French architect impressed by Philippine craftsmanship

Posted at 03/19/14 10:25 AM

Interior architect Gwenole Segalen at Manila FAME.

MANILA, Philippines -- The best of Philippine design was on show at the Manila FAME over the weekend.

And for a Dubai-based interior architect, Manila FAME was an opportunity to discover Philippine furniture and furnishings for the first time.

Gwenole Segalen, whose company GSD is involved in designing the interiors of high-end hotels and palaces in the Middle East, was impressed with the quality and design of Philippine companies participating at the trade fair.

"It's very creative, very fresh... There's a sense of optimism that's contagious, which I like," Segalen said in an interview at the sidelines of Manila FAME.

The Frenchman said he decided to go to Manila FAME, a bi-annual showcase of Philippine craftsmanship and design innovation, after hearing so much about it from his Filipino business partner.

"There's this energy because the population is very young. And you can feel that. It's a good feeling. As a buyer, it's much more enjoyable to go here than Guangzhou (trade fair)," he said.

Segalen was looking to find manufacturers for contract furniture for high-end residential projects and hotel projects in the Middle East. One of his previous projects was the InterContinental Doha The City hotel.

He noted many more hotels are expected to be built in the Middle East, particularly Dubai and Doha, in the next few years. Dubai will be hosting the World Expo in 2020, when it expects 70% of the estimated 25 million visitors coming from outside the country. Doha, Qatar will be the host of the 2022 WorldCup.

"I think they plan to do 360 hotels (in Dubai) which is a lot. That's a big opportunity for everybody... Qatar also has a major event coming up, the World Cup. They have 180 hotels to do, which is mad for such a small city," Segalen said. "If I get only the crumbs, it should still be a lot of work."

Asked if he any Manila FAME exhibitors caught his eye, he named Bon-Ace Fashion Tools, Shell Arts Company, Industria Home Vico Manufacturing Corp. and Vito Selma.

Segalen noted the quality of Philippine furniture and designs are "above-average," and better than those in China.

"The quality of contract furniture is very low, especially in Doha. They do a lot of it in Egypt... I see the quality of the Philippines for contract furniture is very good. Another advantage is that compared to China, they speak English so you can communicate better," he said.

Asked what he is looking for, Segalen said, "It's more of the modern, innovative and somewhat unique things that I like... And for contract furniture, for that I need projection capability, quality control."

He is already planning his next trip to the Philippines, hopefully to visit Cebu, which is known for its world-class furniture makers.