New York- Paris- Rome- Cebu.
It is only appropriate that Kenneth Cobonpue, the internationally-acclaimed industrial designer, hails from the Furniture Capital of the Philippines. Probably the most famous owners of his Pinoy-(hand)made furniture are Hollywood celebrity couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
His designs have received recognition in Europe, the US and Asia. His work has been featured in numerous film and television productions. Furniture made by the Kenneth Cobonpue company adorn luxury resorts and hotels in Greece, Spain, Mexico, Dubai and the Maldives. Kenneth's signature designs utilize natural fibers and materials and seek to emulate forms found in nature by using rattan, buri, bamboo and abaca, all local and indigenous materials in the Philippines.
"I never thought a furniture designer (like myself) would be famous," the 42-year old Cebuano said in an interview on ANC's Headstart. Kenneth studied industrial design at the Pratt Institute in New York.
He credits his mother for encouraging him to use natural materials to create unique furniture, particularly, rattan. He decided to innovate further and experimented with other natural materials for "a very modern look".
"In the beginning, I was looking at nature and I was trying to analyze what makes nature so beautiful. It's actually the interplay of branches, leaves and foliage. And when light hits the leaves, it becomes more beautiful. And I wanted to catch that in furniture design in a small way," he explained.
One of his latest designs, the flower-inspired Bloom chair made from microfibers, recently won the Coup de Coeur award at Maison et the Objet in Paris, beating thousands of other entries. The chair was later bought by Queen Raina of Jordan.
Not resting on his impressive laurels, the 42-year old entrepreneur established 2 more enterprises to complement his self-named company: Hype, a lighting and accessories brand and Level K, a line offering affordable furniture for smaller spaces. He is also designing a concept car made of bamboo and carbon fiber which he hopes to unveil in Milan and Paris in a year or two.
Despite earning awards and accolades from the international scene, Kenneth maintained he prefers his business and his home to stay Cebuano: "I'm based in Cebu and will never leave Cebu".
By doing so, Kenneth Cobonpue has shown the world that not only his beautiful and functional designs are Filipino, but so is his heart.
Trivia: His original designs are so good that Kenneth has to go to court twice a month on average to defend them from copycats, particularly from China.