Kenneth Cobonpue on his creations, what inspires him, and why he feels at home in Makati.
Dubbed by "TIME Magazine" as 'rattan's first
great virtuoso,' Kenneth Cobonpue has truly made his mark in furniture design, with his unique creations capturing the admiration not only of Filipinos but that of the international
audience as well. A proud Cebuano, Kenneth is well-known for combining locally sourced materials with pioneering production processes
that results in admirable works of art.
ON BEGINNINGS AND INSPIRATIONS
Kenneth grew up learning the process of creating
and designing furniture at home. “My mom was
an interior and furniture designer and she had a
workshop at the back of our house,” he relates. With people literally all around the house working on the furniture pieces, Kenneth witnessed them hard at work. “At the garden, I watched them make new things and helped them build it. I’ve
always liked building things as a child—I built my
own toys,” Kenneth shares. As to what inspires
him, Kenneth replies, “There's no formula for inspiration. I’m inspired by a lot of things—from nature, my travels, my dreams, everyday things,” he adds. He also shares that he doesn’t have a design philosophy. “When you have one, you begin to put yourself in a box,” he explains.
ON CREATING COLLECTIONS, DIFFERENT DESIGNS, AND HAVING A SIGNATURE LOOK
By not sticking to a formula, Kenneth believes that his designs from past to present have big
differences. He relates that if he finds something that works, he doesn't stick to it as he always aims to create something new, even with the risk of failure
—what matters is innovation. There is a story behind each of Kenneth's collections and he considers them his children—each is unique and very different
from one another. “I don’t think there’s a signature
look; there are signature designs that you know it's a Cobonpue and I prefer it like that. The design themselves are iconic,” explains Kenneth.
ON TAPPING THE INTERNATIONAL MARKET
“It was a long experience and it didn't happen
overnight,” shares Kenneth. Though the process wasn't easy, he believes that as long as you have something that's novel and unique— coupled with the use of the Internet —it's easier to reach a wider audience. “In design, there’s always competition, discrimination; you just have to go ahead and not be discouraged,” he shares. His international best-selling pieces
include local favorites like the Bloom chairs,
Yoda chairs, and the Lulu easy arm chairs.
ON HAVING A FAVORITE CREATION AND
TIPS FOR YOUNG ARTISTS
Since Kenneth he treats says it's his impossible collections to like name children, which piece
is his favorite. He doesn’t put out something just
because it will sell; it's always because he likes
it. Considering art as an investment, he advises young artists to perfect their craft, learn from a good mentor, and get experiences from other people. “Design is not an exact science, it’s very subjective so it’s important to have a mentor to
teach you what's good or bad, and then try to find
your place in the world later on,” Kenneth relates.
FINDING A HOME IN MAKATI
With stores in different countries and in Cebu, Kenneth will soon open a store in
Greenbelt. He chose Makati as the venue of
his first store in Luzon as he has always liked the vibrant city. In the virtuoso’s own words, “I've always liked the vibe of Makati. I always
stay here in this area and I think the design
industry is still pretty much in Makati.”
Kenneth Cobonpue on his Bloom chair— handmade microfiber stitched over a resin top with steel base.