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Philippine Design Through the Generations

March 28, 2022

Keeping their families’ legacy in the industry alive and responding to its growing cachet amongst a younger, more discerning market, the next generation is injecting more current designs and innovative processes into its production. Design and manufacturing companies Albero, INDIGENOUS, E. Murio Manila, jb+ for JB Woodcraft, and Zacarias 1925 are changing things up for their heritage brands or forging their own paths as inspired by their family-owned enterprises.

Growing up surrounded by the family business, its artisans, and spending time in the factory was a common experience for several next-gen purveyors. Lance Tan, who launched ALBERO in 2018, is a third-generation member of one of Pampanga’s longest-running furniture manufacturing companies. The brand exhibits a younger, Scandinavian-meets-Filipino aesthetic compared to the family’s own line of more classic and transitional design styles. “Growing up in the family business is what ignited my love for design,” recalls Tan, whose fuss-free furniture and kids line fit right in with this generation’s streamlined style sense, “During my younger years, the headquarters was my playground, following my parents as they went through the factory was something I honestly enjoyed.”

The family’s warehouse also served as a childhood playground for JB Woodcraft’s Leslie Bituin-Mendiola, “I remember playing around the factory, helping count screws. When there would be flooding in the factory, we would ride the wood as our boats.” A subsidiary of mother company Betis Crafts, a pioneering export enterprise in Pampanga that manufactures hand-carved wooden furniture, JB Woodcraft, and its spin-off modern line jb+ produce ultra-detailed hand-carved wooden furniture and decorative items pleasing to both romantic and contemporary tastes.

Wood decor by jb+

Bringing the same of-the-moment sensibility to heritage brand S.C. Vizcarra is its third-generation creative director Rita Nazareno, whose offshoot brand ZACARIAS 1925 continues to push the boundaries for what woven rattan can create. Translating S.C. Vizcarra’s signature weave into her off-kilter designs, as seen in the architectonic and pop culture-inspired bags and home accessories bring the almost century-old crafts business into the present. “There’s always going to be that sense of responsibility and that sense of excitement in bringing something new,” shares Nazareno, “The younger generations have been exposed to design, to the factories, to tradeshows our whole lives so there is almost an innate understanding there. But we also want to have our own voices, our own aesthetics expressed. It is always a fine line to tread with family businesses, but you make it work and I am so thankful for it.”

Workspace pieces by E. Murio

Sharing a renewed vision for the family-built furniture business, E. Murio Manila, is its creative director Tisha de Borja-Samson. With over 40 years’ worth of finely-crafted, tropical-inspired furniture, home interiors, and accessories, second-gen purveyor, de Borja-Samson, an architect and interior designer by training, infuses fresh ideas and inventive designs into the brand’s traditional pieces. From multifunctional bamboo mirror trays, solihiya dog houses, and flame-bent rattan bar carts “simple yet functional everyday objects that are exquisitely made” are just some of de Borja-Samson’s trademark innovations.

Handmade paper decor and lighting pieces by Indigenous

Applying her signature design elements to the creations of sustainable brand INDIGENOUS is Nicole Cabanlet, daughter of founder Lolita Cabanlet whose kitchen experiment with a blender and homemade paper evolved into a line of décor and stationery made with tree-less paper. With a background in interior design, Nicole’s role as in-house designer and creative director for INDIGENOUS provides the brand with a fresh perspective and also contributes to its expanding catalog of designs. Her lighting fixtures made of a combination of materials and techniques like macramé paper twine are a study in texture, while the paper ceramic material and paper stitching process she developed for the brand’s vessels and lamps have garnered interest from international buyers.

Woven bags by Zacarias 1925

For these new breed Philippine design stalwarts, carrying the family’s legacy to a new generation is an honor. “I hear of several stories where family businesses were forced upon the next generation,” shares Lance Tan, “However, growing up in an environment like this has enabled me to genuinely love the craft and value meaningful relationships at the same time.” Bituin-Mendiola echoes the same sentiment, “I love how the old times are about trust, friendship, and open communication. Today it’s about security, contracts, and everything black and white,” she reflects, “A lot has changed from before, and so is the way of business as we should keep ourselves updated to be able to cope with global progress. But above anything else, however, trust and friendship both with our customers and our workers should always remain.”

Discover how this new breed of design talents reimagine fine craftsmanship as they present their companies’ latest offerings on MOM (Maison&Objet and More), accessible until September 2021 on, and on Manila FAME’s digital platform, FAME+, at beginning 22 October 2020.

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