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July 16, 2007

Cebuano furniture designer eyes design school
An internationally acclaimed Cebuano furniture designer is planning to set up a design academy in the next two or three years.

Kenneth Cobonpue, who owns and manages Interior Crafts of the Island Inc., a family-owned furniture design and manufacturing company, said the design academy would be a post-graduate school for two years.

He said he may have to tap foreign funding institutions or establish international partnerships to ensure the school’s sustainability.

“But if things run efficiently the way I want it to, I’m gonna do it myself,” he added.

Cobonpue said he “strongly believes” in the academe to produce new and creative ideas from students.

Designing is seen to be an edge of the Philippine furniture industry above its competitors.

Due to the volatility of the local currency and stiff competition in the global market, he said the Filipinos’ well-renowned craftsmanship is what the industry is banking on to stay competitive.

However, he said finding and retaining “hot-shot” designers have now become a great challenge for industry players as most designers leave the country for high paying jobs abroad.

“We need to train them, cultivate them because we don’t have schools for furniture design,” he said.

Cobonpue, who is also an industrial design lecturer at the University of the Philippines-Cebu College, foresees the industry’s potential to stimulate the minds of students enrolled in architecture, fine arts and industrial design.

Cobonpue spoke in the recent furniture export industry forum conducted by the Cebu Furniture Industries Foundation Inc. (CFIF) together with the University of San Carlos (USC), CIDA Pearl 2 and the German Development Service.

In his speech titled, “From OEM to Branding: Strategic Move from Survival to Domination,” Cobonpue demonstrated how companies can adopt several strategies to slowly shift to high-value design manufacturing and branding.

“There’s a need to brand individually. If we market it solely as a Philippines brand, it won’t work,” he said.

He said a single Philippine brand does not seem to appeal to the local market and will be regarded with even less interest by the “highly critical” American and European markets. PNA

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