Kenneth Cobonpue gets inspired by culture


Philippine designer, Kenneth Cobonpue, visited Australia in April to launch his new collection of striking handcrafted pieces. His designs, unlike any other, can be found in world-renowned restaurants and hotels

How did you get into design?
My mother was an interior designer who built furniture for her clients in our backyard. I grew up surrounded by her designs and the people who turned them into reality. My childhood was spent making toys and structures out of leftover wood and rattan. The rest is history.

How do you feel your collection relates to design and function?
My palette of natural materials is a feast for the senses. It allows me to bend, twist and weave them in so many ways. These materials guide me toward the forms and functions that are possible. In the Yoda collection, for example, the natural strength and flex of multiple rattan poles was used to support the back. We also maximised the ability of rattan to be bent into the deep curves of the Lolah collection.

How would you describe your design style?
Organic modern. My designs are essentially the language of nature in its simplicity, purity and beauty. I make forms and objects that bring nature into the urban spaces we inhabit.

What inspires your designs?
I am inspired by home. The island of Cebu is full of colour, texture and life, beaming with creative energy. And even though I have lived here most of my life, it’s always challenging to find beauty in the ordinary.

What do your collections mean to you?
My dreams, inner emotions and experiences have taken a life of their own.

Where are your handcrafted pieces found?
My collection is found in more than 30 countries worldwide. My website lists all the countries and sales points in detail. I’ve had the honour of some top architects and designers
in the world placing my designs in some unique projects.

David Rockwell, for instance, has two Dragnets in his office. He also took inspiration from the Pigalle weave and asked us to build 8800 square feet of custom wall/ceiling sculpture for the new Nobu Restaurant in Dubai. We supplied more pieces for any single film, in Ocean’s Thirteen, by a single vendor in Warner Brothers’ history.

What precautions or thought do you put into making your pieces environmentally friendly?
My mother and I have been making furniture out of natural materials that are environmentally friendly even before we knew what the word meant. Today we make
a conscious effort to use sustainable plantation woods, water-based paints and low-energy usage to create a design.

Why have you decided to launch the new range in Australia?
Our designs have always been very well received down under; our design sensibility is very compatible in Australia as well.

What do you think are the coming trends in furniture design and lighting?
I think the state of the world’s resources and environment will be the big barometer for style and commerce in the future. The combination of natural materials with environmentally friendly composites in architecture and product design will be a strong theme in the years to come. Biomimmickry, or the science of exploring nature to come up with solutions for our world, is going to be a hot field.

Which designers do you look up to?
I look up to a few designers such as Ross Lovegrove and Marcel Wanders, who have become very good friends. I enjoy the work of modern architects such as Calatrava and Rem Koolhaas, and the fashion sensibilities of many young Japanese designers

Aman Talwar