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Stephanie Gonzalez on LV project: Enhanced passion for what is Filipino

Philux taps the wealth of Philippine design, from accent chair by Bea and Marga Valdes to rug by Iñigo Elizalde

Bamboo pendant lamps installation by Philux, rug by Inigo Elizalde in the new LV store

The way Stephanie Kienle Gonzalez describes it, the collaboration between Philux, the Filipino manufacturer and retailer of classic and contemporary furniture, and French luxury goods brand Louis Vuitton, came straight from a dream.

They collaborated on the design of LV’s latest and largest store at Greenbelt 3, Makati City, the Ayala mall newly reopened, and refreshed, with top global retail brands.

“Louis Vuitton Hong Kong actually approached us for a meeting,” recalls Gonzalez, the co-managing director of Philux with her sister, Jessica Kienle Maxwell. “This all happened pre-pandemic, so their Hong Kong and Paris teams flew into Manila and met with us to present the project, which we loved from the get-go.

“The collaboration took off from there. Unfortunately, all communication happened virtually from then on, but we are proud of how things progressed despite the (pandemic) circumstances. It was a true transcontinental collaboration, and we are honored to have been part of it.”

The goal: to create a luxurious, innovative space that purposefully integrates the heritage of both Louis Vuitton and the Philippines, through Philux. Injecting “Filipino-ness” into an international boutique can be tricky, but it can be done with thoughtfully chosen works from the wealth of talented designers and artisans in the country.

The task of fleshing out the store’s design inspiration—the Philippines’ woven heritage, spread across 7,107 islands—went to Philux Spaces, the brand’s new interior design arm. Gonzalez and her sister joined the team in curating furniture, lighting, installations, and accessories for the project by combining items that were either manufactured in-house or sourced from local artists and artisans.

At the Louis Vuitton Women’s Ready-To-Wear section are fresh takes on the Luna accent chair, a creative collaboration between Stephanie and Jessica and designing sisters Bea and Marga Valdes. There is also a highly tactile artwork by New York-based Filipino artist Monica Delgado, and a custom-design handmade rug by Iñigo Elizade.

Look up to the bamboo teardrop lamps or the raffia and saguran in a ceiling installation

Notable pieces in the Louis Vuitton Men’s section include the timeless Palma armchair, versatile Paris and Leman tables, and the new Torno table—all by Philux.

Textures, materials, and color tones associated with the Philippines abound in these tasteful interiors. Look up to admire the bamboo teardrop lamps hanging in the women’s leather goods section, or the raffia and saguran (textiles made from the fiber of local leaves) applied to a ceiling installation conceptualized and built by Philux.

Inspiration comes from everywhere and anything. Artist Olivia d’Aboville’s minimalist Field of Color captures the country’s natural landscapes with the use of pleated abaca hand-woven in Cebu. Iñigo Elizalde’s rugs use tribal tattoo patterns and the iconic Banawe Rice Terraces as motif.

This plum project was just one of several undertakings during the best and worst possible times—Philux’s 40th anniversary and the pandemic, both of which happened in 2020. That it was pulled off beautifully speaks of the company’s commitment to deliver quality work no matter the situation, as well as its resilience in the face of a global health crisis.

“We worked towards adapting to the circumstances to the best of our abilities, while continuing to pursue new projects, expand our offerings, and strive to improve our services, all in the interest of maintaining our workforce and pushing the business forward,” says Gonzalez.

Thus, while companies were downsizing during the pandemic, Philux was growing. It launched its Philux Spaces and unveiled new selections like the Outdoor collection (its first foray into outdoor living furniture), and the Mod collection, mid-century-inspired living and dining pieces.

It added new pieces to existing collections like the Stockholm dining chair, Rizal lounge chair, Stockholm upholstered bed, and Luna night table.

Apart from its landmark LV collaboration, Philux built a special collection of uniquely styled furniture and home accessories for a Filipino fashion designer. It worked on a holiday project focused on women empowerment and sustainability for the Philippine Embassy in Switzerland. And it continued its partnership with Green Ants, the social enterprise that converts recycled plastic into eco-bricks as material for infrastructures.

It happened during the best and worst possible times for Philux, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Its digital presence underwent a makeover. Not only does the new website interface enhance the online browsing and shopping experience, its clean and polished look also aptly captures the Philux brand.

After more than 12 years in the business which was founded in 1980 by her parents Max and Zelda Kienle, Gonzalez has seen her appreciation of the Philux brand evolve. She has fond childhood memories of exploring the company’s workshop and showrooms. When she joined the family business after earning her economics degree at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, she “learned to approach situations and adapt to circumstances with an open mind,” she says. “To embrace new technology and to welcome new ideas.”

These days, projects like the Louis Vuitton store make her proud not only to be Filipino, but as a proponent of the unique crafts and craftsmanship the country has to offer. “Because of Philux, I have become more passionate about embracing local materials and techniques, collaborating with fellow Filipino artists and artisans, and celebrating our country’s rich heritage through design,” she says. “I’m grateful to work at Philux and look forward to all that is to come.”

Read more:

Gino Gonzales on Filipino soft power—where? Beyond Independence Day

A time to have your plants and eat them too

Do as BTS—Keep a journal to fight pandemic anxiety

About author

Articles

She is a freelance writer of lifestyle and copy editor of broadsheets and magazines. Not many know that she’s an ultramarathoner who became the first Filipina, and so far the only Filipina, to run across the US.

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