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Jeepney Chic

posted by in Space

During one of the recent ManilaFAME events I came across some amazing embroidered pillows designed by Iñigo Elizalde for Catalina Embroideries. How can they not catch your eye? Bold and graphic, a unique mix of colors yet there was something vaguely familiar that draws you to them. While researching for an article for Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia I managed to get in touch with the designer for a quick email interview and found out that his major inspiration for this particular collection was the iconic jeepney. I love how he took the crazy cornucopia of colors on wheels and turned them into something so strikingly chic that manages to fit in both a contemporary or boho setting with just the right touch of ethnicity! It feels like a modern representation of what it means to be Filipino, a touch of indigenous heritage mixed in with contemporary history and pop culture resulting in a combination that is both neither here nor there but distinct all at the same time. Read on for the full mini-interview.

Love and Light, Stephanie

Stephanie: What made you decide to collaborate with Catalina? Do they always produce your pieces?

Iñigo: I was chosen by CITEM and Josie Natori to work with Catalina and other Filipino manufacturers for Manila FAME some years ago.  I was part of a team that included other younger designers, some from abroad, that all had a tie to the Philippines in some way.  We were given a list of manufacturers that we had to work with and I was paired with Catalina, among others, which was great, because it has spawned an amazing work relationship between us.  All of our embroidery work is done by them as the level of quality is superior.  We have our pillows, ottomans and bean bags done by them, and are looking forward to upcoming collections with them.  And, I have become good friends with the owner of the company, Joan Wang, so its always fun to go to Cebu to visit her and get to work!  I mean, work in the morning and beach in the afternoon… What’s not to love?!

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Stephanie: What inspires your collections?

Iñigo: Everything.  I don’t like to put myself in a box, so every year we come up with something new.  I was trained to think conceptually at the Art and Design school I attended, so each collection has a story to tell.  The first one we did, I limited myself to designing from my photography, without a lot of digital manipulation, so it was all about showing people that inspiration is everywhere.  The one that we launched with Catalina had designs that were inspired by old Fiiino embroidery patterns, like what you see on Barong Tagalogs and other piña items.  I saw an exhibit at the Ayala Museum on embroidery and it really got my thoughts going.  Plus, a few years back I was given several volumes on Philippine ethnic motifs by the Design Center of the Philippines and we culled lots of patterns from those books.  The concept eventually developed into somewhat of a “halo-halo” way of designing where we got all these different motifs and mashed them together.  I was also taking lots of photos of jeepneys during time, whenever I was home, so that had a giant influence on the designs.  So much of an influence that the different designs from that collection are named after jeepney stops.  The collection is loud and brash and colorful and bold and it proved to be the perfect vehicle to begin working with Catalina, who was very excited to see all these new and crazy designs and patterns.  We applied all of our designs to their pillows and ottomans and the rest is history!  So, as mentioned before, everything inspires me.  Design and pattern are everywhere, you just have to take the time to see it, and not just quickly look.

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Stephanie: Where do you feel that the traditional art of embroidery is going?

Iñigo: Well, to be completely honest, I think its a dieing tradition, which is very sad. The kids are just not interested in it I guess.  Its a very slow and intricate process, and in this present sped-up world, it is getting left behind.  To my knowledge, the only place where it is still being done in large amounts is in Taal, by the old burdaderas there.  I went to pay a visit a few years ago and was blown away by the quality of their work!  But I also noticed that everyone making burda was of the older generation and there were no young people involved.  That said, what do I really know?  I just observe from afar.  What I do know is that there are certain people, like the designer Patis Tesoro, who use a lot of embroidery in their work and are keeping a lot of these embroidery communities afloat by supporting them and using their talents to realize designs.  At the end of the day it also boils down to economics.  The embroidery community does not have much funding or support these days.  It is an amazing local tradition with incredible quality.  It would be very sad to see it die out.  Perhaps if someone were to help and support in some way, the situation might be brighter.

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Writer. Traveller. Wino. Foodie. Bohemian at heart. "You can not travel the path until you have become the path itself." - Buddha


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.

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