Stanley Ruiz used to dream of becoming an engineer before deciding on industrial design career. He decided to enroll at the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Fine Arts, armed with only just a little knowledge about the field. “I just know it’s one of the majors to take or select. I only have a very shallow understanding of it before,” he says.
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Later on, Ruiz took the course seriously and immersed himself in the field. He fell in love with industrial design, and while learning about its discipline, he started getting designing gigs on the side. Working with fair trade-related NGOs helped him gain even more experience. He was assigned to do product developments and to work with small enterprises in Negros, Leyte, and Bicol. After two years, work would take him to Bali, Indonesia.
He was happy in Bali, but when the opportunity to work in New York came, Ruiz moved there immediately. He designed for a number of furniture and lighting companies, including the famed potter and designer Jonathan Adler. A few years later, Stanley started to launch his own line of products while maintaining his day job. “I had this full time work, tapos at night and weekend, pumupunta 'ko sa studio ko to develop my own products,” he shares.
Although, he loved the Big Apple, he admits there were a lot of struggles. Apart from designing and creating, he was also his own accountant, marketing guy, and even delivery boy. “I barely knew people there and I didn’t have enough resources,” Stanley admits. “Rent is really high tapos yung struggle na all-in-one ka. It’s a one man show, kumbaga.”
Moving back to the Philippines
Apart from dealing with the feeling of being alone in the city, sourcing materials for work was also a problem. Ruiz usually uses indigenous materials like rattan, abaca, and bamboo, and these materials were not readily available to him in the US. Eventually, he decided to move back to the Philippines and start over.
In 2013, the new balikbayan established Estudio Ruiz Design Consultancy. Since then, he has worked as a consultant for DTI-CITEM’s Manila FAME and for Design Center of the Philippines. Ruiz is also the creative director of Go Lokal, a new design and marketing platform by DTI. Ruiz admits his career in New York was on an upswing before he left it, but there was nothing like living and working in a city where his roots are.
“I had a good position in a good reputable company, pero I gave it up,” he says, recalling his New York days. “[And then] I started from scratch and gave up the convenience of a good monthly paycheck. But I don’t have regrets." He's happy to be back. "I have freedom here.”
Ruiz is known for combining natural and industrial designs that are minimalist and sophisticated. His creations are never overly decorative, and he makes sure it communicates his idea. The designer is also a supporter of sustainability, and believes it “should be part and parcel of the design process,” not an afterthought.
To him, what's important is looking for ways to develop better quality products, ones that users can enjoy for a longer time instead of being replacing regularly. “We’re all for products na baka pwede mo pang ipamana. I mean, there’s a [high] price tag to it, it’s an investment,” he explains. “But then if you look at it, if you settle for lower quality, siguro every two years you’ll change your furniture. In the end, gagastos ka rin and hindi siya ganun ka-sustainable.”
Ruiz says supporting Philippine craft is also advocating sustainability. For him, it’s all about making sure the resources we are using now will be available for the generations to come.
Manila Fame 2019
A big chunk of Ruiz’s time is spent participating in Manila Fame, the country’s premier design and lifestyle trade fair organized by DTI-CITEM. This year’s theme is “Heritage Reimagined,” and the three-day event will feature Filipino ingenuity as it highlights products from more than 300 exhibitors.
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Ruiz shares that the 69th Manila Fame will be more contemporary, and will highlight iconic styles interpreted in modern ways. “In terms of colors, forms, geometry, abstraction, it’s bolder,” he says. “Pero represented pa rin ’yung iba’t-ibang materials.” This year, he is part of Design Commune, a merchandise development program. It is a curated exhibition space that nurtures a community of creative prime movers and their collaboration with manufacturers. The designer worked with over 20 companies and MSMEs (micro, small, and medium enterprises) in the home and lighting sector for this particular event. “I designed a bunch of products from small home accessories to lighting and even furniture pieces,” he adds.
Check out Stanley Ruiz’s works at the 69th edition of Manila Fame from Thursday, April 25 to Saturday, April 27 at the World Trade Center in Pasay.