Direct from Market: Manila FAME
Caroline Kennedy -- Gifts and Dec, 11/18/2012 5:51:25 PM
The autumn edition Philippine trade show Manila FAME took place at the SMX Convention Center, October 17-20, drawing buyers from around the world. This tripartite fair made up of Manila Now, Cebunext and Bijoux Cebu can be likened to a butterfly. Over the past two years it has been going through a metamorphosis transforming itself, creating a new image and presenting itself as a trade fair worthy of note by those buyers making round of the Asian sourcing shows each spring and autumn. What the show is becoming (the metamorphosis is not yet complete) is the result of a lot of hard work on the part of CITEM, the agency responsible for producing the show, and the various consultants it turned to the help re-imagine the show and highlight what the Philippine gift, fashion and home industries have to offer in global marketplace.
And the global marketplace is taking note. Messe Frankfurts' vice president, consumer goods fairs, Nicolette Naumann was on hand and joined Philippine Department of Trade and Industry secretary Gregory Domingo and Harry K. Thomas, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, for a guided tour of the fair on its opening day. In his opening ceremony remarks, Secretary Domingo complemented the consultants and designers for their work to "bring the Philippines to the forefront of innovative design, coupled with exquisite craftsmanship. While we still have a long way to go toward this objective, two years ago you set a very high standard, but after being here today, you have exceeded my expectations."
The show has definitely come a long way in the two years since Gifts and Decorative Accessories last visited. Themed "The Art of the Craftsman=The Soul of the Philippines," project director James Booth, an American retail, merchandising, sourcing and branding expert, with the help of noted apparel designer Josie Natori, a Philippine native, oversaw a team of talented Philippine designers who brought their vision and expertise to bear on overall look of the show. When asked what his biggest challenge was in taking on the responsibility of directing the fair, Booth cheerfully remarked, "It was not design and talent! That is here!" Booth later went on to comment that part of his challenge is to create a brand image for the show, from the logo to the website, and on to everything that represents Manila FAME. In this way, there is one cohesive image and message that represents the fair and the Philippine industries that it showcases.
The first major change of course that we noticed, was the venue. The fair moved to the SMX Convention Center by the Mall of Asia in 2011. The new larger site permits a better layout of the show; there are two exhibit floors that have allowed an expansion and better organization of its presentation. The ground floor is entirely devoted to furniture and home décor; the second floor combines exhibitors of fashion and fashion accessories, holiday decoratives, crafts and craft demonstrations and some decorative accessories.
Each doorway to the show floors, and there are ten of them in all, created a dramatic entrance to the discoveries to be made beyond. Ten renowned and emerging Filipino designers-Inigo Elizalde, Ito Kish, Milo Naval, Stanley Ruiz, Amina Aranaz, Daniel Latorre Cruz, Olivia d'Aboville, Robert Alejandro, Vito Selma and Wataru Sakuma-were tasked to create these "Design Houses" representing their design vision and furnished with products made by select exhibitors from the country's indigenous materials. The Design Houses ranged from playful to sophisticated and magical to spiritual in mood and feel.
A Garden of Eden
In the center of the ground floor exhibit area, The Garden Pavilion presented a look at Filipino products in alfresco-style environment so integral to today's consumer lifestyles. The pavilion was set up in a cross formation with each arm representing a different cultural interpretation: American, British, French and Asian. This visual display was an oasis in the middle of the floor, but it also was a good cross-merchandised showcase of exhibitor's wares. The items were cleverly tagged, identifying the manufacturer, and a number of the items new to the manufacturers' product lines were only to be seen in the pavilion and not in the manufacturer's booth. The display, a veritable visual feast, was inviting and encouraged one to wander throughout and even linger for a while.
Furnishings for the Home
Surrounding the Garden Pavilion, the rest of the ground floor is devoted to furniture and every manner of decorative accessories exhibits. Product offerings included home textiles, accent pillows, metalwork candleholders and baskets, garden decor, ceramic vases and accessories, lighting and much more. Abaca, rattan, coconut shell, driftwood, bamboo, shells and other natural materials were used in a variety of creative ways. Recycled newspaper, too.
A fashion pavilion set up in the center of the apparel, jewelry and fashion accessories exhibitors was a show highlight for those sourcing this category. Curated by Josie Natori, the sophisticated display showcased "Summer Must-Haves," for the coming season. The collection of beachwear, totes and other accessories gave visitors an introduction to the stylish wares and "wears" to be found in the surrounding booths.
Bright Sparkling Holidays
Holiday decor is a strong category that offers a lot of choice with exhibitors showcasing a range of tree-trimmings and other decoratives. Beautifully crafted Nativity figures and angels; Santas, reindeer and elves; ornaments and other trims are offered in media ranging from driftwood and papier-mache to metal, ceramic and shell, and in styles ranging from traditional to whimsical to contemporary.
Artisans and Crafts
The "art of the craftsman" was not only on display through the finished products in exhibitors' booths, live demonstrations of different disciplines provided an upclose look at the artisans at work, leading to a better understanding of just what goes into bringing a handcrafted product to life.
A number of U.S. buyers made their way through the aisles sourcing products and production capabilities for their companies. Among those Gifts and Decorative Accessories encountered were Maxine Burton of Burton + Burton, who noted that she had not been at there in a few years and was pleased with the positive change, Tom Gottlieb of Two's Company and Enrico Bressan of Artecnica.
The next edition of Manila FAME will be held, March 14-17, 2013, at the SMX Convention Center.
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