Established in 2015, Zarate Manila is a design studio based in Pampanga and Bulacan. They design, manufacture, and sell a selection of contemporary designed furniture, accessories, and lighting. The company’s focus is on metal handcrafting, creating balanced and discreet objects but also warm. Most of their designs play with Filipino sensibility and display art, fashion, and industrial design, reflecting a modern contemporary style without overtly trend-driven.
The design studio’s founder Jim Zarate Torres works hand in hand with his team of welders and artisans. He focuses his designs on disrupting the limitation of simplicity –redefining and pushing the boundaries of perception and composition. With his passion for furniture design, art and objects, his approach is graphic, structured, or architectural. Most of his concepts are defined by a reference to something —infused with design codes translated differently – elevated, reworked, and reconstructed. He says in an interview, “I always keep in mind offering timeless pieces and novelties in beautiful materials. Creating ‘borderless’ designs for local and international clients, the brand’s objective is to position itself as an ambassador of proudly Philippine-made products by bringing up to date details and concepts.” He also describes his works as intricate but straightforward, functional, and optimistic.
“I see design as a way to communicate a certain process or simply as an object to tell a story. Graphic lines and formal shapes are frequent characteristics of our works, although an inherent playfulness is also discernible. I often turn my attention to a single product or process and study it in great detail. I think the key to successful product development is a full understanding of the process.” He says. Italian tastemakers Andrea Marcante and Adelaïde Testa, the style duo behind the design studio Marcante-Testa took notice of his Cheque Bench. Last September, the same bench made it to the Maison & Objet’s Trade Fair Digital platform, Maison & Objet, and More’s best-of-the-best shortlist.
Zarate Manila will develop more exciting processes and construction techniques with metal for their future collections, exemplifying bold, progressive ideals with a textural aesthetic. “This allows us to make creations that have endless possibilities—and are truly unique, even with just a few elements.”, Jim Zarate-Torres says in an interview.
By synthesizing traditional craftsmanship using their signature material, metal, and ardor for boldness and contemporary design, Zarate Manila continues to overawe the Philippine furniture-making industry and provide each home and space with incomparable charm character.
PRIZMIC & BRILL
Prizmic & Brill (P&B) is an established design house that brings home the romance of old-world travel and adventure. The Pampanga-based manufacturer of valises, antique-style trunks, and folding campaign furniture was established in 1984. Initially, a design house specializing in the manufacture of hand-woven and indigenous materials, such as abaca and rattan, the character of their current pieces is identified most closely with the high design and portability of Gregorian-Victorian tradition of campaign furniture.
Essentially a furniture maker and exporter, they directly employ 180 artisans with a subcontracted network of more than 200 personnel. Their monthly production capacity is pegged at approximately 3,000 units of furniture, visual display modules, and custom contract amenities. Manufacturing and processing are facilitated in-house with a fully automated woodcraft department, a machine shop for hardware tooling and fittings (brass), a sewing department, a pneumatically equipped assembly line, and spray booth facilities. Quality control and packing departments prepare goods for shipment. These all take place in their 8,000-square-meter-headquarters in Pampanga. This vast space includes exterior loading docks, a warehouse that stores a substantial amount of raw materials, staff housing, and a self-sufficient power plant.
Their flagship retail store is located at Greenbelt 5 in Makati City. The showroom serves P&B’s display venue for their retail branding, where they sell products labeled with the registered trademark “PRIZMIC & BRILLTM.” They also sell their products in Bangkok, Thailand, through Furniture store Quattro Design. According to The P&B Team, “The company endeavors to constantly develop new design concepts to entice its multifaceted clientele and to keep its image exciting. Frequent sourcing trips – upon which management draws cultural inspiration – provide new ground for market research, development, and historical connotations. All products are developed using traditional and natural materials and adhere to sustainable environmental practices.”
Prizmic & Brill also believes that the conditions in the international market present the company with unlimited opportunity to maintain and continue building a business with significant capabilities. Although they have evolved through the gradual integration of fine leather hides, exotic materials, hand-forged brass and hardware, and the arcane design in their collections, they believe that tradition never goes out of style. As their concept remains classic, the “tradition” will forever be its image and marketplace. Yes, it may be old, but it is far from obsolete; instead, such tradition only gathers strength with time.
JB Woodcraft pioneered the export of hand-carved components and furniture in Pampanga. They are known for their well-crafted, intricate, and classical pieces. Their artisans are trained and can perfect fine carving even on the littlest detail. Established in 1972 with only P10,000 capital at Betis, Pampanga, they produced handicrafts made from Monkey Pod Trees catering to the exporters and the market in Subic and Clark. In the late seventies, with a workforce of less than a dozen, it started making furniture, marketing them locally and to the military personnel in Clark and Subic. They opened a retail store at Friendship Highway, Angeles City, because of the demand for their products. They were able to start export to the U.S.A. later on. They achieved their credibility and good reputation overseas because of the quality and finely crafted pieces they sold.
For decades, Jose Bituin was in charge of production, and Myrna Bituin handled the marketing and finishing section. In 2003, Leslie Bituin-Mendiola joined the company and gave JB Woodcraft more direction and quality control. They resumed exporting furniture in 2006 to cater to the high-end, low volume, high price category. It has continued to develop traditional products in designs, carving as a significant component, marquetry, parquetry, and the use of exotic veneers, semi-precious stones as its components. They have expanded the business to Asia, the Middle East, and some parts of Europe. Over the decades, the company has assembled an eclectic mix of international, contemporary, and traditional crafts.
JB Woodcraft continues to expand its clientele from corporate to residential projects producing traditional and contemporary designs. They recently collaborated with Rita Nazareno and Gabbie Lichauco and created The Desert Collection by JB+. These products are part of Maison & Objet and More or MOM, Maison & Objets digital platform. The said French trade fair deals with interior design and is often considered one of the world’s three most important industry events. The designers note “The collection is partly a tribute to Agnes Martin, the artist who retreated to live in the desert. Some of the colorways comprise sand gray as well as a nod to the psychedelia of infrared photography. The minimal burst of intricately carved flora, reminiscent of Lichauco’s own Spring Stool, is a vision in an expanse of grids.” The collaboration is a fine example of the continuing partnership between a multi-generational family workshop from Pampanga recognized for their exquisite hand-carving techniques on wood and the design duo known for their witty takes using local craft techniques and materials.
After decades of still having an unwavering eye for detail, JB Woodcraft continues to take furniture from functional to exquisite works of art.
Notes about the Contributor
Art enthusiast and into Fashion, French Culture, Mid-century modern design and spends a lot of his time curating his home in Manila and LA. He lives with his 3 dogs, Coco, Yohji and Junya.