Editorial: Sui generis

(Editorial Cartoon by Josua Cabrera)

DENTED soda cans, fishing implements, noodles, the female torso, book pages—these everyday stuff take amazing twists in the mind of home-grown designer Kenneth Cobonpue, whose name of late appears as a co-brand of the Star Wars line. The guy is something else altogether.

In a forum with designers and entrepreneurs during the One Town, One Product (Otop) National Design Conference hosted by the Department of Trade and Industry, which concludes today, Wednesday, the world-class designer was asked about his creative practices supposedly to inspire the conference’s participating designers.

While his brand is supported by a whole fleet of designers and craftsman, Cobonpue practically steers everyone’s imagination to uncharted shapes and spaces. When Disney executives sought to collaborate with the Filipino designer, he told them he could only sign up for a partnership with proper billing beside the Star Wars logo. He got the rare deal, and thus the October 2018 release of the Jedi hanging lamp, the famous Imperial Wings easy armchair, the Vader and Sidio easy armchairs.

The Star Wars line is, of course, just one of the more recent Cobonpue feats after decades of conquering the world of furniture design. His chairs and tables have graced a good number of Hollywood productions as well, appearing like quiet characters themselves in cinema.

Cobonpue’s supposed design for the Ninoy Aquino International Airport was waylaid following internal spats among executives during the past administration, but he had his way with the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA). “The MCIA is my best revenge,” he said, and the ongoing renovation of the MCIA’s domestic wing will even prove to be way sweeter. Meanwhile, the air terminal in Subic is also waiting for his genius.

One can only imagine the wide road paved by Cobonpue for the younger Filipino designers to make their way into the global market. There is one best example right before them to emulate—recognized in his younger days as the “world’s first rattan virtuoso,” as Time magazine called him in 2007, but who had since evolved to wear many other hats. He had designed eco-parks, future cars using organic materials, among others. Cobonpue’s knowledge cuts across material innovation, concept ideation, production and all the way to international marketing. There is a lot to be learned from an accomplished pioneer.

The Otop design conference has Cobonpue to thank for if the local designers from the country’s different regions get infected by the Cebuano’s boundless creativity.


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