Gabby Lichauco’s mus­ings on the de­sign in­dus­try

El­e­vat­ing Filipino de­sign and artistry may seem like an or­deal, but it’s work Gabby Lichauco is happy to do


“That’s what it’s about: all these com­po­nents in the right quan­tity and qual­ity, and in the right mix: the col­ors, the tex­tures...” De­signer Gabby Lichauco is talk­ing about the virtues of the per­fect halo-halo, virtues that go be­yond taste. “Some halo-ha­los are a bit too ex­per­i­men­tal. They get di­luted, like their in­gre­di­ents were blended down into this mix­ture of ice. And with that dish, you’d still want the crunch and the soft­ness of the beans and the pinipig and ev­ery­thing else.”

Though in­te­ri­ors is his do­main, Lichauco’s sense for de­sign has paved him an en­try into the world of food via the work he has done for the Sarsá restau­rants and the re­cently opened Kafé Bat­wan. His ob­ser­vant mind also gives him a view into how peo­ple nav­i­gate and in­ter­act within a space, in­clud­ing how it adds to their en­joy­ment—or dis­com­fort.

This ob­ser­vant na­ture has also led Lichauco to push the bound­aries of what else could be done, both with the ma­te­ri­als he works with for prod­uct de­sign and the kinds of col­lab­o­ra­tions that com­bine the spe­cial­ties of var­i­ous cre­atives. There’s Mono­lith, his two-year-old col­lab­o­ra­tion with fel­low de­signer Rita Nazareno, a col­lec­tion of home items that take off from Nazareno’s bag de­signs. There’s the pop-up of one-off de­signer pieces or­ga­nized by Univers that he’s par­tic­i­pat­ing in and another de­sign show­case in Paris later this year.

While fur­ni­ture and in­te­rior de­sign in­dus­try moves much more slowly than fash­ion, with prod­uct de­vel­op­ment last­ing for months and the fi­nal re­sult shelved for years be­fore get­ting in­tro­duced to the mar­ket, for Lichauco, it’s con­stant work that in­volves tak­ing gam­bles, mind­ing de­tails, and hav­ing re­serves of pa­tience. “It’s an in­ter­est­ing in­dus­try. I’ve been de­sign­ing for 15 years, and I still get ex­cited and chal­lenged by it.”

Is a de­signer’s mind never ‘ off’?

Yes, ei­ther you get some sort of in­spi­ra­tion from see­ing some­thing, or you find the right time to ex­e­cute some­thing you’ve thought of be­fore but had put on hold. That’s the nice thing about be­ing in any cre­ative field: the out­side is your in­spi­ra­tion. Well, both the out­side and the in­side; it’s a never-end­ing process.

Cover photo by Ralph Men­doza

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