Indigenous handmade products are coming into their own as shoppers choose handmade over mass-produced designs for their natural appeal and sustainability. Offering a timely perspective on this topic was the Philippines’ premier furniture fair, Manila FAME (Furnishings and Apparel Manufacturers Exchange), held earlier this year. It presented Millennial Home, a special exhibit of designer furnishings targeted towards this new generation of homeowners.

The country’s top manufacturers and designers came together to transform Filipino design with distinctively modern works. Says Budji Layug, creative director of the event: «In this age of 24/7 connectivity and urbanised living, it’s important to go back to nature in the realm of the home to promote relaxation.» Meet the Philippines’ hottest designers and their bold new creations.

Ito Kish

Ito Kish wasn’t a furniture designer before he made his debut at last year’s Manila FAME-the homeware retailer has since proven his mettle with just two collections. One of his first pieces, Gregoria, won recognition in Italy at this year’s A’ Design awards. «I am inspired by all things Filipino,» says the designer with much pride.

In this year’s Basilisa collection, Kish pays tribute to the solihiya (traditional woven patterns}, here framed in mahogany and applied to modern chairs, tables and stools. «The collection is named for my grandmother: when I was young, I watched her do the solihiya on dining chairs that were soiled or broken. I was always amazed that she knew where the other end would go.»

Light and shadow, intricate patterns and clean lines go together in Basilisa. which comes in a series of symmetrical, geometric and block designs, some of which are created in collaboration with manufacturer Betis Crafts. «We used five solihiya patterns, and every one of them represents a region in the Philippines -the patterns are used in baskets, for embroidery in our national shirt, and in hats or other accessories,» says Kish of the design. «I always say: ‘If my pieces could speak, the language would be Filipino.’

Wataru Sakuma

This Japanese artist called many countries home before settling in the Philippines — he grew up in Dubai, India and Japan, and studied painting at the Memphis College of Art. The creative director of MASAECO (Masa Ecological Development), he crafts paper sculptures with the manufacturer’s paper, which is recycled from agricultural waste such as pineapple leaves, banana trunks and rice straw.

For the Millennial Home exhibit, Salcuma worked with buri palm fibre, which is usually used to make baskets, to create a collection of hanging and stacking floor lamps called Oriami. The design is inspired by Filipino weaving patterns and origami techniques; in effect, mixing his own culture with local traditions.

«I try not to have a specific style,» says the designer. «My approach to design is through working directly with the material. I spend time with the material, playing with it and approaching it from fresh perspectives, devising alternative ways to use it.»

Inigo Elizatde

His wildly patterned collection of pillows, sitting cubes, nesting tables and lamps for Catalina Embroideries, showcased at Millennial Home, are based on traditional weave patterns and even jeepneys! «It’s all about beautiful chaos in a mash-up collage that is deeply rooted in Filipino culture,» he explains. «We specifically chose colours that didn’t match,»

Colours are one of his strongest tools, but the designer is hesitant to put his style in a box. «Designing, to me, is about exploring different deas; it’s about the evolution of my thoughts,» he shares. «I suppose you could call my design style eclectic — I like to do a lot of different things and grow through the exploration process.»

Jinggoy Buensuceso

Already known in the arts scene for his boundary-pushing metal sculptures, Jinggoy Buensuceso is a visual artist and furniture designer with a strong linear style, producing forms that are geometric yet organic. For Millennial Home, he combined engineering and contemporary design in the Sierra Madre collection for manufacturers Triboa Bay Living — a series of flat-pack products. Named after one of the largest and most scenic mountain ranges in the Philippines, the coffee table and screen design were inspired by the linear texture and pattern of its landscape, says the 31-year-old.

Apart from the Millennial Home collection, Buensuceso designed Manila FAME’S Cafe Elle Deco, a modern take on the Filipino nipa hut (an indigenous house). His heritage is both an inspiration and a source of pride. One of this fondest works is the wall art installation for the Solar Pavilion, built in collaboration with social entrepreneur Iliac Diaz’s One Litre of Light project. «The colours were inspired by the landscape of the Philippines and her beautiful sunrises and sunsets,» he says, adding: «I’m always proud whenever I give back to my country through my art and design.»

Vito Selma

Bom into э family of furniture manufacturers, this 29-year-old grew up with design practically in his blood. He has already made a name for himself with classics such as the Geo table, with its sculpture geometric wooden base.

Working with Catalina Embroideries for Millennia Home, Selma mimicked animal skin textures with the use of natural or recycled materials. He fashioned hanging lamps into «wings» made with ginit, a natural fibre found in the trunk of the coconut tree; and cushions from coconut shell, layered to resemble reptile skins. Meant as an eco-friendly alternative to the leather-based designs in the high-end market, the creations are for a market that is very material- and eco-conscious, he says.

The designs also reflect Mother Nature. «I am very much inspired by the beauty of the things around me, especially from the outdoors,» explains the designer. «My work is an expression and re interpretation of natural textures, materials and shapes.»

Olivia d’Aboville

French-Filipino Olivia d’Aboville studied textile design in Paris, but moved back to Manila three years ago to practice art and design. For Millennial Home, she paired up with Tadeco, based in the South Cotabato region where the famed weavers of the T’boli people come from, and deconstructed the tribe’s signature red, black and natural-coloured Abaca weavings into ethereal pendant lamps called Seaflower. Made of abaca and cotton wire, the woven lampshades look feat her-light, seemingly suspended in mid-air. «I was inspired by the sea flora that look like flowers floating in the ocean,» explains d’Aboville.

The 27-year-old designer often draws inspiration from the ocean and the many beautiful creatures that call it home. «I try to translate the organic shapes of jellyfish, anemone and corals as well as their effortless movement in the ocean.» To protect her muse, her work has revolved around raising awareness of waste and pollution. An example of this is her Anemone lamp, carried by Kenneth Cobonpue’s Hive label. The initial prototype was made of 1,000 plastic cocktail stirrers d’Aboville had collected from bars. «The stirrers are symbolic of our consumerist society, which is inevitably polluting and destroying our oceans,» she says.

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