Manila FAME Undergoes a Renaissance
Held twice a year, in April and October, since 1983 by the Centre for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), Manila FAME has served a number of purposes for the Philippine design community: a springboard for launching new talents; an active gauge for up and coming trends; a prime showcase for the best local artisans; and a way of promoting small and medium businesses centred on expert craftsmanship. Small wonder, then, that it is considered one of the longest running trade events within the Asia Pacific region and is the only Filipino event of its kind recognised by the Unione des Foires Internationale (UFI), the global association for the events industry.
However, with the growing number of similar trade expositions throughout the region over the past decade, coupled with the way other countries have been copying the designs of Filipino designers and selling cheap knock-offs on the global market, Manila FAME’s lustre has waned somewhat. Yet, it remains one of the biggest events for the design sector and is still seen as a way of presenting well-crafted local products to the world.
2019 marks a big year for Manila FAME: aside from the celebration of its 35th anniversary, the year has also brought in its 69th run in April, and people are looking forward to its 70th in October.
For CITEM Executive Director Pauline Suaco-Juan, it is high time to breathe new life into the event with fresh ideas, new faces, and a different perspective.
“I came in because, in a way, I grew up with Manila FAME—primarily as a journalist who has covered it since the early ‘90s,” she recalls. “I felt like I saw its progress: how it’s grown, and how it has waned. I felt that, given my exposure to the industry and to the creatives I know, I really wanted to bring in the people whom I’ve worked with into the ecosystem.”
This can be seen as a timely intervention on her part. For many people in the design and handicrafts industry, one of the key issues regarding fame has been the apparent lack of fresh talents showcased in the trade shows. While Manila FAME has presented the talents of such renowned designers as Kenneth Cobonpue, Budji Layug, and Tes Pasola, rising stars have been few and far between. This is something that Suaco-Juan has been working to change.
“It’s what I set out to do: to infuse Manila FAME with new blood, with up and coming talents,” she says. “I felt that it would help everybody if we brought in a fresh perspective: a new spirit, so to speak."
But while Suaco-Juan and her team at CITEM are working on highlighting up and coming talents in the industry, they have also taken a look back with regard to playing up the richness of our nation’s culture, art, and traditional crafts—hence the theme for Manila FAME’s 69th edition: Heritage Reimagined.
“I wanted to find something organic,” Suaco-Juan says about how CITEM came about with the theme. “In many ways, what [many of our designers] have been doing is heritage reimagined. Look at what brands like Amarie, Filip+Inna, and PIOPIO have been doing: a lot of them are about reimagining our creative heritage.”
Aside from the work produced by the brands mentioned, a number of other local fashion designers have been using indigenous motifs in their work, along with traditional methods for weaving and embroidery, and heritage fabrics. In terms of furniture and home accents, there has also been a great demand for modern designs rendered in local materials and made with the same level of expert craftsmanship adhered to by traditional ateliers in places like Cebu and Paete.
While some of the designs used by these artisans have been altered somewhat to suit modern tastes, it is safe to say that many of them got their inspiration from an extensive body of previous works. A case in point would be the products offered by SC Vizcarra, a company that started out in 1925 as an atelier for fine embroidery, but has successfully expanded into the fields of accessories, furniture, and home accents by simply playing on its roots and reinventing core concepts to suit the tastes of a modern market.
What has truly set the more recent runs of Manila FAME apart from those of the past is the way CITEM has integrated the digital experience into the event as a way of reaching out to potential buyers online as well as opening the doors to an entirely new market.
Likewise, event features such as the Design Commune have led to the creation and development of new products for both domestic and international markets by encouraging emergent creatives to collaborate with the manufacturing community. With 90 companies participating in the Design Commune initiative, nearly 900 new products were developed just in time for Manila FAME 69 in April of this year.
For Suaco-Juan, however, her work and that of CITEM goes on even after the last guest leaves the exhibition hall. Indeed, she hopes to be able to promote Filipino talent—specifically the work of Filipino creatives—in future events. That, in and of itself, is certainly a long-term goal worth working on.
- Photography Mon Mangila
- Location SC Vizcarra Showroom-Shop