According to Vito Selma, “Design should spark an emotion and bring you back to a memory.” A sampling from his portfolio proves that the Cebu-born designer walks the talk.
He cues feelings and recollections with every piece: The Buwaya cushion’s croc-inspired plate armour hints at danger or for some, just plain cheeky humor. Tidal flows are evoked in the languid Delilah rocking chair, an allusion to “the act of coming and going” in a person’s life. A collection called Baud, which is Visayan for wave, takes you straight to the sea, a river or lake. Aguila is a majestic eagle, its wings protectively wrapped around warm light.
“My work is a culmination of everything,” he said. “Everything inspires me; the people I meet, the places I visit. That’s why travelling is important to me.”
A second-generation Cebu furniture-manufacturer, Vito has a firm grasp of materiality as well as method, which he exploits to express his own brand of contemporary Filipino style. “There are some pieces that are really made to interpret something Filipino,” Vito explained, “but mostly, I say my work is Filipino craft showcasing the handwork of our artisans.”
At Manila FAME October 2018, a striking double Raina chair anchors Vito’s set-up. It exemplifies the designer’s ethos, drawing from his roots and reimagining concepts and motifs through a modern perspective, which was shaped in part by his experience as a student at Scuola Politecnica di Design in Milan, Italy.
The magnificent chair proved to be a crowd magnet. “What I’ve learned over ten years is, you put items that attract people even though they’re not really sellable. Then they come in and see the items that are more sellable. And it works.”
Manila FAME’s October edition has been Vito’s best shows for the past two years. He noticed that people move into their new homes around December, and he capitalized on that by offering a hefty 20 percent discount to local clients. “We offer free delivery also for Metro Manila destinations,” he revealed. “We started doing this last year, and our sales increased 400 percent.”
Though export has been good as well, Vito has been focusing on the local market which now makes up 80 percent of his sales. “I am really enjoying the local market. Zara home was here, and they’ve been here for the past few years, but their price points are too low."
An ongoing project will see the addition of Vito’s works in a public space. Aqua Boracay, a project by Yoo By Philippe Starck, is one of the country’s much-awaited openings this year. At the resort, guests can view Vito’s pieces, and sample the rich experiences that they bring.
Top photo: Sari mirror series.