World-class jewelry with European design, Filipino craftsmanship
BERLIN, Germany – At the opening of award-winning jewelry designer Miranda Konstantinidou's flagship store for her Konplott brand along Berlin's famed Kurfürstendamm, a Philippine flag was displayed prominently by the cash register.
It can be somewhat confusing trying to make its connection to the Greek-born Konstantinidou and her German business partner Angelo Kram. But as it turns out, Miranda’s work with Filipinos is an integral part of the business.
Konplott, which has 55 stores around Europe, sells jewelry exclusively made in the Philippines. It is in Mactan, Cebu, where Konstantinidou spends days designing jewelry. She employs 1,200 people on the island to help her bring them to life.
“I live in Cebu. That’s my home where I feel safe. I even take a jeepney there,” the designer shared. “I just come here (to Europe) to see friends and visit shops. Everything happens in the Philippines.”
When Konplott started out, the major issue was finding people who have the level of craftsmanship Konstantinidou was looking for. After meeting a Filipina at a design fair and hearing about the country and its people, Konstantinidou found herself in the Philippines in 1999. “I went and in 4 days, I fell in love with everybody.”
“I called Angelo (Kram) and told him we will move production to the Philippines,” Konstantinidou recalled. “At first, he asked me if I was crazy because of the Abu Sayaff and I said there’s nothing dangerous and I felt so safe. He came and he also loved it.”
After starting out with just 10 people, the company now employs over a thousand people. The reason why the company chose to stay the Philippines for so long? The people. “I remember when I got married in the Philippines. Back then, we had 620 girls working for us and they all became my bridesmaids.”
Kram adds staying in the Philippines all this time has truly been a good decision for their business.
“It’s about people. If you are high end, you need the people to understand fast, to communicate properly, and to be very good in handmaking,” Kram shared. “We don’t care how fast you are for the 10 thousandth piece, in our company, we have to be good from the first piece – and that’s a skill.”
Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez who’s in Germany for the Asia Pacific Forum (APF) dropped by the store opening. Here, he revealed how the government recognizes creativity as one of the strengths of the population. He adds that there is currently a task force focused on elevating design in the Philippines.
Lopez adds that Konplott’s story in the Philippines would hopefully encourage other businesses to come and invest. “In the Philippines, we don’t have necessarily lower wages compared to some of our neighbours but investors can see good quality of workmanship – more on the artisanship – as well as the good quality of people. I think this is why they love working in the Philippines.”
He adds that such stories should inspire investors at the APF and will, hopefully, help him and his delegation get the message across. “We’re on an economic breakout. All economic fundamentals there, the growth momentum is there. From the GDP to investment growth of 25%. Unemployment is down, we have a fairly young population. Cited to be hardworking, creative, and resourceful. The population is getting employed so you see a larger consumer market which many investors look forward to,” an enthusiastic Lopez shared.
Meanwhile, Konstantinidou agrees that while labour is a tad more expensive in the Philippines compared to China or Vietnam, it remains to be worth it. “It is worth the price for sure. In which other country can you see this craftsmanship? Everything here is handmade.”
She adds that with the quality of work Filipinos can produce, she believes that there is a place for Filipino craftsmanship in the high-end market.
“In the high end market, Filipinos can be very good because they have the patience and the love to make it nice. They don’t want to make many (of the same piece). They get bored quickly. If you give them the same all the time, it doesn’t work”
In line with this, Konstantinidou is working with the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design to bring in European designers to Cebu. Two of them are already in the Philippines working on their own collections. – Rappler.com