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Furniture Making in his Blood

Growing up in a family of furniture manufacturers, designing furniture is literally in Vito Selma’s blood.Vito began his design education at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, followed by a move to Italy, where he pursued his Masters in Industrial Design at the Scuola Politecnica di Design. Besides having benefited from workshops with the Campana Brothers and Spanish Studio Cul De Sac, Vito counted Debbie Palao, George Haast, Raffaella Mangiatotti as his mentors. After paying his dues as a young designer at his parents’ company Stonesets, Vito proved that he could stand on his own as a furniture designer with his own brand, Vito Selma.

Can you tell us about your company Vito Selma?

Vito Selma is both a design studio and furniture brand. Apart from launching collections yearly under the brand, we are just as busy with working on custom projects for our clients that range from residences to casinos.

Can you share with us a bit of your growing up days? Did you always want to be a designer since you were young?

I literally grew up with the furniture factory as my playground. My parents have a company, Stonesets, for about 32 years till now. They would take me to work on the weekends and sometimes after school on weekdays. Being always curious and playful, I was intrigued by everything in the factory and I think that’s how I naturally ended up in the industry that I grew up with. I started out as the Creative Director for Stonesets, taking on the role of Head Design Director after a few years, and eventually I decided t
strike out on my own with Vito Selma as a brand.

What was that moment or incident that makes you decide that furniture design is what you want to do as a profession?

I first joined a design workshop when I was in 11th grade in high school. The finished products from that workshop were then showcased at the local furniture show, Cebu Next. To my surprise my design was nominated and eventually won “Best Product Design”. That was definitely the moment that made me realise, “i can do this.”

tested by PP - My passion is really on material experimentation and manipulation. I love exploring both the process of making and material choice, and eventually applying these to my new collections. So there is not one particular favourite material.

How would you describe your design?

My design can quickly be defined as having a Japanese or even Scandinavian influence. However, instead of being likened to a particular design aesthetic, the core of my design lies more on keen attention to detail and excellent craftsmanship. It is through these attributes that the Vito Selma brand identifies itself as not being Japanese nor Scandinavian, but distinctly Filipino.

How many designs do you do in an average year?

On average we launch about 6 collections a year, and each collection ranges from 3-5 pieces.

What materials do you like to work with?

My passion is really on material experimentation and manipulation. I love exploring both the process of making and material choice, and eventually applying these to my new collections. So there is not one particular favourite material.

Do you design with a target audience in mind usually?

Yes, I usually design for my existing clientele. I started the brand 11 years ago with a specific market in mind, and to this day, I still cater to that market. Our items are geared more towards the luxury market wherein the clients expect a certain quality of design and workmanship.

Do you sell/exhibit at International Furniture Fairs? Do you think these fairs are still relevant in the digital age where everything can be transacted over the internet?

I do still participate in international furniture fairs regularly. Although the digital fairs are convenient and less costly, i still feel that physical furniture shows provide a very different impact and opportunity for both the exhibitors and the buyers. Seeing, touching and actually experiencing the products is different from seeing it on your computer screen.

Do you produce them yourself or do you design it for other companies in a royalty-based arrangement? What are some of the brands that you have worked with before?

I design primarily under my own brand but sometimes I do design specific objects for other brands as well, some of these brands include Altuzarra, H&M, Google, Roche Bobois, and Omega. We have our own factory in Cebu. Unlike other brands or manufacturers who might focus on a particular material, my factory can produce items using all sorts of materials. Hence, we are able to manufacture for other designers and brands as well.

It is quite a small industry here compared to other countries. Growing up, I noticed that the older designers looked at each other as competition.

What are the highlights of your career so far?

Every time I see a piece of my design used in a space, it is a highlight.

What are the unforgettable challenges/lessons you have faced in your journey?

This industry is not only about beautiful objects, but also about communicating these objects to your
audience.

How is it like being a furniture designer in the Philippines? Can you share with us how is the
furniture design scene there?

It is quite a small industry here compared to other countries. Growing up, I noticed that the older designers looked at each other as competition. Now, when I’m finally a part of the industry, it is heartwarming that I can see everyone as friends and that we are all there to support each other, especially at a difficult time like now.

How has Covid-19 affected your studio?

I’ve taken the time to reset and rethink. After 6 months, we are finally launching a new platform under
the brand and we can’t wait to share it with everyone in the coming months.

Are you planning on an e-commerce platform or digitalising your business?

Yes I am, it will be marketed under Vito Selma Home.

Any last words for aspiring young furniture designers?

Believe in your work first, so that others will believe in them too.

[An Interview with Vito Selma, Philippines By Kelley Cheng]

Photos: Vito Selma

 

6 October 2020

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