The pandemic gave Vito Selma a lot of time for introspection, but also for thinking about his business which was greatly affected by the restrictions, lockdowns, and constant Covid scares. The launch of his new line called Casa Selma gave the furniture designer the chance to do what’s only been brewing in his mind for some time now: working with Cebu’s fishermen while creating an impact in their livelihood.
The Cebuano designer created 41 pieces for its maiden series he calls “Understated Tropical,” which offers a wide selection of home accessories, lighting, seats, storage, and tables all under the Casa Selma line, the subsidiary of the Vito Selma brand of luxury furniture.
“The lockdowns gave me the time to think and reflect, and I realized that the world is really shifting towards digital technology, such as e-commerce,” Vito tells ANCX. “However, I also realized that I wanted pieces that are more accessible and meaningful. With the first collection, we decided to support a fisherfolk community by promoting sustainable fishing practices.”
The designer has pledged to donate five percent share of every item sold in this particular collection to the fishermen in Kalipay, Olango Island Group of Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu. Less than two hours from his studio in Mandaue City, Vito traveled to the island and learned how the villagers constructed the payaw, a fish sanctuary made of bamboo poles and coconut fronds.
Local agricultural elements also provided inspiration for this collection. He gathered these references and interpreted them into design techniques and forms for “Understated Tropical.” This is seen in the salakot-shaped diffuser of the “Sassa” lamp, in the “Don” end table which is made of rice husks. For the handwoven elements, he explored techniques using rattan and rattan skin.
Ever since Vito started his career over a decade ago, he’s held a global vision of the future brought about by his formal studies abroad. He completed his undergraduate degree in Interior Architecture and Design at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California, and took up Master’s in Industrial Design at Scuola Politecnica di Design in Milan, Italy. His works have been recognized worldwide. Architectural Digest listed his “Constella” lamp as one of the top 10 products at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York City in 2015.
But there’s nothing like taking inspiration from one’s roots. “It is only fitting that our first collection be inspired by our very own home. The Filipino quality of modesty translates into our pieces; we went for a simpler approach to design, focusing on familiar forms but exploring and highlighting Filipino craftsmanship,” Vito explains.
Compared to the Vito Selma brand, Casa Selma has more accessible price points. It is also youthful, and employs more urban motif. The collection is clearly born from a refreshed perspective, and should inspire other designers to keep going no matter the challenges.
“The pandemic was definitely an obstacle. The looming paranoia over the virus, the seemingly endless quarantines, the shift to virtual meetings—it all took its toll on the team,” says Vito. “Another challenge was figuring things out in general. Almost everything we did was something we had never done before, so it was a constant trial by fire. Despite all this, we’re very proud to say we overcame all these difficulties.”