From struggling with drawing to becoming a global personality in industrial design, it is not surprising why Kenneth Cobonpue is one of the most renowned artisans in the world.
For 2015, Cobonpue exhibited his trademark nature-inspired designs at the recently-concluded APEC Summit last November. Being tasked as APEC’s creative director, Cobonpue showcased his creative vision by transforming MOA Arena, where the dinner with APEC delegates was held, into an outdoor garden. The use of elevated stages and tones of gray and green made the venue reminiscent of the Banaue Rice Terraces [Related: Cobonpue weaves his magic at APEC Summit].
A self-confessed globetrotter, Cobonpue made use of the things he came across abroad in transforming MOA Arena for two nights. Among the key highlights of his creative vision was how he redesigned his iconic Yoda chair for the 21 delegates. By adding armrests and a swiveling base, Cobonpue transformed his iconic piece into a chair that fits the homes and offices of the world's top leaders.
After the APEC summit, it was very touching to see that despite Cobonpue’s powerful status as an industrial designer, he also gave back to the community by auctioning off six of his bespoke Yoda chairs to charity. Amounting to Php 8.8 million, all of the proceeds went to UNICEF's First 1,000 Days Campaign, which aims to promote easier access to health nutrition and services to a child’s first 1,000 days of life.
The influential creative, whose mother Betty Cobonpue is also a prominent designer, said that design is “an extension of his childhood,” citing the many instances he would hang out at his mother’s workshop in Cebu as a child to learn from his mother’s workers and create his own toys.
Though he shared in previous interviews that he was a Fine Arts reject after failing in the course’s drawing exam, this did not discourage Cobonpue from pursuing design. He took drawing classes, and studied design at New York’s Pratt Institute, where he graduated summa cum laude. His desire to learn about design did not stop there, as he underwent apprenticeship and further studies in Italy and Germany to hone his love for industrial design.
With the education and training he has received, Cobonpue crafted his own design vision, which gave birth to Yin & Yang, his first furniture design collection, back in 1998. The concept of fusing handmade production techniques with naturally sourced materials was new then, but it caught the attention of everyone, including Hollywood stars like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
2015 has been a great year for Cobonpue, as he balanced philantropy with his passion and vision for industrial design.