Design capability Philippines


The stunning designs coming from the Philippines highlight a key competitive advantage for buyers looking for quality unique new products.

The Philippines has great potential in terms of design capability. While still a nascent sector, the country has already produced several designers who have attained world renown in home furniture and decor, gifts and premiums, and fashion accessories, which are covered in this report.

Innately artistic, creative and resourceful, Filipinos build on their multicultural heritage in designing pieces that are relevant to the modern consumer and lifestyle. Within the Philippines’ rich history lies a variety of indigenous materials, and Filipino designers often combine these with newer inputs to achieve a unique look. Many designers also marry modern techniques with age-old craftsmanship, creating pieces with intricate weaves, woodwork and metalwork.

“In terms of creative talent, I mean natural talent, it’s there,” said Maria Rita Matute, deputy executive director of the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM). Filipinos are very observant and open, and they like to learn and understand, she noted, adding that designing for an international market could become second nature just because of their observation skills.

Nurturing creative talent so that it becomes competitive in the global arena is an area the sector is working to enhance. The Philippine government, in cooperation with Filipino designers and manufacturers, have set up programs to strengthen and grow the design industry.

With regard to formal design education, in particular, several colleges and universities in the Philippines offer art and design courses. There are also a few institutions specializing in design. These education institutions build up and enhance the entrepreneurial mindset of budding designers so that their creativity can be translated into commercial success.

The Philippine advantageDesign frontrunnersMaterials & product applicationsSupplier spotlightKatha awardThe future of designRed box designSector supportPDF download

Design capability Philippines The Philippine advantage

The Filipinos’ ingenuity and craftsmanship, coupled with the wide variety of natural materials available to them, have given rise to innovative designs known the world over.

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Design ingenuity

Filipino designers in various sectors have created one-of-a-kind pieces that have garnered attention in international shows and competitions.

Maria Rita Matute, deputy executive director of CITEM, said in an interview with the Hinrich Foundation that Filipino designers have a sense of wonder and playfulness and they take inspiration in small things.

Designer Amina Aranaz-Alunan, co-founder of the specialized design college SoFA Design Institute, noted that Filipinos are innately creative, artistic and resourceful. Filipinos use everyday materials to make things work, she added.

Talking about what makes a design Filipino, Matute said that there is an “openness” to the pieces that also marks traditional architecture such as the nipa hut.

The nipa hut, or the traditional Filipino house, has an open structure that is built using the nipa palm and other readily available materials to complement the tropical environment. It features elevated flooring that provides protection against floods, and ventanillas and slatted floors, which allow air circulation.

Like the iconic nipa hut, Filipino designs bear the same organic, open and adaptable features, using locally available materials to create something that is equally striking and functional.

Filipino designs are characterized by “a sensibility that comes with it whether they use natural materials… or even when they use metal,” according to Matute.

Philippines Sourcing: Philippines Gifts & premiums 2016 Industry Overview Exports

A sofa from Vito Selma’s collection takes inspiration from the waves of the ocean.

Indigenous materials

The Philippines is an archipelago rich with natural resources – both from land and water – that serve as inspiration for product design.

“The Philippines is very much a handicraft-based society. We are a tropical archipelago; we can’t produce furniture using metal and glass. All our materials come from nature, like rattan, bamboo and shells,” furniture designer Ito Kish said in a South China Morning Post.²

Indigenous materials such as abaca or Manila hemp, seagrass, rattan, bamboo, coconut, capiz shells, pineapple, maguey, raffia, nito vines and tiger grass are often combined to create unique patterns and textures.

A number of designers use indigenous materials together with metal or glass to create one-of-a-kind and contemporary handcrafted pieces. Furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue typically starts with a contemporary metal base and uses a local material like woven abaca to complete the piece.

Another noted furniture designer, Vito Selma, uses wood, glass and capiz to create his pieces. Bag designer Ken Samudio combines beads and semiprecious stones in his signature clutches.

Philippines Sourcing: Philippines Gifts & premiums 2016 Industry Overview Exports

A table from Vito Selma’s Plumeria collection highlights plumeria flowers in full bloom using capiz shells.

World-class craftsmanship

Filipino craftsmanship is recognized globally for its quality and detailed artistry.

Maria Rita Matute noted that in Filipino design, there is “love for the craft that gets translated into the production of the piece.”

This “labor of love” is seen in the details of the design. “It’s also just about enjoying the whole process of production that they don’t mind spending a little longer time in producing it. And that detail, that added detail becomes the mark of Filipino design.”

Talking about the Aranaz brand, Amina Aranaz-Alunan said that it celebrates a life of leisure. Part of this is celebrating the manner of creation, the slow but careful creation of crafts.

“It’s not about fast manufacturing, fast creation,” she commented. “It’s creating things with a heart, not mechanical creation. I think that’s key also with the Filipinos.”

“You see the heart of the maker in it.”

Woodcarving, weaving, sewing and carpentry are just some of the skills passed down from generation to generation. Laguna province and Northern Luzon, for instance, are known for their quality woodwork. Aklan, Negros and Bohol in the central part of the Philippines, as well as Bukidnon and South Cotabato in the southern part of the country, are recognized for needlework.

Many weavers of piña fabric are in Aklan, while those making silk, raffia and hablon can be found in Negros, Bohol and Iloilo, respectively. In Mindanao, weavers of hinabol are mostly found in Bukidnon, while the T’bolis who produce t’nalak are in South Cotabato. Weaving, woodworking and other traditional skills are also being passed to the next generation through the various training programs that the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) offers.

Philippines Sourcing: Philippines Gifts & premiums 2016 Industry Overview Exports

This business card case is from The Leather Collection.⁴


1 Vito Selma Baud sofa. Image courtesy of Vito Selma.

2 Tomlinson, P. (2015, November 13). Ito Kish is putting Filipino design on the global map. South China Morning Post. Retrieved November 2, 2016.

3 Vito Selma Plumeria table. Image courtesy of Vito Selma.

4 The Leather Collection business card case. Image courtesy of The Leather Collection.

Design capability Philippines Design frontrunners

The Philippine industry includes established designers who have made their mark both locally and abroad. Mostly hailing from design-centric cities such as Cebu, Manila and Pampanga, they are recognized for pieces that combine stunning aesthetics with functionality and innovation.

Some of the well-known designers in the Philippines’ home furniture and decor, and fashion accessories industries are featured here.

Home decor & furniture designers

Fashion accessory designers

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Philippines Sourcing: Philippines Gifts & premiums 2016 Industry Overview Exports

Kenneth Cobonpue

Named rattan’s “first great virtuoso” by Time magazine in 2006, Kenneth Cobonpue¹ is world-renowned for his work with rattan and abaca.

His pieces are made using a patented technique, and are often characterized as transparent and open. Cobonpue studied Industrial Design at the Pratt Institute in New York and subsequently worked in Italy and Germany.

His work has been featured in various international publications, as well as movies and TV shows such asOceans 13andCSI.

Awards that Cobonpue has received include:

• Designer of the Year, Maison&Objet Asia 2014

• First prize, Singapore International Furniture Design Competition 2004

• Japan Good Design Award 2003 and 2004

Philippines Sourcing: Philippines Gifts & premiums 2016 Industry Overview Exports

Kenneth Cobonpue’s Croissant sofa uses abaca or buri with nylon and steel.²


Philippines Sourcing: Philippines Gifts & premiums 2016 Industry Overview Exports

Vito Selma

Vito Selma³ is a multi-awarded furniture designer and manufacturer. He got his master’s degree in industrial design from the Scuola Politecnica di Design in Milan, Italy. His formal background in design began when he enrolled at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

Selma’s work has been featured in international publications, includingElle Decor, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue Living Australia, Habitat (South Africa) and Architectural Digest(Mexico).

Awards that Selma has received include:

• Best Product Design for Home Décor, Katha Awards April 2016

• Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2013, Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry

• Industrial Design Award, Department of Science and Technology National Invention Contest 2010

• Best Design for Material Innovation, Cebu Next 2010

Philippines Sourcing: Philippines Gifts & premiums 2016 Industry Overview Exports

This table is from Vito Selma’s Baud collection.⁴


Philippines Sourcing: Philippines Gifts & premiums 2016 Industry Overview Exports

Ito Kish

A multi-awarded furniture and interior designer, Ito Kish⁵ is known for his modern and colonial designs made from indigenous materials. A business graduate from the University of the East in Manila, his career includes serving as a visual merchandising consultant in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Awards that Kish has received include:

• Special Citation: Eco Design Award, Katha Awards April 2016

• Best Furniture Transitional, NextOneNow Design Awards March 2013

• Best Visual Merchandising, NEXTONENOW Design Awards March 2013

• Silver A’ Design Award Winner for Arts, Crafts and Ready-Made Design Category 2012

• Best Product Design for Furniture, Katha Awards March 2012

Philippines Sourcing: Philippines Gifts & premiums 2016 Industry Overview Exports

The Basilisa bed is made of kiln-dried mahogany and rattan.⁶


Philippines Sourcing: Philippines Gifts & premiums 2016 Industry Overview Exports

Celia Jiao

Celia Jiao⁷ is the visionary behind Schema, a company that specializes in modern, architectural-inspired metal furniture. Schema was first known as Kalikasan Crafts, which produced metal and fabric holiday decor for clients in the US, Europe and Asia for 11 years. In 2006, the company rebranded as Schema to focus on making furniture constructed out of wire mesh.

A console table from Schema won the Katha Award Best Product Design for Furniture in April 2016.

Philippines Sourcing: Philippines Gifts & premiums 2016 Industry Overview Exports

Celia Jiao designed Schema’s award-winning console table.⁸


Philippines Sourcing: Philippines Gifts & premiums 2016 Industry Overview Exports

Amina Aranaz-Alunan

One of the Philippines’ most recognized accessory designers, Amina Aranaz-Alunan⁹, is known for her modern, intricate and glamorous handmade pieces. Her work has been worn by the queens of Belgium and the Netherlands and featured in international publications such asHarper’s Bazaar, InStyle, Marie ClaireandWomen’s Wear Daily.

Aranaz-Alunan completed her master’s degree in fashion accessory design at the Istituto Marangoni Milano. She co-founded the SoFA Design Institute, formerly the School of Fashion and the Arts, the first specialized design college in the Philippines.

Philippines Sourcing: Philippines Gifts & premiums 2016 Industry Overview Exports

Aranaz’s Mira clutch was spotted in the hands of the Queen of Belgium.¹⁰

Philippines Sourcing: Philippines Gifts & premiums 2016 Industry Overview Exports

Ann Ong

Ann Ong’s¹¹ career as a jewelry designer started as a hobby, but later turned into a full-time business. Her work is identified by elements of nature such as twigs and pearls incorporated into opulent and colorful pieces.

Awards that Ong has received include:

• Best New Product Design, NY Now Winter 2016

• Best Product Design for Fashion, Katha Awards October 2013

• Best Product Design for Fashion, Katha Awards March 2013

• Best Product Design for Fashion, Katha Awards October 2012

Philippines Sourcing: Philippines Gifts & premiums 2016 Industry Overview Exports

This handcrafted gold clutch from Ann Ong won Best New Product Design

at the NY Now Winter 2016 trade show.¹²


Philippines Sourcing: Philippines Gifts & premiums 2016 Industry Overview Exports

Mila Imson

Mila Imson¹³ is an award-winning jewelry designer from Bulacan province, north of Manila, whose work has made it to exhibitions in New York, Paris and Milan. Products under her Kit Silver brand incorporate local materials to promote Filipino heritage.

Imson was one of the winners of the Creative ASEAN Jewellery Design Competition in June 2015.

Philippines Sourcing: Philippines Gifts & premiums 2016 Industry Overview Exports

Kit Silver’s golden minaudieres are made of brass.¹⁴



1 Kenneth Cobonpue. Image courtesy of CITEM.

2 Kenneth Cobonpue Croissant sofa. Image courtesy of CITEM.

3 Vito Selma. Image courtesy of Vito Selma.

4 Vito Selma Baud table. Image courtesy of Vito Selma.

5 Ito Kish. Image courtesy of CITEM.

6 Ito Kish Basilisa bed. Image courtesy of CITEM.

7 Celia Jiao. Image courtesy of CITEM.

8 Console table by Schema. Image courtesy of CITEM.

9 Amina Aranaz-Alunan. Image courtesy of Amina Aranaz-Alunan.

10 Aranaz Mira clutch. Retrieved from Used with permission from Amina Aranaz-Alunan.

11 Ann Ong. Retrieved from ny-now-winter-2016/. Used with permission from CITEM.

12 Gold clutch by Ann Ong. Retrieved from Used with permission from CITEM.

13 Mila Imson. Retrieved from Used with permission from CITEM.

14 Kit Silver’s miniaudieres. Retrieved from https://thecitemblog.wordpress. com/2014/04/28/fashion-philippines-charms-international-buyers-atfashion-access-hong-kong/. Used with permission from CITEM.

Design capability Philippines Materials & product applications

The Philippines is an archipelago consisting of more than 7,000 islands spread over 300,000 square kilometers. It is divided into three major island groups — Luzon to the north, Visayas in the central part of the country and Mindanao to the south. Each of these island groups comprise several regions with diverse terrain, flora and fauna from which raw materials for furniture, fashion accessories and handicrafts are obtained.


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A giant herbaceous plant native to the Philippines, abaca is valued for its strong, lustrous and flexible fiber that can be transformed into ropes, twines, specialty paper and textiles.abaca

Vito Selma’s Alegra high-back swing chair combines abaca fiber with a metal frame.¹


A perennial with a fast growth rate, bamboo can grow up to 1 foot a day. Bamboo is processed to make various types of furniture and fashion accessories.bamboo

Adante Leyesa’ s bamboo clutch is embellished with semiprecious stones.²



A fast-growing type of palm found throughout the Philippines, rattan is easier to harvest and transport than timber. It is flexible yet durable, making it a popular material for furniture.rattan

Kenneth Cobonpue’s Yoda easy chair blends rattan with nylon and steel.³


Abundant in Bohol in the central islands as well as other parts of the country, the straw-like fiber extracted from the unopened leaves of this palm can be woven into intricate patterns to make hats, placemats, boxes and ladies’ bags. 




Aranaz’s Flamingo pompom tote bag features embroidery on bangkuang basket with pompoms made of dyed raffia leaves.⁴


Gmelina or yemane is a fast-growing tree found in plantations across the archipelago. The wood, which generally has a light color, is used in manufacturing beds, sofa sets and dining sets. 



A chair from Ito Kish’s Baluster collection is made of gmelina and rattan.⁵




Named after the province of Capiz in Visayas, the central island region of the country, this shell has been used for years as a substitute for glass because of its translucence and durability. It is often coated with resin to make it water-resistant and used in windowpanes, ornaments, kitchen utensils and fashion accessories. capiz

Venzon Lighting combines capiz shells with aluminum in the Cherry Blossom pendant lamp.⁶




T’nalak, an abaca-based cloth with intricate design, is produced by the women of Mindanao’s T’boli tribe in the south of the Philippines. The T’bolis are known for their weaving, embroidery and brass casting. Often woven in red, black, brown and white, t’nalak generally requires months of work to produce a single, unique weaving. t'nalak

Aranaz’s uses t’nalak on the main body and leather on the crown of the Pineapple clutch.⁷



Inabal, another abaca-based textile, is woven by the women of the Bagobo tribe in Mindanao, the southern part of the country. Designs typically reflect the community and family, which are represented by a combination of black and cream, and red and yellow, respectively. inabal

The Leather Collection uses inabal and leather in these tote bags.⁸


Known as the queen of Philippine fabrics, piña is a soft and fine material made of fiber from the leaves of a pineapple plant. Making piña cloth is a painstakingly long process, which involves extracting the fiber from the leaves and weaving the cloth by hand.pina

Tepi ña offers pi ña shawls in various colors.⁹


1 Vito Selma Alegra chair. Image courtesy of CITEM.

2 Adante Leyesa bamboo clutch. Image courtesy of CITEM.

3 Kenneth Cobonpue Yoda easy chair. Retrieved from easy-chair. Used with permission from Kenneth Cobonpue.

4 Ito Kish Baluster chair. Image courtesy of CITEM.

5 Aranaz Flamingo pompom tote bag. Image courtesy of Amina Aranaz-Alunan.

6 Venzon Lighting’s Cherry Blossom pendant lamp. Image courtesy of CITEM.

7 Aranaz Pineapple clutch. Image courtesy of Amina Aranaz-Alunan.

8 The Leather Collection bags. Image courtesy of The Leather Collection.

9 Tepiña shawl. Image courtesy of Tepiña

Design capability Philippines Supplier spotlight

Apart from producing world-renowned designers, the Philippines is home to suppliers whose brands have penetrated the international arena. Featured here are three companies with known brands in the furniture, gifts and premiums, and fashion accessories industries.

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vito selma

The award-winning Remini Bookshelf shows movement through wood.¹

Vito Selma 

The brand Vito Selma was only launched in 2012, but has already received local and international recognition for its contemporary pieces that combine wood, glass and metal. 


In 2016, Vito Selma’s Remini bookshelf was awarded Best Contemporary Furniture Design, while the Nova lamps were hailed Best Home Accessory at the Philippines International Furniture Show in 2016. 

leather collection

This messenger bag features a flap made of leather strips woven by the women of Sibaltan in El Nido, Palawan.²

The Leather Collection 

Established in 1991, The Leather Collection is known for its handcrafted genuine leather bags, wallets and accessories. 

The company works with local artisans to develop different weaves for its range of products. One of its collections features textile woven by the women of the Bagobo tribe in Mindanao, the southern part of the Philippines. 

Another collection features leather strips made by women weavers in the village of Sibaltan in El Nido, Palawan, which is located in Visayas, the central island region of the country. 


The multicolored counterpart of Piña Uma, the Piña Nana bag is also made of wood and comes with a brass leaf closure.³


Founded by mother-daughter trio Becky, Amina and Rosanna Aranaz in 1996, Aranaz has established itself as a lifestyle brand that offers chic artisanal bags and fashion accessories. 

The brand is carried by online stores based in the US. Aranaz products have been showcased in various international events and featured in Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire and Women’s Wear Daily. The brand has attracted a list of celebrity clients, including Queen Mathilde of Belgium. 


1 Vito Selma Remini bookshelf. Images courtesy of Vito Selma.

2 Messenger bag. Image courtesy of The Leather Collection.

3 Piña Nana. Image courtesy ofAmina Aranaz-Alunan.

Design capability Philippiness Katha Awards

Launched in 1980, Katha Awards recognizes outstanding products that showcase the ingenuity and skill of the Filipino designer. Over the years, it has paid tribute to the country’s best designers and manufacturers, inspiring current and upcoming talent to constantly seek new materials and create original designs that embody the essence of Filipino design.

Featured here are the April 2016 winners of the Katha Awards.

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buwana clutch

Buwana clutch and Adlaw necklace by Joanique

Best Product Design for Fashion

console table

Console table by Schema

Best Product Design for Furniture


Fan by Casa Mercedes

Best Product Design for Holiday Decor and Gifts


Henesius floor lamp by Vito Selma

Best Product Design for Home Decor


Binhi by Ito Kish

Special Citation (Eco Design Award)

Design capability Philippines The future of design in the Philippines

The design industry of the Philippines is still in its infancy, but it shows great potential.

“We have a sprinkling of success stories, but it’s really just a sprinkling. It’s not yet at that level where you say that we have a thriving design sector,” said Maria Rita Matute, deputy executive director of CITEM. “We hope to achieve that somehow in the near future.”

Designer Amina Aranaz-Alunan, co-founder of the specialized design college SoFA Design Institute, remarked that Filipinos have the design capability and “if we are able to nurture it, we can really be the strongest in Asia for design.”

The government, private organizations and designers who have already made a name in the international market are collaborating to help the sector grow and position the Philippines at the forefront of design.

Design education

In terms of formal design education, there are several colleges and universities offering art and design courses under an umbrella program.

Formal design education is still considered a nascent sector, however, and there are still relatively few specialized design schools.

“SoFA is only 10 years old. Before SoFA came about, there were other design schools but very new also,” Aranaz-Alunan said. She noted, however, that design education in the Philippines has recently become more competitive. Besides SoFA, design-centric institutions in the Philippines include the Fashion Institute of the Philippines, Slim’s Fashion and Arts School and the De La Salle-College of St. Benilde School of Design and Arts (DLS-CSB SDA).

These institutions offer specialized courses that are meant to hone the skills of potential designers and give them the training and confidence to start their own line.

Entrepreneurial mindset

Effort to educate Filipino designers also include building up and enhancing their entrepreneurial mindset in addition to their creative and technical skills. According to Matute, there are not enough designers with a “commercial appreciation.”

“The creative talent is there, but the commercial mindset is the one that’s missing – the commercial eye – is the one that’s missing,” Matute said.

CITEM’s Red Box talents, she noted, are taught to develop that eye and are mentored by designers who have already developed this skill. Matute also pointed out that designers have to have a certain professional standard and they need to level up in terms of commercial appreciation.

“At the end of the day, manufacturers want you to design and these designs have to sell. How you gain that skill, that’s a whole different thing altogether.”

Filipino designers, particularly those targeting overseas markets, need to be exposed to these markets, according to Matute. Designers need to become market experts and know who the consumers are, how these consumers behave and what their lifestyle is so that they can “anticipate the products of tomorrow,” she said.

To help Filipino designers to translate their creativity into successful business ventures, design schools such as SoFA and Slim’s are integrating business lessons into their curricula.

One example is SoFA’s course on fashion design and marketing, which looks into the creative, technical and business aspects of fashion design. At the end of the course, students get to showcase their work at a fashion show attended by industry personalities and the media.

At the Design Center of the Philippines, there is an incubation program which encourages new industrial design graduates to start their own businesses.


Over the years, several Filipinos have proven they are capable of creating designs that appeal to international clients. Still, there is a struggle in promoting the Filipino brand globally and domestically, according to Amina Aranaz-Alunan. She noted it is better to compete as a brand, “because as a brand you can tell a story.”

To address this challenge about branding, designers and the government are investing resources in promoting Filipino brands abroad. A number of designers regularly join international fairs and competitions. A few such as Kenneth Cobonpue and Aranaz-Alunan have put up showrooms in their target countries.

“During trade shows, the Philippines is only known as a supplier country because there are not a lot of Filipino brands that are popular in the furniture, fashion and gifts sector. But we are working towards promoting our own brand by joining international fairs to bring our products to where the buyers are with the goal to sell our brand,” Aranaz-Alunan said.

The Philippine government is helping Filipino brands showcase their pieces in international shows such as Ambiente in Germany, Maison&Objet in Paris, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York and Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan. Such efforts have helped Kenneth Cobonpue, Schema, Ann Ong, Aranaz and other brands gain more exposure in the international arena.

Sustainable and innovative designs

To deal with rising production costs, Filipino designers must create products that are aligned with their design philosophy but also remain cost-sensitive and sustainable. Consequently, sustainability and innovation are expected to remain hallmarks of Filipino design. Designers are constantly looking for environment-friendly materials to incorporate in their pieces. Materials such as agsam ferns, bangkuang and recycled plastic and tin cans have been introduced or become more visible in recent designer collections.

The adoption of neo-ethnic textiles in Filipino designs is expected to increase. Introduced by the Philippine Textile Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) at the 2013 Neo-Ethnic Philippine Textiles Conference, neo-ethnic textiles are made of natural or indigenous materials, sourced or produced in the Philippines using “updated, relevant and green scientific and technological approaches and innovations by spinners, dyers, weavers and artisans,” according to Julius Leaño Jr., project leader of the neo-ethnic project funded by the DOST Technology Innovation for Commercialization (TECHNICOM).¹

Among the textiles presented during the conference were pineapple fabrics from Kalibo in Aklan province in the central part of the country and the t’nalak from South Cotabato in Mindanao.

Another thing to look forward to in Philippines’ design industry is the application of new techniques to existing materials to reduce the vulnerability of these materials to changes in weather, which can affect production and delivery schedules. Many manufacturers of fiber-based products, for instance, intend to hasten the drying process without sacrificing the quality of the material by using machines. Others are looking into using digital fabric manufacturing and 3D jewelry.

Speaking about technology and how it affects the way she creates her designs, Aranaz-Alunan said she has to know what technology is available and understand the raw materials. “I also have to try to see how can I create something new given the raw materials and technology available to me. Or how can I apply new techniques to existing raw materials to make the materials new and different?”



1 Baldo, J.A. S&T Media Service. Neo-ethnicism of Philippine textiles: Technology marries age-old indigenous traditions. Retrieved November 3, 2016, from htttp://

Design capability Philippines Red Box Design Talents

CITEM launched the Red Box Design Talents¹ program in 2014. Out of more than a hundred people, 14 were selected and mentored by prominent designers and collaborated with local manufacturers to develop their collections. From the 14, four were named grand winners and exhibited in trade shows in London, Milan and New York.

Cycle 1 winners (2014-2015)



Kristel Blancas

An interior design graduate, Kristel Blancas specializes in lighting and furniture inspired by nature. This Red Box Cyle 1 winner for the home sector participated in the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan held in April 2016. 


Micki Olaguer

Micki Olaguer, Red Box Cycle 1 winner for the fashion sector, is an industrial design graduate. She apprenticed under Filipino jeweler Janina Dizon-Hoschka and received an international scholarship from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). In 2016, this GIA-accredited jewelry professional represented the Philippines at London Fashion Week’s International Fashion Showcase. 


Jim Torres

Jim Torres, Red Box Cycle 1 winner for the home sector, is an industrial designer. Torres, who apprenticed with Industria Edition, participated in the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York in May 2016 and was featured in Interior Design magazine as part of the emerging designers at ICFF. 


Thian Rodriguez

Thian Rodriguez, Red Box Cycle 1 winner for the fashion sector, has a background in fashion design, multimedia application and theatre arts. He represented the Philippines during London Fashion Week’s International Fashion Showcase (IFS) in February 2016. 


1 Red Box Design Talents. Retrieved from Images used with permission from CITEM.

Design capability Philippines Sector support

Through its agencies, the Philippine government has set up programs to develop the skills of current and upcoming designers and help showcase their work in local and international trade shows.

Government agencies & efforts

India Garments & Textiles Industry Overview Exports

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)

The DTI is the primary agency in charge of providing government services to achieve the objectives of the Philippines Design Competitiveness Act.

Its regional operations group provides support to industries and companies outside of Metro Manila.

India Garments & Textiles Industry Overview Exports

Design Center of the Philippines (DCP)

Formerly called Product Development and Design Center, the DCP is an agency of the DTI that is mandated to promote and strengthen Filipino design. The agency offers workshops on product development and design, prototyping and fabrication, and material manipulation. It also holds exhibits to promote the products of Filipino designers and artisans.

The DCP also conducts R&D, standardizes course syllabi, assists SMEs in the provinces and helps new designers brand and launch their products. Their Design Innovation Program is a one- to two-year training ground for designers to collaborate with manufacturers in developing new products and improving their production capacity.

India Garments & Textiles Industry Overview Exports

Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM)

CITEM is an arm of the DTI dedicated to promoting Filipino products and services to the global market. It joins selected international trade fairs and provides regular market updates.

It also develops new export industries and has several branding and developmental programs to promote different sectors.

Its regional operations group provides support to industries and companies outside of Metro Manila.

India Garments & Textiles Industry Overview Exports

Manila FAME April 2016 edition¹

Manila FAME

Held every April and October, Manila FAME showcases the craftsmanship, design innovation and artisanship in Philippine products across furniture and home furnishings, holiday gifts and decor, and fashion accessories.

This event, organized by the DTI through CITEM, has been running since 1983 and is the only trade event in the country approved by the Union Des Foires Internationales, or the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, a Paris-based association of trade fair organizers.

Crate & Barrel, Ralph Lauren, El Corte Ingles and the Royal Palace Group are among Manila FAME’s list of overseas trade buyers.

CITEM’s brand-building efforts include the following:

Design Philippines“positions the Philippines as a sourcing destination for finely crafted products for the world market.” This branding program promotes the Filipino brand and features the work of local designers in international shows such as the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, Maison&Objet Paris and the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York.

Lifestyle Philippinesis a “collective of creative enterprises representing the best of the Philippines’ home and fashion sectors – featuring versatile yet highly-artisanal products that are attuned to modern living.”

Fashion Philippinesis a branding initiative that aims to showcase Philippine fashion through unique pieces made by the country’s top talents using traditional and modern techniques in manipulating different kinds of materials.

CITEM’s developmental programs are:

Manila Wear, an initiative under Fashion Philippines, is an exhibit of Filipino-designed apparel, shoes and other wearables made from sustainable, local materials. Its curator is international fashion designer Josie Natori.

Re-launched in 2012 to increase the competitiveness of Philippine fashion industry and provide a platform for young and new designers, Manila Wear has had nine editions and has introduced featured the work of designers such as Michelline Syjuco, Beatriz, Adante Leyesa, Ken Samudio, Maco Custodio and Joanique. NeoTextiles Philippines, meanwhile, brings the spotlight to Philippine textiles with the aim of transforming them into “commercially viable and globally competitive products that give value to tradition while embracing today’s trends.” It has showcased weaving communities from Negros and the provinces of Aklan, Iloilo, Bohol, Bukidnon and South Cotabato.

Red Box Design Talents Programwas established by CITEM to discover and nurture young Filipino designers. CITEM launched the first Red Box Design Talents in 2014, choosing 14 who would undergo mentoring from established designers and work with manufacturers to create their designs.


1 Image from Manila FAME courtesy of CITEM.

Design capability Philippines PDF download

Download PDF

Click on the download button to get a PDF copy of the full report, which contains the following:

The Philippine advantage

  • Design ingenuity
  • Indigenous materials
  • World-class craftsmanship

Design frontrunners

Home decor & furniture designers

  • Kenneth Cobonpue
  • Vito Selma
  • Ito Kish
  • Celia Jiao

Fashion accessory designers

  • Amina Aranaz-Alunan
  • Ann Ong
  • Mila Imson

Materials & product applications

  • Plants
  • Palm and wood
  • Shells
  • Indigenous textiles

Supplier spotlight

  • Vito Selma
  • The Leather Collection
  • Aranaz

Katha Awards

  • Best Product Design for Fashion
  • Best Product Design for Furniture
  • Best Product Design for Holiday Decor and Gifts
  • Best Product Design for Home Decor
  • Price guide
  • Special Citation: Eco Design Award

The future of design in the Philippines

  • Design education
  • Entrepreneurial mindset
  • Branding
  • Sustainable & innovative designs

Red Box Design Talents

  • Kristel Blancas
  • Micki Olaguer
  • Jim Torres
  • Thian Rodriguez

Sector support

  • Department of Trade and Industry
  • Design Center of the Philippines
  • Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions
  • Manila FAME
  • CITEM’s brand-building efforts
  • CITEM’s developmental programs

Following a thorough program review and changes in macroeconomic factors, we have decided to discontinue the New Sourcing Markets platform and focus more on our education and international trade research programs.

We will now be redirecting you to the Hinrich Foundation homepage, where you can find out more about how we promote sustainable global trade. Thank you!