Art/Style/Travel Diaries

Architect merges European and Filipino influences in Italian-made bag

PJ Almera is the first Filipino to collaborate with the innovative Italian brand Up To You (UTY) Anthology, joining the likes of Zaha Hadid

ARCO by PJ Almera has arched rattan cut-outs, detachable straps, in European cowhide, handcrafted by artisans in Italy.

Multidisciplinary designer and Benilde Architecture alum PJ Almera

Emerging multidisciplinary designer PJ Almera combined European Romanesque architecture inspiration with Filipino craftsmanship in a leather maxi bag.

Dubbed as Arco, it was specially made for and won in Up To You Anthology’s Design-Your-Bag competition.

The young creative became the first Filipino to collaborate with the innovative Italian brand Up To You (UTY) Anthology. He joins renowned global visionaries Zaha Hadid, David Chipperfield, Nendo, Naoto Fukasawa, Vincent Van Duysen, and Giulio Cappellini.

Arco by PJ Almera combines iconic European architecture image with rattan cut-out.

Arco is the product of intensive research, brainstorming—an emotional release of creative explorations.

Conceptualized with freedom and a limitless lifestyle in mind, it is for versatile style aficionados on the go, as it comes with detachable straps, metal handles, and leather grip.

Arco has detachable straps.

It has an inner lining, as well as slit and zipped pockets. It is in red, black, or posh white chocolate, with the signature UTY dust bag designed by graphic icon Lissoni Graphx.

An homage to Europe and Asia, it has arched cut-outs in rattan, a material abundant in such tropical rainforests as the Philippines. It is made of genuine European cowhide handcrafted by leading artisans in Italy.

Almera has a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) and a master’s degree in Contemporary Interior Design from the Instituto Marangoni-Milano Design School in Milan. This architect has embraced the various principles in arts, new media, and design.

He has turned to the discipline and practice of constructing buildings to encapsulate his exhilarating journey. “Architecture portrays history and heritage in a very sophisticated way, while showcasing the uniqueness of each culture through intricate and distinct details,” he explained.

“Arches, in particular, have been a staple language in my design. I treat it as an important element that gives meaning and wonder instead of just being a faddish shape,” he added.

“I chose rattan or solihiya as one of my main materials to mimic the different tropical identities in Asia and Europe. This is to celebrate the wonder of artisanal creations,” he explained. “We have different cultures, but we share a passion for creativity and resourcefulness.”

Almera is the founder of Studio Almera, where he is creative director and designer for diverse interior, creative, and branding projects. He is also the founder, trend director, and creative director of ACIIID, an interdisciplinary research and development platform for contemporary design trends. He is the co-founder and co-design director of his new venture Wandr, where he delves into multi-disciplinary design and art focusing on ephemerals and objects.

He pursues his advocacy to amplify aesthetic visions for architecture and space as an educator at Benilde School of Environment and Design (SED).

Multidisciplinary designer and Benilde Architecture alum PJ Almera (Photo by Junessa Rendon)

Almera is  gearing up for the release of the ARCO Mini Collection next year.

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