Saturday, October 21, 2006

Manila SHAME

The first time I went to Manila FAME was about five years ago. A friend of mine who was an exporter invited me to view the trade show. It was one of the most breathtaking experiences I had. The year after that, I got to design one of the booths. It was located somewhere in the middle of the World Trade Center under banners with "Hall of Fame" silk screened on it.

It was when I told myself that someday, I'm going to have a booth here.

The displays were the best the Philippines can offer. For a pathological design fan, it was better than prozac. Breathtaking.

Years passed by, the best the Philippines can offer never got to change. Woven abaca, resin and more resin, Capiz shells dyed in many colors, wires and more indigenous materials. The only thing that changed was the attitude of a lot of the exhibitors. They became more abrasive, more snooty and yes, cargante.

One was even quoted, "Sosyal kami eh!" And I thought I will only hear those words said jokingly. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth when said in full conviction. It can actually make one puke.

I had my first hand taste of bad attitude from one of the exhibitors saying that they can only manufacture locally if the minimum order is $5,000. Funny because their product is customized wire letters. If you intend to order from them with that minimum, how about Anna Karenina? I bet it will not even reach $5,000.00. The most hilarious part is when you look at their card, their shack is located at Aurora Blvd. And I got to check, it's a hole in a wall talyer which poses as a world class manufacturer.

When I was asked by a friend how was the CITEM show--

"the products are frustrating and the exhibitors-- disgusting!"

Well, some were nice... too bad.

And yeah, no desires of participating here in the future. I'm sure there will be other venues...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

designer angst #4

I submitted this to my ed some months ago and I think she forgot about it. I guess, I just have to post it here...

the cost of interior design

Way back in the early eighties, the word Interior Design sounded Yiddish. The practice itself is ridiculous considering that all of you are taught to do crafts and home decorating at home and in practical arts class. I can still remember how my grandmother decorated their house whenever there is a family reunion and maintained it the whole year for the reason that she can not live in an ugly cluttered house. She made her rugs, sewn her curtains and beddings, and woven solihiya on her ambassador chair. To her, it is part of life. To a lot of them in the province, including my mom, it is homemaking.

It, being basic in family life particularly with women has waned in the recent years. Homemaking developed an area of practice that is more specific, more learned and more technical called Interior Design. For others, it is a more specialized area of Architecture until it became an independent field of its own kayaking between interior architecture and home decorating.

Everybody dreams of a beautiful home. A lot would try to do it on their own, taking to heart how their Lolas would do it during the age of propriety. Some would hire a designer to do it for them. Yet some just sat down and remain dreamy believing that it is one of life’s luxuries.

What was basic before can not be a luxury in life.

It is just a pity because a lot of us think it is. Having a beautiful home is like having a beautiful dress during Sundays. And no fashion editor in any magazine will tell you that dressing well means having a lot of money to buy nice clothes. In the same way, having a beautiful home does not come with a high tag price. It doesn’t follow. What is important is your personality to be expressed in a place where you will be spending most of your life in.

Ironically, since the practice became a profession and what was homemaking before became an industry, much was developed in it as a trade and less was contributed as a craft. The rules of marketing and commercialism were injected into it that its main purpose- to provide a beautiful home, was almost forgotten. Now, we have stores and industry movers whose prime motivation is to espouse the idea that having a handsome living room is exclusive to those who can afford to buy their products. And yes, successfully manipulating the market to engender the idea that what they sell are the standards for beauty. Nothing is wrong with basic marketing strategy, that is until, a lot of those who can’t afford these “packaged beauty” actually ends up subscribing to the idea.

Interior Design as a practice and as any product comes with a price. Just like your Sunday dress, it might be more expensive than the ones you wear everyday. But unlike that dress, this designed space can envelope you seven days of the week. It is still an option if you want it expensive or not. And just like your Sunday dress, it is your option whether to pay a premium for a name or not. In any case, isn’t it always better to look for quality instead of confining yourself only to the label? Does questions like, “is your sofa base plywood or spring? Are your dining chairs in perfect proportion and ergonomics? Is the paint of your console not chipping out?” become more important.

Quality does not always mean higher price. Quality means good design and craftsmanship put to heart. It does not alienate people regardless of their status in society. It does not seek exclusivity. When Charles Eames designed the Molded Fiberglass Chair in 1949, it was with a consciousness that the design can be mass-produced and therefore be for everybody. Our airports can attest to that. When Verner Panton designed the monoblock, he may not realize that the technology behind it gave birth to the cheapest furniture genre to date but sure that design was marketed indiscriminately. These are two fathers of design whose main purpose was to give back to society, without regard to social standing, whatever talent was given to them. Not surprisingly, their names are still alive after their death. Ironically, their chairs cost much these days, It has developed a new title- collector’s items. Understandably enough, such designs became icons of furniture pieces now.

What is disturbing are the pieces now sold which serves as proof of it becoming a classic is still debatable. Yet sold at a higher cost for the reason of maintaining a certain market and desires to remain in that closed circle. It is excusable if the production cost of these pieces is exorbitant. Though one would ask, why make such pieces if you need a lot of money just producing it? Some will find it ridiculous. Others will call it passion. Still, others will just blindly buy. And yes, there will still those who will dream of owning one but can’t afford it. This very attitude keeps those who promote this kind of marketing alive. Worse, even if what they sell or claim to be standards of a handsome living room do not at all posses the quality they promise.

Interior design as an art and as a science however young, has gone a long way in our society, It has also become a business, a laissez faire and quite sadly, a status symbol. Since the profession became available for everybody, there are those who maintained a few too be their own exclusive consumption. And since a lot of them are movers in the industry, they made it the standard and the point of reference for beauty. It is this very Louise XVI French Empire against the Beidermier of the poor attitude that sums them up. No wonder why that same King Louise became the last of France.

We forget the fact that a beautiful home starts where it ends- the home. Our mothers taught us what is good and what is bad, what is proper and what is not, what is beautiful and what is ugly. I grew up in the province, I remember my Lola teaching me how to weave solihiya. We practiced in nylon and when we get to do it right, she will give us uway to do the seat of the chair. I remember my mom doing embroidery work on our pillow cases and bed covers. It is through these things we get to practice our eye to distinguish what suits us and what can’t. It is basic. It is priceless.