A chair may just be like any other chair, but not for the 13,400 followers of the Instagram account @midcenturymanila. And not when the chair is a Plia, designed in the 1960s, has a cult following among fans of midcentury modern furniture, iconic and even hailed revolutionary despite its utter simplicity.
Two Sundays ago, Ken and Isa Mishuku, the Laguna-based husband and wife team behind @midcenturymanila, which sells and restores midcentury modern pieces, announced that they are giving away an original vintage Plia Chair. “My way of thanking you for all the support,” wrote Ken in the IG caption, addressing the account's loyalists, “and also my way to see your stash for a change.”
Ken and Isa, of course, are known to occasionally showcase spots in their home, as well as their latest finds, in social media. It’s part of the business. (They’ve also shared their home to us at one point here in ANCX).
But in order to win the Plia, followers needed to join a simple game. They needed to comment “I want that Plia” below the August 9 post; post a photo of what they consider to be their most interesting furniture find—which didn’t have to be from the Mishukus or a specific brand—and write a short something about it on their personal IG accounts. Finally, they needed to tag @midcenturymanila and use the hashtag #iwantthatplia. The contestant with the best caption, best photo, and the most interesting furniture wins the vintage chair.
For a few days, pictures of pretty interiors on my feed increased, as well as the number of times I encountered the “I want that Plia” hashtag. The clueless started to ask: what the hell is a Plia?! Which Ken, of course, have the answer to. “It was highly acclaimed for its construction, with its 3 disk hinge and the mix of steel frame with acrylic,” he says of the chair designed by Giancarlo Piretti for the Italian brand Castelli. It was considered bold and risky when it was first introduced. The Plia Chair is highly collectible and a new one fetches for quite the high price. “But if you’re lucky,” adds Ken, “you can still find some vintage ones for a good deal.”
Ken was originallly just going to sell the chair on Instagram for PhP 12,900. “I’m almost certain it would sell because of the high volume of inquiries I was getting for it,” Ken tells me. But then he and his wife came up with a better idea. “Lately, we had been feeling extra grateful for the steady growth and interaction from followers, and for the good feedback and reviews through DM,” says Ken. So they thought of the contest, a sort of role reversal—this time its the couple’s turn to gawk at their followers’ spaces, get to know their tastes and what matters most to them at least in the area of design. “They post and I watch.”
The Mishukus did not expect the enthusiastic turnout. “Honestly, I thought that just those who had previously inquired on a Plia Chair would join,” Ken says. But the response was overwhelming. Close to 300 entries were submitted, and on top of that, on those three days from contest announcement to the announcement of winners, @midcenturymanila got 730,000+ activity impressions on Instagram.
“We were honestly expecting to see a couple of ‘product shots’ or pictures of just the furniture piece they wanted to share but then we got a whole avalanche of interior photos from people’s homes that were so beautiful, we just had to keep reposting them,” Ken recalls. Many of Manila’s familiar creatives joined, from artists to photographers and advertising people. There’s even an art collector—in the person of Mike Tomacruz who shared a photo of a cozy space in his home where MCMs converse with Filipino art. Mike’s entry got the most likes.
The recognition for Best Backstory for a find went to artist Jessica Dorizac who shared a photo of a Wassily chair she and her husband, Miguel Aquilizan, also an artist, found in a furniture-hunting excursion in Biñan, Laguna. “We came across this messy shop and as we went inside to look around, we arrived at a massive pile of furniture,” went Jessica’s story. The pile was, by her estimate, 12 feet high, and from the topmost, a familiar silhouette was winking at her. “My husband and I became so excited and he climbed to the top and recovered the historic Wassily chair.”
There was such a load of gorgeous photos and stories that the Mishukus received that choosing a winner didn’t come easy. Eventually, the top prize—the Plia—went to photographer Jaja Samaniego who submitted pictures of her tropical meets midcentury modern home. A segunda mano fan, Jaja wrote a caption that spoke of the value that time lends to furniture. “Furniture like wine ages well,” her write up said. “Through the years of living independently in Manila, I have accumulated vintage midcentury pieces that have wonderful design stories. 90% of my furniture at home are second hand and I intend to keep it that way. I am an advocate of sustainable consumption.”
“Amongst the entries, Jaja had the perfect mix – beautiful photo of the pieces she shared, and a good write-up,” says Ken. “The effort she put into creating the post made us feel that she really wanted the Plia and I understand why, because judging from her photos, I personally feel that the Plia would fit perfectly in her space.”
The Mishukus are cooking up more fun activities of the sort in the future, having gotten a ton of good vibes out of this maiden effort to reach out to their followers. A lot of comments said they liked looking at the pictures of the homes, and that it inspired them to move things around in their own spaces.
“We wish we had more Plias to give out,” says Ken on IG, after sifting through the submissions. Well, that would have been awesome, but the good vibes tells Ken the whole thing turned out to be more than just giving away a prize. It’s about the connections one single chair was able to make—at a time when making connections, with people, with the outside world, has not been as easy. “We’ve missed visiting a friend, exploring new things, telling stories, sharing new finds or purchases and opening up our homes,” muses Ken.
Going through the entries, the Mishukus were able to virtually drop in on other people’s houses, rekindle old friendships, make new friends. Most of all, says Ken, they found themselves, he and Isa, just like their followers—inspired once more to “redecorate, rearrange, and revive our love for our home.”