Jonathan Matti Talks About The Latina Manila Collection
Very few understand wallpaper the way in-demand interior designer Jonathan Matti does. He has been ordering wall coverings from the English brand de Gournay for years, but uses them in many creative ways. For Matti, it was never about purchasing the image and merely mounting it somewhere, but about marrying the design (sometimes even tweaking it to an extent as de Gournay is bespoke, after all) and his vision to produce the ideal settings for his projects.
It did not take long for de Gournay to take notice of Matti’s work. It reached out to Elements Fine Furnishing Fabrics Inc, its official representative and exclusive distributor in the Philippines, to find a way to thank Matti for his continued patronage.
“They voiced out an idea of asking Jonathan to design a wallpaper that showcases his aesthetics, alongside the culture and heritage of the community where he works,” says Patti Liang, director and co-founder of Elements.
It took about two years from the time the idea was hatched for it to actually materialise. Matti, while in London, bumped into a friend who introduced him to Jemma Cave, de Gournay’s design director. Cave then invited Matti for lunch, and asked him to create something with the de Gournay team. Most of the groundwork was laid over the internet, where Matti and Cave exchanged ideas via books, photographs, and illustrations. During the process, Matti flew to Europe thrice. Though the creative aspect was largely his responsibility, it was Cave and her team who handled the technical side: preparing, scaling, painting, and manufacturing. This would mark not only Matti’s first-ever foray in wallpaper design, but also de Gournay’s first—and, as yet, only—collaboration with a Filipino interior designer.
The Latina Manila design, inspired by Matti’s elegant aesthetic and the Philippines’ rich historical background, was painted in the style of de Gournay’s ‘Papiers Peints Panoramiques,’ based on the vistas of French 19th-century wall coverings. A bustling, energetic depiction of life in 19th-century Philippines and the nature of its inhabitants, the 20-yard panorama evokes a period setting with a touch of colonial splendour. People in various garb are featured across the panels, symbolic of the vivid social overview of the time: traditional and modern, industrial wealth and agricultural austerity, depicted in the exquisite colouring of a fading light.
“This style of wallpaper is, in a way, a form of documentation,” explains Matti. “But I have to be very clear about one thing: that this is my perception of what the Philippines w as like back then—that though I took inspiration from various photographs, prints, paintings, existing architectural structures and real events, the image on the wallpaper is not historically accurate, but an overview with a dash of fantasy. Every element that appears in the design is present because it enhances the story.”
Four panels, mounted on a screen, were revealed at a special preview at the de Gournay showroom in Paris last year. It was an intimate gathering, one attended by close friends, clients, and industry colleagues. Though they laid low after the pre-launch to be able to finish the entire panorama, inquiries from all over the world had started to come in. Many will be pleased to know that Latina Manila is not limited-edition; for as long as there is a demand, de Gournay will not be retiring the design.
The image, truly awe-inspiring when seen in its full-scale glory, is formed in such a way that each panel is stunning on its o wn. “Not many structures can contain the panorama in its entirety, so some of our clients put in a request for a few panels that they like,” shares Matti. “Everything is made-to-order, and bespoke according to what the client requires. There are 20 panels all in all, and there can be a hundred different permutations depending on the panels selected and the sequence of the display—this is just part and parcel of what makes wallpaper so fun to work with.”
Photography by Kai Huang | See more photos here