Filipino designer merges European and Filipino cultures in Italian-made bag

Filipino designer merges European and Filipino cultures in Italian-made bag

YOUNG multidisciplinary designer PJ Almera has juxtaposed European Romanesque architecture and Filipino craftsmanship in a leather maxi bag called ARCO, which was made for Up To You Anthology’s Design-Your-Bag competition. It won.

Mr. Alera is the first Filipino to collaborate with the innovative Italian brand Up To You (UTY) Anthology, joining global visionaries Zaha Hadid, David Chipperfield, Nendo, Naoto Fukasawa, Vincent Van Duysen, and Giulio Cappellini who have also collaborated with the brand.

ARCO is versatile as it comes with detachable straps, metal handles, and a leather grip. It likewise features an inner lining, as well as slit and zipped pockets. Color options range from red and black, to “white chocolate.” It comes with the brand’s signature UTY dust bag designed by graphic icon Lissoni Graphx.

While the bag is made with genuine European cowhide handcrafted by Italian artisans, the Filipino touch is seen in the arched cut-outs in rattan, a material abundant in the tropical rainforests of the Philippines.

The rattan arches were inspired by historical buildings. “Architecture portrays history and heritage in a very sophisticated way while showcasing the uniqueness of each culture through intricate and distinct details,” he said in a statement. “Arches, in particular, have since been a staple language in my design. I treat it as an important element that gives meaning and wonder instead of just being a faddish shape,” he added.

“I chose rattan or solihiya (a woven rattan pattern) as one of my main materials to mimic the different tropical identities in both Asia and Europe. This is to celebrate the wonder of artisanal creations,” he explained. “We have different cultures but we share a passion for creativity and resourcefulness.”

Mr. Alera has a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) in Manila and a master’s degree in Contemporary Interior Design from the Instituto Marangoni-Milano Design School in Milan. He is the founder of Studio Almera, where he serves as the creative director and designer for interior, creative, and branding projects. He is also the founder, trend director, and creative director of ACIIID, an interdisciplinary research and development platform for contemporary design trends. He is the co-founder and co-design director of his new venture Wandr, where he delves into multi-disciplinary design and art focusing on ephemerals and objects. He also teaches at the Benilde School of Environment and Design.

Mr. Almera is presently gearing up for the release of the ARCO Mini Collection next year.