TGN: What elements do you look for when you choose a piece?
Ito Kish: When I choose a piece I always have an idea of what I want to do, that’s why when I did the buying January last year for all of this, I already have a clear idea of what I want. This theme of travel and culture started January last year so when I went to Maison et Objets in Paris, I knew what to look for. I will not buy anything that is not appropriate for the concept. So its very easy for, I have a specific concept and I’ll go for it.
TGN: What inspires you with your concepts?
Ito: I’m always on my toes making sure I know what the others are doing. Because again, at the end of the day they’re still competition. I’m friendly with everyone, last night the Bungalow 300 people were here, Eric Paras was here, we’re all friends. But at the end of the day the only way to keep even them on their toes is to make sure that you’re always ahead of everyone. When I buy I always ask “are you carried by anyone in the Philippines?” And if they answer “Firma and AC…” I will not touch that.
TGN: Which is also great for the city because we have more options.
Ito: Yes! Same with them, once they know I am carrying it they won’t buy it either. It’s very good that way.
TGN: Are there any particular cultures or countries that inspired this collection?
Ito: Not really but lately I’ve been drawn to Scandinavian furniture. That sleek mid-century style they are known for. But of course there are already lots of furniture that are new that follow this style. But if I really look back at the things we found, it’s the things from Burma. They’re very different because even if you say you find something form Indonesia or Bali you see a very distinct look. These wooden pieces from Burma are very versatile.
TGN: If there was a character or person you were inspired by for this collection who would it be?
Ito: Definitely someone very bohemian. Well traveled. For our upcoming Christmas collection however I was inspired by The Grand Budapest Hotel. The crazy colors, crazy people, the festiveness. This is our central theme for the holidays, it will be all about entertaining and feasts. We are going hang a lots of eucalyptus leaves with velvet ribbons, we have some amazing books coming in from Phaidon, we found the best knives, amazing tableware, we are bringing all of that in! It’s going to be very exciting.
TGN: Favorite places in the world to shop?
Ito: Paris. Followed by New York but Paris definitely. My last trip there we were just walking somewhere and we end up in a store where I thought they were selling buckles for shoes and belts but in fact it was all the metal works for horses. Everything equestrian. I mean where else in the world do you find that?
TGN: Yes! The city is full of specialized artisans, all these small details.
Ito: Years ago I was walking somewhere and I also don’t remember then I found myself in a small street and out of nowhere this beautiful shop of just ribbons! Even in New York it doesn’t happen to me! Then you end up in this old building, where they’ve been there for ages… It’s magical.
TGN: What drives you to scour the globe for the perfect piece?
Ito: I remember one time Tina Maristela was asked where her favorite stores were across the globe and she mentioned Colette in Paris because according to her it changes almost every week. Then she mentioned Kish, because she said its really at par with the stores in the other countries. What really inspired me was this, there was a time when tourists came to Manila they would just get out immediately because there was really nothing much to see. So my contribution is to make the city a bit more exciting. There’s a store that when they get here, yes it’s not all Filipino but then they will realize oh my gosh these people know about this or I’ve seen this in Paris. You will see some pieces that are in the stores in Paris and New York. It elevates the city. It makes it more cosmopolitan. I’m always excited when there is a new restaurant not in the malls but in Salcedo or Leviste or a new store popping up somewhere because it makes the city exciting. If you go to Taipei, every ground floor of the building has all these small commercial establishments that are not banks nor Starbucks. These are small little entrepreneurs and businesses that pop up everywhere! I don’t think this will happen to Manila yet unless by government decree! But yes so first it’s really about making the city exciting.
Secondly, we do good by having good visual merchandising. That anybody, housewives or anyone that enters the store and will get inspired and say “oh! This is what I want to do.” I think people hire an interior designer because they don’t know what to do, but if the interior designer is bad the client wouldn’t know.
TGN: I know exactly what you mean! I’ve seen houses… that look like a showroom! No personality or warmth!
Ito: You know when bad is bad right? For us it’s a responsibility to do this to inspire other people.
TGN: I love how you put together vignettes because it shows people how to curate things.
Ito: Yes and different things! Things you collect or your nanay gave you something and it might not outright go with what you have.
TGN: Yes the older generation often thinks “Oh this doesn’t go with my décor.” And now people are a bit more adventurous.
Ito: They always think that way but that’s because they never used to see anything like this with different things put together. “Oh I can use pala those old trays from Evangelista on the walls!” We want to inspire homemakers to change the way they live. That’s very important to us. That’s why we change the store. I don’t want them to come every three months and not see anything new. I want them to see something different. It’s a big responsibility but it’s fun! We’ve survived 15 years! There are very few lifestyle stores like us that have survived.
TGN: This store has a soul, it has really unique pieces that tell a story. The bigger retail stores they have many things as well and merit to be there but they don’t necessary have that soul behind it. Now, how would you advice someone who would like to start infusing a bit of the world into their home? What tips for them to ease into the eclectic style?
Ito: There are so many magazines nowadays. Same thing back in the day there were so few home stores Jo-Liza! Alice Reyes used to have a store in Malate in front of Café Adriatico that had inspired me from when I started because the visual merchandising in the windows was fabulous. And of course Old Asia. And now there are more, same with the magazines, there are so many more now. It’s a very good way of teaching yourself and inspiring yourself. Even going online, going to Pinterest, social media where there is so much information. Nowadays it’s much easier to see what’s going on. On social media, you see a photo and you see the comments. You can see what is good design and what is not just with the comments alone. But the best is really from magazines.
TGN: Yes and when you see something that is really nice and something that is just so-so, you know what good design is.
Ito: Yes! I was even a judge on Project Runway and I was nervous. What do I know about fashion? And in the end we all had the same scores for the same person because you know what good design is. Whether you are an architect or a cook, good design is universal.
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We are two friends who were former magazine editors. Having moved onto other things, we both realized that the creative flow the publishing world used to offer us was missing from our lives. Armed with a common love of travel to the exotic and familiar, a penchant for the bohemian, an obsession with food and a lust for writing, we decided to collaborate our unique and fashionable journeys through life together in one passion project.
We are The Gypsetters.