SALES Talk; Herald Tribune Pays Tribute to Cebu Furniture Industry

Article excerpt

Byline: Arthur S. Sales

In a full-page write-up complete with six big illustrations, the International Herald Tribune headlines in its fashion section that a Philippine City Cebu makes its mark in global furniture design.

Writing from Hong Kong, journalist Alexandra A. Seno recounts in the daily newspapers March 10 issue the capabilities of Kenneth Cobonpue, the first Filipino designer to be included in the authoritative International Design Yearbook; Michel Guinefolleau, a Frenchman who operates Cebu Intertrade Export; Anton Quisumbing, a sculptor who manufactures under the Loran Industries brand; Josephine Booth, head of Mehitabel, one of the largest workshops; Robert Booth, of Linea Fina, one of Cebus biggest manufacturers; and Carlo Cordero, originally from Italy who creates his own Tropea line.

Ms. Seno, a freelance journalist based in Hong Kong, writes in the Herald Tribune, which is edited in Paris but printed in Manila, that Cebu City during the last few years has become known within international design circles as producing unique world-class furniture and sells tens of millions of dollars worth of furniture to buyers on five continents.

She quotes Sabine Schacknat, a German design consultant to the Cebu Furniture Industries Foundation, as saying that Cebuanos were the first in Asia to introduce different materials into a very unique style of mixed media.

Ms. Seno writes that "a new generation of designers is gaining recognition and trying to take the industry into a bolder, more contemporary and more original direction and that "faced with a China that can manufacture cheaper than anyone else, has made the move up the design value chain, offering a future for its factory owners.

The Hong Kong journalist also quotes Josephine Booth, daughter of one of Cebus furniture industry pioneers, as saying that although the Chinese with its cheap labor are beyond the reach of Filipinos, the Philippine furniture industry has been able to survive and find its niche.

She also quotes Ruby Salutan, executive director of the Cebu Furniture Industries Foundation, that Cebu furniture had made a mark at the annual U.S. furniture exposition at High Point, North Carolina. She also mentions the comment of Jonathan Matti, one of Manilas top interior decorators who says that one of the nice things going for Cebu furniture is that it is very design-driven with exquisite construction and finish.

Although the Philippine furniture industry loses out in the price war against lower prices offered by China, Thailand and Indonesia, Filipino furniture makers have created pieces that are of superior quality, some of which have now taken root at the luxurious homes of the king of Saudi Arabia and the sultan of Brunei, Darussalam. …