From Jordan’s Queen Rania to Hollywood’s royalty, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, Kenneth Cobonpue has captivated many with his masterwork. His eponymous brand has put the island of Cebu on the map with its nature-inspired luxury furniture that combines locally-sourced, organic materials with handmade production techniques. Operating in the US $20 billion global luxury furniture market, the company (KC) sells in over 60 countries through 100 retail showrooms. KC furniture can also be found in fine-dining establishments and hotels across the world, and pieces have been featured in Hollywood films and television shows including CSI Miami and Oceans 13.
Many would be surprised to hear that Kenneth Cobonpue was actually rejected from the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts. This prompted him to hone his drawing skills for a year and later, which paid off as he joined the prestigious Pratt Institute of New York for Industrial Design in 1987. After his studies, Kenneth gained experience as a manufacturer of leather and furniture in Italy and Germany, which inspired him to build a global brand based in the Philippines. With his wife as his COO, Kenneth founded Cebu’s first luxury furniture brand. The first two years were challenging because international buyers didn’t think that designs from a “third world” country could compete with those from Italy and Spain. It was not until 1998 when the Philippine government sponsored one of Kenneth’s exhibits in 1998 that Kenneth was approached by buyers who had never before sourced from Asia. Upon meeting Chris in 2001 and establishing a partnership, Kenneth’s dream of building his own global brand was realized. Currently, KC boasts over 60 collections (four 30 piece collections released annually) comprising both indoor and outdoor furniture for residential and commercial use. In 2015, KC was selected by the President of the Philippines to design chairs for the 2015 APEC Summit in Manila, which was attended by world leaders.
Beyond design, the company’s network of local craftsmen and innovative in-house production techniques make its products difficult to replicate. Kenneth Cobonpue is truly the pièce de résistance of the Philippines’ design ecosystem. KC’s design collective, Hive, serves as a platform for mentoring and an avenue for lesser known designers to showcase their work. As KC is a strong brand interwoven with meaning and, despite becoming global, still possesses a Southeast Asian soul, Endeavor Philippines believes that Kenneth Cobonpue can show the world that luxury brands from the emerging market can compete internationally.