Next gen exhibitors glow up for the 70th edition of Manila FAME

Next gen exhibitors glow up for the 70th edition of Manila FAME
We explore the stories behind some of the homegrown brands featured in this year's Manila FAME lifestyle and design festival

Every edition of Manila FAME earns a reputation for being the must-see lifestyle and design trade event in the country, and for good reason.

It brings together over hundreds of homegrown brands presenting their best products. That means hundreds of carefully chosen exhibitors offering high quality and design-centric home décor, furniture, clothes, and accessories. 

Manila Fame has worked with the likes of Kenneth Cobonpue and Josie Natori to showcase world-class designs and artistry through locally made products and has helped push the envelope for the benefit of up-and-coming designers and manufacturers who have yet to conquer the international scene. 

In as much as many are excited over the presence of revered celebrity designers like the aforementioned, and eager for what known brands like Aranaz and Mele+Marie have to offer, curiosity also tends to focus on new names and faces. 

Photo by Jill Tan Radovan/Rappler

A new generation has taken over some of the homegrown brands in this season’s exhibit. They carry not only wares to offer prospective buyers, but also stories behind the hard work, artistry, and craftsmanship that goes into every artisanal piece. They hope to create new milestones by innovating product lines yet carry on with the legacy they have inherited from close kin – the founders of the brands they now wear like royal crests on their chests.

Below are some of the next gen exhibitors at the 70th Manila FAME, with their stories.

Going green with blown glass

“The original motivation was to be green, so we can turn junk into something beautiful. So, we melt down mayonnaise, cola, and ketchup bottles, and blow them into a lamp or a vase. We upcycle,” said Gerard Morales in an interview with Rappler.

He now manages Acento Collections, which was started as a rattan basket manufacturing business by his parents in 1980. The company has been reinvented over the years; exporting woodworks, rattan, buri, shell crafts, and ceramics. 

Photo by Jill Tan Radovan/Rappler

Acento is now engaged in the production of lamps, vases, and, home decor using recycled glass. The designs change in accordance to global trends. 

Let’s say, uso ngayon ang floral, then floral yung design. The metal is designed with flowers and then you blow glass into it. Pag nauso naman ang coastal, you have shells and you have starfish. You have seahorse – you still blow glass into the frame of a seahorse,” Gerard said.

Acento’s designers have a say in the type of designs that come out in every collection. 

“I don’t like to constrict them. The only thing that maybe changes things is when these designs re not commercially viable; meaning it’s a beautiful design but if you mass produce it, it will be too expensive or cannot be done, engineering wise. That’s why we modify it a little. But as for the design, it’s freehand for them.” 

Sourcing from local communities and upcycling raw materials

Cyprea is a Pinoy manufacturer and exporter of costume jewelry and bags that uses coconut, wood, plant fibers, and shells as raw materials for its products. On display at the Manila FAME press preview were handbags, a clutch bag, and a tote that juxtaposes the earthly appeal of natural materials with contemporary shapes and designs.

Photo by Jill Tan Radovan/Rappler

When products are made with natural raw materials, there’s always the question of whether such materials are sourced from local suppliers, and through sustainable means. 

Cyprea’s Marketing Manager Janice Chua tackled the issue of sustainability in an interview, saying, “It’s always been the thrust of the brand to create products using indigenous natural materials that are not only locally sourced nut are locally grown, too. That’s very important to us, because it means that when we make a product – let’s say this bag – there are so many hands that go into making the actual bag. Somebody had to harvest the actual fiber that was used to make the strips to make the bag. There’s a lot of work involved from start to finish.”

Janice herself is hands-on in the sourcing and production processes for the business. “When we work with a new community, I go there myself and see what their capacity before I give them a prototype to work on. When it’s new materials, I’m also the one who talks to different suppliers to see if they do have the capacity to produce and what their concerns are,” she said.

The company has been sourcing pandan from Barili, a town in Cebu for the last 5 years. When it comes to sourcing wood as raw materials, Janice and her team at Cyrea are very careful not to raise eyebrows due to environmental concerns. And they’ve done their part to avoid the depletion of  our natural resources; they make clutch bags by upcycling wood from discarded crate pallets in their warehouse. 

Janice is excited to present the full line-up of Island Girl, a new collection of modern chic bags and accessories, at the 70th addition of Manila FAME.  

Giving back to their workers 

Leslie Bituin-Mendiola now runs JB Woodcraft, a family-owned furniture business she inherited with her siblings. During the Manila FAME press event at Seda Hotel in BGC, however, her mother and JB Woodcraft co-founder Myrna Bituin, was only too happy to share the milestones of the company throughout decades of operation.

JB Woodcraft complies with the standards of its upscale European market. “We are using plantation species that is accepted by the market. Ever since we started, we have never used Narra or other solid wood. We have always used regulated timber – solid timber – with all the licenses and regulations. The clients, especially in the UK, are very strict about that,” Mrs. Bituin said. 

She beamed with pride as she talked about JB Woodcraft’s special projects, including a grant that required them to produce items for Swedish furniture brand Ikea; one that commissioned them to make furniture for palaces in Qatar; and yet another that allowed them to restore the Sta. Ana Church. 

Other than taking the world by storm with best in class furniture, there is one other accomplishment that Mrs. Bituin is particularly proud of: giving back to loyal workers who have helped the business flourish over the years.

“We have a housing project for our workers. We offer scholarships. My first retiree, ang anak niya ngayon, first scholar namin. And he’s now a contractor. Baka mayaman pa sa amin,” said Mrs Bituin.  

Theme and main attractions

The theme for the 70th edition of Manila FAME, “Heritage Reimagined,” captures the event’s intention to marry timeless Filipino artistry and craftsmanship with modern aesthetics to catch up with the preferences of an ever-evolving market.

Photo by Jill Tan Radoval/Rappler

Guests can look forward to the Design Commune, a merchandise development program and exhibition space curated by Vince Uy with support from Stanley Ruiz, Andre Chang, Nix Alañon, Kitty Bunag, and Mia de Lara. 

Artisans Villagewill showcase regional distinctive products from Antique and Marawi. Another thing to look forward to is Fashion E-Tailers,where one can explore classic and current styles from emerging online fashion retailers. The Eco-Lifestyle Pavilion will showcase a variety of beauty and wellness products. 

Photo by Jill Tan Radovan/Rappler

Organized by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) through its export promotion arm, the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), the 70th edition of Manila FAME will be held from October 17 to 19 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.

Photo by Jill Tan Radovan/Rappler

For tickets and updates, visit manilafame.com and follow its social media accounts at @ManilaFAMEofficial on Facebook, @TheManilaFAME on Twitter, and @manilafame on Instagram. – Rappler.com

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