Manila is in an auction frenzy, and the people behind Roche Bobois in Manila isn’t about to take this hysteria sitting down. The brand is using its iconic mah jong sofa, known to be the most adaptable of its furniture pieces, to ride this wave of conspicuous spending. Ten of the country’s formidable creative minds, from fashion to the arts to architecture, have been tapped by the Roche Bobois group to fashion the mah jong sofa as they fancy.
Designed by the painter and sculptor Hans Hopfer in 1971, the mah jong sofa was envisioned to ease its sitter into not just comfort but a sort of do-with-it-what-you-please attitude: lay down on it, cover it up, plant it on any corner of your cocoon. Use your imagination. Over the years, the company has tapped the impressive minds of fashion and design such as Jean Paul Gaultier and Kenzo Takada to do just that by putting their own stamp on this Roche Bobois baby.
This month’s collaboration with Manila’s creatives is no different. The pieces were previewed by the lifestyle press recently at the store in Chino Roces Extension. The architect Ed Calma’s piece is minimalist in design but maximalist in material. Bea Valdes did her sofa in practical denim, but experimented with textures and appliques, creating an image that evokes historic old stamps. The artist Geraldine Javier covered her sofa with ruffled dogs and put the finished product in a cage. Bobby Mañosa put an elegant Filipino spin into his interpretation, upholding his surname’s signature aesthetic.
Now the only thing these soft jewels are waiting for are the highest bidders.
Bobby Mañosa, architect “The yakan bunga pattern from Mindanao forms a brocaded design on the seat and backrest of the sofa. The seat is also upholstered in a textile from the northern regions of Luzon. Woven in an upright loom, this fabric features the cuabao motif with distinct diamond forms in linear patterns. The sofa is then mounted on a woven laminated rattan base in warm tones of wood, inspired by the colorful banig of Samar in Visayas. A pillow in black leather detailed with T'boli motifs in bright hues completes the aesthetic of the sofa.”
Ed Calma, architect “I wanted the sofa to have an architectural idea on its surface without altering the design of the sofa. I started to sketch ideas on the sofa. The lines could have dimension to it in the form of irregular pleats. The chair ended up having some kind of armor, like an armadillo. I like the fact that it led me to invent a new way of upholstering a piece of furniture that I could use as a signature for my interior projects.”
Chat Fores, interior designer “I like creating things that are meaningful and close to the heart. Our childhood was surrounded by oriental culture so [the design of my Mah Jong involves] embracing these roots that mean a lot to my family, as well as creating a piece that would make for a versatile accent in any house. The chair includes my mom’s old obis (sashes) from Japan. It’s a sentimental tribute, which is important in my design practice.”
Vito Selma, furniture designer “Like my other pieces, I wanted to give people comfort while showcasing its raw beauty. I wanted to add a sense of warmth and contrast in texture to my take on the Mah Jong, inspired by something quite iconic, too, to Filipino transportation culture. It is something an everyday Filipino or commuter can relate to.”
Bea Valdes, bag designer. “We have rendered a piece that recalls vintage travel posters, but done with our version of embroidery and fabric manipulation using denim and chambray to keep the playful and casual aspects of the Mah Jong Sofa. The appliqués are made by hand with hand-embroidered detailing."
Paloma Urquijo-Zobel, fashion designer “It’s our homage to the wonderful weavers of Ilocos and the Philippines. We worked closely with our master weaver to introduce new colors to the traditional Santiago pattern. We used retaso to fill the edges in compliance with our sustainability values. We want to show people that Inabel can be funky and young.”
Nikki Luna, artist “They say mah jong relies on the relationship of chance and necessity. These days, not everyone gets a chance to live. We hear and see people’s lives taken away brutally. The chair is based on three core values: form, function, and more importantly freedom. How much freedom do we have now?”
Jojo Lofranco, artist “I wanted to blend the sculptural form and painting to create a transforming and moving energy in one solid foundation. The challenge is how to put myself in it without bastardizing its signature because it’s also a work of art."
Geraldine Javier, artist “I oversaw the design and stained the fabric, and five others did the needle and woodwork. The shapes are based on the poses taken by my new dog, a soft-hearted German Shepherd. I hope people enjoy sitting on it.”
Costantino Zicarelli, artist “The Sofa was so white and clean… I felt like it might be a ‘waste’ to ‘work on it.’ But work is work, so my approach was to go the opposite direction: make it really dirty. My idea is to erase the white of the sofa with black.”
Each Mah Jong sofa will be auctioned off tonight at “Interactions” at Whitespace in Chino Roces Avenue Extension. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each will go to the artists’ chosen charities including main beneficiary Asian Cultural Council (ACC) Philippines Foundation, Inc., along with PAWS, Tukod Foundation, AHA Learning Center, Global Seed Savers and Baigani Feminist Solidarity.