so) new pieces. These include a range of lighting and indoor furniture, as well as his first piece for children. In a brief interview, he says, “There are actually two inspirations for these collections. The first being floral, and the second, inspired by the Philippines. I have a collection inspired by the Filipino folk tale Malakas at Maganda, and a piece inspired by the Philippine carabao.” Referencing the familiar old stories we grew up with, he says, “Design is redesign. It is the reinterpretation of everything beautiful around me. I tell stories with my work, hoping people would be interested in hearing them.”

• Red Box Designers

The Red Box program was created by CITEM to help rising designers harness their talent and create globally competitive products. They are under close mentorship with Budji Layug, a well-respected interior and furniture designer in the country.

• Bungalow 300, comprised of Marga Espiritu and Vernice Songco, are excited to unveil the new work they’ve created under this program. They chose to work with materials they’ve never worked with before like resin, shell and faux shagreen, and even lahar (yes, that ash-like volcanic debris).

• Joseph Rastrullo, another young designer under this program, will be showcasing around 20-30 pieces of lighting, décor and furniture. He chose to work with iron, metal wires, rattan, mahogany, plastic and shells. According to him, most of his pieces for this show are accent pieces, as compared to the more commercial pieces he’s done in the previous one. For unique pieces he says to check out his “violin, lounge chair, clutch bag and coffee table.”

• S.C. Vizcarra  &  S.C. Vizcarra x Gabriel Lichauco

To the undiscerning eye, S.C. Vizcarra’s bags may look like your typical woven bag of rattan or other fibers. However, if you delve further into their collection, they carry a whole range of bags, exquisitely handwoven, taking its roots from the very beginnings of the company in the 1920s when it was known for its exquisite workmanship in hand embroidery. They mix very unexpected shapes with indigenous materials such as rattan and water hyacinth, as well as premium leather that is seamlessly woven without any stitching.

For this show, S.C. Vizcarra collaborated with Gabriel Lichauco to explore furniture and other objects, in contrast to their mainstay bags. Their collaboration features a mini-woven electric fan, a woven radio and portable LED lamps. Everyday objects, redesigned to marry function with aesthetic, reinterpretations of the mundane, or maybe just pure playful whims. Last year, the same collab created bigger pieces such as chairs, and huge lamps, using the same weaving techniques used on their bags.

In addition to this, Zacarias by S.C. Vizcarra, designed by Rita Nazareno, creative director of the company, will show her new monolith collection featuring woven bags in wicker. Her designs take inspiration from contemporary art, architecture and design, seen in the very organic yet structural nature of the bags. According to Nazareno, “The Monolith collection goes from looking at progression. I was interested in building a collection that progressed from geological, architectural and even filmic.” S.C. Vizcarra is the perfect marriage of material and form, old and new.  Their pieces are almost understatements, but do not underestimate them, as the process and workmanship is topnotch.

• Hive

Hive is a collective of designers creating exceptional lighting and interior accessories. Founded and under the creative direction of Kenneth Cobonpue, the group takes a similar direction in creating pieces that are functional and inspired by nature, and incorporate the use of locally sourced, organic materials like abaca or rattan. The designers hail from both foreign and local origins and include Olivia d’Aboville, known for her textile sculptures and use of recycled plastic to create ethereal lamps and objects. Also included are Christy Manguerra, Jinggoy Buensuceso, Stanley Ruiz and Liliana Manahan, who recently won the Rising Talents award in the first Maison et Objet Asia show.

• Manila Wear: Michelline Syjuco

Probably one of the most daring and avant-garde jewelry designers today, Michelline walks a very fine line between art and wearable design. Each of her pieces is painstakingly forged by her, using very unusual elements such as cultivated rust, pointed steel studs, gnarly pearls, exploded bullet shells, acetylene burns, crushed tin cans, multicolor acid patinas and strange rocks from outer space.

A newcomer to Manila FAME, she’ll be showing her latest collection entitled “Theater of the Mind.” It incorporates wearable art pieces such as decked-out skulls that can double as bags, cross pendants and wooden bangles accessorized with hinges, locks and other hardware you may find at your local hardware store. Her designs are not for the faint of heart. The designer says, “Visitors must come with an open mind. I like to design pieces that are out of the box and surprise people.”

• OTOP Marketplace

Standing for One Town One Product, the OTOP Marketplace, just like its name, is an assortment of curated products sourced from the country’s different regions, using indigenous material and local craftsmanship. Here, things are more affordable and the setting harkens back to a market where goods are displayed on the floors, and the sellers busy peddling their goods. Products here range from home accessories such as banigs to fashion accessories such as bags. Their designs however are not what you find in souvenir shops as some of the weavers and artisans are mentored by designers to give them newer ideas and fresher perspectives in the crafts that they do.

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