by Shari Quimbo
photography by Ezekiel Sullano
This story is taken from our archives. Originally published in Zee Digital Vol. 2 2018.
Detalia Aurora is certainly no stranger to our pages, or to the homes of Cebu’s most discerning residents. For years, the company has been in the furniture export industry, producing pieces that have become iconic in their own right—the Shellf bookcase shaped like a nautilus; the Tera wall art, which is a map made of corks; and the eye-catching Gaia chair.
The brand’s staying power is truly a testament to the talent and skill of the team behind its creations, but perhaps some credit also goes to sisters Paula and Vikki Rodriguez, who, since becoming more involved in the family business, have worked on streamlining processes and nurturing their edge in product design.
“We needed our company to not just evolve, but to adapt to the changing market,” Vikki explains. “It wasn’t enough for us to create new products anymore. We needed to think about more than just aesthetics. We needed to change as a whole, which involved ingenuity from design, construction, cost and market strategy. It’s a slow but steady process.”
The process began, according to Paula, with finding a way to adapt to the industry’s changing demands and expectations. “We decided to work within the company,” she says, explaining that they started working
closely with buyers to collaborate on specific collections. ìWe made sure that they will always come to us to develop new ideas and create products together.”
Then they started looking inward, with the goal of creating a close-knit working family within Detalia Aurora. “From the beginning, Vikki and I wanted a co-working atmosphere in all aspects of the company. Detalia’s biggest asset is not just design anymore—there is no more disconnect,” Paula continues. “Our company’s asset is its people, and the products we create. Creating that level of teamwork, they reiterate, is what gives them more time to work on developments with buyers.
“Material and design innovation will always set us apart from the rest of the international design market.”
Among the challenges they both had to face was surviving the global recession a few years back, which was said to have had a considerable effect on the local furniture industry. To Paula, though, it was more of a challenge than a setback.
“Here’s my two cents—I believe that those who are still here in the furniture industry are those who have found smart ways to keep the business going—may it be in product or in company structure,” she shares. “Those companies we keep in contact with are those who have found their niche in their respective markets.”
The furniture industry in 2018 is a whole new landscape, and it’s something both women are excited about moving forward. “I think the Cebuano design industry has changed in a way that there are no more boundaries,” Vikki says. “Creatives, entrepreneurs and other individuals from different industries are open and excited to collaborate with each other—it doesn’t matter what field you’re in.”
Despite the changes, both also believe that what makes Cebuano furniture different from the rest of the products on the global market remains the same. “Material and design innovation will always set us apart from the rest of the international design market,” Vikki shares. “More importantly, I think the pride we have for our work also speaks for itself.”
This is also why they hope that more young design students become interested in the local production process. “I really do feel that there is a comeback and a growing interest in design for the furniture industry,” Paula shares, adding that they’ve seen a sizable increase in local internship applications as opposed to the international ones they had gotten a few years ago. “I believe the design students in Cebu are becoming more aware of the capabilities of Cebu furniture manufacturers. With easy access to information online, like websites or social media, I feel that they are able to see Cebu’s skills in handcrafted design, and appreciate the products coming out of the industry.”
“I hope this continues so more young designers are better able to work with indigenous material and promote local craftsmanship to help keep the design industry and Cebu’s handicraft industry going,” she continues.
It’s clear that both Paula and Vikki have settled into their roles at Detalia Aurora. And although they have both been involved in business operations, their passion lies in creating.
Having once been design students themselves, Paula and Vikki have settled into—and are relatively thriving at—their roles at Detalia Aurora. At the core of their efforts, though, remains the passion for the business their family has created, and for the art of production.
“I’ve always been interested in the industry, although when I was younger, it was not particularly about design,” Paula shares. ìI was intrigued by the development, innovation, craftsmanship and materials that Cebuano furniture manufacturers were developing on a global scale. I knew I wanted to take part in it.”
“I wanted to be part of the process,” Vikki agrees. “I saw it as a challenge to create, and creating something
goes beyond design. It’s imagining the possibilities but understanding the physical limits.” She adds, “I saw how proud my parents were of this business and I saw how hard they worked for it. I saw how everyone in the company worked hard for it, and I still see that today. I am grateful to be in that community, and to contribute as best as I can.”
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