The nice thing about globalization is that it gives recognition to the excellence of not just one country, but it encourages collaboration with other countries specializing in various skills.
In fact, the Philippines is one of the early adopters of globalization, and Manila FAME is a testament to that. 32 years later and several successful Filipinos later, Manila FAME and Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) continue in pushing Filipinos to innovate and showcase their talent to the international community.
Two notable examples of successful Filipinos who have consistently been exhibiting at Manila FAME are furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue and jeweler Mila Imson, both who have successful businesses worldwide, and now cater to several clients, which include prominent personalities here and abroad.
Both Cobonpue and Imson’s names may be headliners in trade events such as Manila FAME, their humble beginnings is something worth talking about.
For Imson, her passion for jewelry started with her amusement watching how jewelry was made from afar. Born to a family of farmers, making jewelry has been part of Imson’s curiosity up until she studied in FEU, where she was asked by a teacher, who also hails from Mecuayan, Bulacan, to plate jewelry.
“Ang laki ng aking ganansya ko nun, at nawili ako hanggang sa sumikat ako sa buong FEU,” Imson recounted, adding that even FEU president Josephine Reyes took notice of her passion. The opportunity came at a right time for as her curiosity for making jewelry has been satisfied, and that gave birth to her jewelry business named Kit Silver Jewelry.
Details on one of Imson's necklace pieces, which uses silver as base material.
As for Cobonpue, who has loved design as a kid, he recounts that he would hang out with the craftsmen at his mother’s workshop. Cobonpue’s mother is Betty Cobonpue, an industrial designer known for her furniture designs in the 1980s.
During those times at the workshop, Cobonpue would ask and learn how to build things with the craftsmen at his mother’s workshop, to the extent of building his own toys. “Design to me is just an extension of my childhood,” said Cobonpue.
Cobonpue's Chiquita stools, one of his trademark products in his furniture line.
Nature and travels
Both of them have one thing in common, that is they have inspirations in honing their craft to the best, and that they have their own reasons for their preferred materials to work with.
“Mahilig ako tumingin sa natural things like leaves, trees . . . 'yan ang akin inspiration,” Imson said, adding that a serpent crawling through leaves is the inspiration for her “Serpent” necklace, of which won at the 2015 Creative ASEAN Jewellery Competition.
Imson's award-winning "Serpent" necklace.
As why Imson prefers to use silver, she said that silver is a byproduct of gold, and that oftentimes, gold’s byproduct goes to waste. Also, she likes silver’s hypoallergenic properties, which makes it a better material for jewelry making as compared to brass.
As for Cobonpue, he is inspired my many things he sees as a globetrotter. “I’m inspired by my travels, by things I see, from fashion, art, architecture, and nature especially,” Cobonpue said, emphasizing on nature. Majority of Cobonpue’s furniture collection makes use of rattan because of its versatility.
Cobonpue's Yoda chairs, which best showcase Cobonpue's nature-inspired designs.
Making it big
From their early beginnings, starting with a staff of less than 20, now both Cobonpue and Imson’s businesses comprise of around a hundred staff workers and offices not just in the Philippines but also abroad such as the United States, Middle East, and Europe. In fact, their products are featured in movies and red carpet events.
Their piece of advice to aspiring Filipinos who want to make a mark in the industry? For both Cobonpue and Imson, passion and innovation plays an important role in making their businesses flourish.
“Whatever you are doing, you have to make sure that it is different from the rest of the world, that the world needs your product,” Cobonpue said.
“Kinakailangan maging innovative ka, magkaroon ng constant design changes, at maging observant sa mga bagong trends,” Imson added.
In addition, Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) Deputy Executive Director Ria Matute noted that aside from being innovative and passionate with their business, one should be focused with making their business a sustainable model as well. Matute adds that businesses should be able to have a working relationship with their buyers.
“It’s not just about you creating things, but it is being able to have an insight on what buyers will be looking for,” said Matute.