MANILA – Internationally renowned furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue is looking forward to the opening of Swedish brand IKEA in the Philippines.
Cobonpue, whose high-end pieces have been bought by the likes of Brad Pitt, Jackie Chan, and Harrison Ford, believes that IKEA’s presence in the country will make well-designed furniture more accessible to Filipinos.
“I think it’s good because I think that makes good design accessible to more people. And for many people, it’s the start of their appreciation of what good design is,” he said in an interview with ABS-CBN News during the VIP preview sale at his showroom in Makati last week.
IKEA is known across the globe for its ready-to-assemble furniture, Swedish meatballs, and signature blue and yellow colors.
Local furniture makers are bracing for the arrival of IKEA in the Philippines, with some fearing that they would close if the Swedish giant gets a foothold in the country.
While Cobonpue has a different market for his pricey furniture, he acknowledged that it is hard to go up against an international brand like IKEA.
“It’s the scale, the way of production, and their margins are very low,” he explained. “You see it now happening not only in furniture, but also in fashion. Our fashion brands are dying, our local brands are having a hard time competing [with the global brands].”
“But I always feel that you can compete if you have something that’s different, something that’s unique, because there’s always a market for that. People always look for that one thing that touches them,” he added. “It’s not always about price points.”
When asked to give advice to local furniture makers, Cobonpue replied: “You have to find your niche, you have to find something that stands out. But it’s not easy, it’s going to take time.”
Born in Cebu, Cobonpue is best known internationally for the award-winning Bloom chair, which consists of microfiber stitched over a resin top with a steel base.
His Yoda chairs, which are inspired by blades of grass, were showcased at the 2015 APEC Economic Leaders’ welcome dinner.
Aside from Manila and his hometown of Cebu, Cobonpue has also opened showrooms in New York and in Munich, Germany. The multi-awarded designer has also ventured into lighting and smaller home décor such as trays and wine holders.