Filipino designer Kenneth Cobonpue, known for original pieces, talks about his creative journey.
Kenneth Cobonpue’s relaxed nature reflects his airy and light-filled exhibition stand at Salone del Mobile 2017. He reclines in one of his fabulous outdoor loungers and we could be at some tropical resort, rather than the hectic design pavilion. Taking me through his new range it’s obvious that he loves his work as industrial and furniture designer, and always injects a sense of fun and whimsy into his products. His passion and talent has also earned him a long list of awards and achievements. His client list is a bevvy of who’s who, from Queen Sophia of Spain to Angelina Jolie [she purchased his Voyage Bed for her son Maddox]. His furniture can be seen in many movies including Ocean’s Thirteen and Made of Honor. In 2007, TIME magazine called him “rattans first virtuoso”. His long list of awards include the American Society of Interior Design Top Pick selection, the Japan Good Design Award, and First Prize at the Singapore International Design Competition
Growing up in Cebu, Philippines his mother, Betty, was also a designer and a great inspiration. “When I was young she had a factory at the back of our house so all my free time was spent in the factory around the craftsmen. I used to make my own toys with the bits of material that were lying around. It was a lot of fun for me. It’s why I took up design, I wanted my childhood to go on forever. And it has.”
Originally Cobonpue studied Business at his father’s insistence, but then he shifted to Industrial Design at the Pratt Institute in New York. On completion of his studies he work in Italy and Germany, returning to the Philippines after his father’s death in 1996 to run the family business. In the beginning his modern designs were not well received, but he stayed true to his vision. “I’m inspired a lot by nature. By leaf structures and their shape. When you look outside, and you can see the light moving through a tree, it’s beautiful. That was my first inspiration and it has remained the cornerstone of my brand”. He sourced local organic material and had most of his designs made by hand rather than machine. Before long the world had discovered Kenneth Cobonpue and his furniture was exported to every corner of the globe.
His work fits comfortably into most styles of home, from contemporary to coastal. “All my furniture has a sense of openness. Many cities are like concrete jungles now, so I want to bring a bit of nature to people’s homes. We always used natural materials at the beginning, but people wanted to bring our product outdoors so we started looking at more weather resistant materials”. He gets a lot of positive feedback from clients because the pieces are so unique and personal. “It inspires me to find time to design every day”.
Kennethy Cobonpue is available in Australian and New Zealand from maytime.co.nz