For Kenneth Cobonpue, designing is in his blood.
A native to the Cebu Islands of the Philippines, Kenneth’s mother, Betty Cobonpue is the designer responsible for churning out innovative ways of manipulating natural materials found on the island and turning them into contemporary furniture.
Bloom Chairs from Kenneth Cobonpue.
It’s no wonder then, that Kenneth too, decided to use natural fibres such as rattan, bamboo and abaca into his designs. After completing his studies at the Pratt Institute in New York for Industrial Design, Kenneth proceeded to expand his horizons by studying Furniture Marketing and Production at the Export Akademie Baden-Wurttemberg in Germany.
With much experience under his belt, Kenneth returned to his home soil to manage his mother’s company, Interior Crafts of the Islands. Discovering that modern design could have a new face using natural fibres, Kenneth subsequently created brand new pieces that formed the current collection.
LifestyleAsia Singapore spoke to the established designer who has won numerous prestigious awards and has exhibited at cities such as Paris, New York and Hong Kong:
LifestyleAsia (LSA): Why did you choose to work with all natural materials?
Kenneth Cobonpue (KC): When I started, we only had natural materials. There were no plastics and I worked with all the fibres we had on the Island. After all, we’ve had a long tradition of working with these materials.
Voyage by Kenneth Cobonpue.
LSA: Describe the general process that happens with the creation of your products.
KC: It varies for the different things that we make. From the timespan of three months to an average of a year, we spend the time planning and conceptualizing the piece. Afterwards, we experiment with materials and build them in a three dimensional state so, we draw the piece and build it to scale. We rarely use computers until the last stage.
LSA: You’ve been in the industry for a really long time, tell us how the design industry has changed for you?
KC: It’s changed a lot. You see, Asia had already had that reputation of manufacturing products for other parts of the world. So we were already manufacturing products for other brands but we were kind of nameless and faceless. Right now, you get a whole host of young emerging designers coming up with their own bespoke products. So, this is the trend that I hope to see more in the future because it encourages more people to step up.
LSA: What are some of the biggest problems that you faced as a designer?
KC: I think it’s the stigma in Asia that things here are cheap or the products we create are cheap. So it’s a prejudice that I’ll constantly have to fight against with good design and well-made things. The problem is still there but we’re facing it less and less.
LSA: Lastly, what can we expect from you next?
KC: Actually, I’m not quite sure right now. There’s a lot of things we’re doing now such as installations and going beyond furniture.