Asean design comes of age

By Bernard Supetran

MANILA: You might as well call it the “coming of age” or rite of passage when Southeast Asia’s top senior master craftsmen and designers converged in a rare show of solidarity in the recent Manila FAME to put to the fore the region’s contemporary global crafts and designs.

Dubbed the ASEAN Master Craft Design Festival, the exhibit highlighted the first collection of crafts developed through the project “Improving the Status of ASEAN Mastercraft Designers” which is supported by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Themed ‘ASEAN Crafts to the World’, the festival featured contemporary crafts in an ASEAN Pavilion featuring the works of master craftsmen Roselyn Long Lah and Edric Ong of Malaysia, Lim Masulin of Indonesia, Truong Phi Duc of Vietnam, Rush Pleansuk of Thailand, and Al Valenciano of the Philippines.

Models displaying apparel and accessories from Malaysia.

Models displaying apparel and accessories from Malaysia.

A partnership with the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the exhibit was initiated by the ASEAN Handicraft Promotion and Development Association (AHPADA), the region’s largest group of craftsmen.

“The programme aims to strengthen and enhance the use of design in reinforcing cultural identity in the development and marketing of ASEAN products by sustaining the region’s master craftsmen,” says Mina Gabor,  chairman of the Philippine Small and Medium Business Development Foundation, Inc. (Philsmed) which is managing the project.

She said the project stemmed from the decline in the export sales of Southeast Asian crafts as observed by the ASEAN countries during the AHPADA meeting in 2009.

Asean Master Craftsmen.

Asean Master Craftsmen.

Gabor, a former tourism minister of the Philippines, said that the exhibit is the “coming out party” for the Asean as they make a statement that they are ready for the world fashion and design market.

The project was endorsed by the National Commission on Culture and Arts (NCCA) through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and funded by the ASEAN–Republic of Korea Future Oriented Cooperation Program.

Inspired by a cocoon and executed in metal and cloth, the Asean pavilion was curated by celebrated Indonesian architect Cosmas Gozali. The Vienna-trained designer presented modern and futuristic Southeast Asian design works with innovative spatial exploration.

Flare of Storm by Rush Pleasunk.

Flare of Storm by Rush Pleasunk.

The pavilion served as the centerpiece of sort at Manila FAME, the country’s premier international event for lifestyle exports, at the World Trade Center.

On display were Indonesian batik handweaving applications on furniture, clothing, houseware and installations, and Malaysian beadwork, Sarawakan native headgear, and cloth as fashion accessories and lighting fixtures.

The Philippines was represented by inabel handwoven products from the Ilocos Region, Vietnam displayed its notable lacquerware sets, while Thailand its craft designs applied on furniture, lighting, accessories and houseware toys.

Korean Ambassador Kim Jae Shin bangs the gong to open the Asean Pavilion.

Korean Ambassador Kim Jae Shin bangs the gong to open the Asean Pavilion.

The Korean-funded programme kicked off in mid-2015, and was able to train 103 new craftsmen in Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

“The solution is, not only to groom and propagate mastercraft designers, but also to make them develop and establish their individual cultural identity, attain brand distinction despite the commonality of raw materials, diversity, and ultimately enable them to name their price,” Gabor enthused.

The five senior Asean master craftsmen underwent an observation tour in Milan, Italy last April to interact with top international designers and get updated on global trends.

A second round of workshops is slated for the master craftsmen of the other five Asean countries such as Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos as a continuation of the program.

A similar exhibit showcasing the crafts of the five countries will also be held in 2017 in Jakarta and Bangkok, and the complete 10-member Asean will stage an expo in Paris in 2018.

Lacquer ware from Vietnam.

Lacquerware from Vietnam.

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