Portal of Experiences: A Gateway of Two Identities

Most often than not, design disciplines relate to each other in core values, inspirations, objectives, and goals. Architecture and Fashion for example are two disciplines that are on two different ends of the design spectrum but function the same, just with a different medium.  

The ARCO bag designed by PJ Almera of Studio Almera is a perfect marriage of Filipino architecture and Italian luxury fashion, represented by the juxtaposition of architecture and fashion elements representing both places. ARCO bag is the first Southeast Asian and Filipino-designed bag to join Zaha Hadid Design, Nendo, Elena Salmistraro, Guilio Cappellini, Marc Thorpe, and many other notable designers in the roster of Up To You Anthology, a Milan-based, innovative brand that creates unique bags in collaboration with visionary designers around the world. Up To You Anthology’s DNA reflects the designers’ creativity, vision, and identity, creating a “new aesthetic” translated to high quality craftsmanship that is “Made in Italy”. 

ARCO bag by PJ Almera of Studio Almera

“A Portal of Experiences”, is how PJ described his inspiration for his design. He thought that Architecture is an experience and the rich history of both the Philippines and Italy creates a portal for their history and heritage. The predominant arch element on his bag is a surrealist representation of the two countries. It’s an element that bridges the commonalities in terms of design, the Renaissance arch windows, Romanesque tympanums, and the Neoclassical round arches, are both present in the two cultures. The massive and boxy build of the bag is reminiscent of the basic architecture form – meant to accommodate all forms and functions.  

PJ Almera of Studio Almera

The play of visual contrast is what makes Italian design different from Filipino design. Italian art and design love the narrative of “the old, and the new”; Filipino design on the other hand turns to nostalgia for design narrative. These differences can be traced back to how both areas treat their heritage and architecture. Generally in Europe, adaptive reuse is a common practice that celebrates the juxtaposition between an old dilapidated structure versus a newly built modern glass structure within it. In the Philippines, nostalgia comes with our endeavour to save our heritage from depreciation or demolition.

Workmanship is a common language between the two despite the differences in materials. Italians are known for their impeccable leatherwork, reflecting the long history of leather workshops in Florence during the middle ages. Philippine weaving art dates back to the pre-colonial era, where different weaves represent different tribes and identities.

Both differences and similarities played a part in PJ’s design for the ARCO bag. The geometric language between the architecture of the two countries is abstracted into the form, leathered arches, and the contrasting cultures are embodied in the match of solihiya and leather, creating a gateway for conversation. The contrast in the materials also gave a haptic representation of their differences. The organic rawness of the tropics, with the rattan, and the refinery of Europe, with the leather. Color finally bridges the two cultures as it is a common language that both expresses freely. The common passion for the color red and the emotions behind it adds boldness and modernity, ultimately creating a unifying experience with the bag design.

ARCO bag was launched by Up to You Anthology and Istituto Marangoni in Milan last November 10, 2022.

Concept Images from Studio Almera

Bag Images from Up To You Anthology