Connect with us

People

Furne One: Dreaming the Drama

From a simple but nurturing home to making bold strokes in global fashion, Furne One is Cebu’s gift to the world—a symbol of Filipino pride that comes in a halo of gorgeous fabrics, shimmering beadwork and bold designs.

From a simple but nurturing home to making bold strokes in global fashion, Furne One is Cebu’s gift to the world—a symbol of Filipino pride that comes in a halo of gorgeous fabrics, shimmering beadwork and bold designs.

There is a dream-like quality to the work of Furne One (pronounced “Oh-ney”), but in this dream, there are no fairy princesses with flowers in their hair or dashing princes to sweep them off their feet. In the visions in his head, he conjures up a different kind of fantasy—of majestic women tough but beautiful, magnificent in their structured, almost architectural yet ultra feminine haute couture, burdened by fashion yet somehow liberated by it.

Fashion designer is a term that does not even begin to describe him. A craftsman and an artist both, Furne’s work shocks and awes—from his “It’s Alive” show and his collaborations with Swarovski, to the various collections showcased from Los Angeles to Dubai. Criticized as a costumer on one hand and hailed as a visionary on another, Furne’s instinct and flair for drama has nevertheless made him one of the most exciting designers to have risen in the last decade, audacious enough to throw in everything—extravagant headdresses, ostentatious appliqués and stiletto platform boots into a mix featuring winged sleeves, décolleté necklines, sharp cuts and sexy sheer fabrics.

“Furne One is known for his intricate and handcrafted gowns that are literally hard to describe in words,” wrote the LA Fashion Magazine in an article about the Furne One by Amato Couture 2012 show at LA Fashion Week, which was published online in March. “The finale was absolutely stunning,” it would also say of his pièce de résistance, a nude crystal-decorated bodysuit with arms made from tulle fabric that were meant to look like wings. “It was a masterpiece—a work of art, and much more than fashion, which is what Furne One’s show was all about. His collection was not just full of beautiful and ornate pieces—it symbolized nature, its beauty and what he felt represented this best,” the article would end.

“Growing up, I knew that I was inclined to the arts,” says Furne. “If I weren’t a fashion designer, I guess I would be a theatrical director.” This is unsurprising given his unyielding vision, as had been noted in Splash Magazine’s website how he himself is “in charge of each detail, from aesthetic of hair and makeup, to lights and music.”

“I draw inspiration from a variety of unlikely sources,” he says of his creations that are the glorious centerpieces to his overall presentations. “They range from music, cinema, gothic art, disturbing images, vintage pieces, cosmic mysticism, architecture, myths and legends, science and religion.” But even the simplest things are just as important inspirations to him, like “people, nature, my travels, old villages and even intelligent conversations.”

Anyone would fear that Furne’s broad list of influences may result in a mish-mash of one-off art pieces, but Furne always manages to deliver collections that are thematically consistent. Although his clothes seem to be out-of-this-world modern art pieces at best, it should also be noted that pop stars Shakira, Katy Perry, Jennifer Lopez, Heidi Klum, Nicole Scherzinger and, to a more flamboyant extent, Nicki Minaj have all worn Furne’s creations on the red carpet. Come to think of it, even local pop princess Sarah Geronimo has been “Furne-d.”

Deeply-Rooted Born and raised in Cebu, Furne recalls, “My childhood was fascinating and colorful. I remember I used to marvel at my mother and grandmother’s fashionable clothes, and I would always be blown away every time I saw them wearing something new. They inspired me a lot in a sense that they both have great taste—very much like today’s trendsetters. They have always been so up-to-date with the latest in fashion. I guess that counts as my very first fashion encounter.”

If his vision for fashion had been stirred at home—beginning to sketch at the tender age of ten—outside that nurturing and inspiring environment, it would be encouraged even more by other kindred souls. “My fondest memories all started in high school, with my circle of friends having exactly the same interest in fashion,” he relates. He likewise recalls them saving their allowance just to buy back issues of “our fashion bible, Vogue.”
“Surprisingly, my friends and I ended up working in the world of fashion.” Looking back, perhaps it wasn’t a surprise more than it was an answer to a calling.

Taking up fine arts with a major in advertising—as well as some courses in New York later—Furne’s biggest break in fashion was his 1994 Mega Magazine Young Designer of the Philippines Award victory. “My career was jumpstarted,” he concurs. “As part of my prize, I got to apprentice with Josie Natori, one of the judges at the time, in New York. From there, a lot of doors opened for me.” That same year, Furne would bag the first prize at Japan’s Women’s Wear Awards; just three years later, he went on to become a finalist at Manila’s Fashion Designer Awards.

Dubai Calling From Cebu to Dubai by way of Manila, Furne has traveled far, and not just in terms of his achievements. “It may sound weird but years ago, I had a dream,” he shares. “I’m talking about an actual dream, not just a figurative one. In the dream, I traveled to a far away place that looked a lot like a Middle Eastern country. The place had an air of magic and mystery, and something inside me told me this is where I should be.”

According to him, it was just less than a year later when he “heard about this place that people were starting to call the new melting pot in the Middle East. It didn’t take a lot of convincing for me to move to Dubai.” But while he has been re-establishing his roots in an emirate located southeast of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula, Furne has never forgotten his humble beginnings. “Coming from a small island, I was given the chance to dress up A-list celebrities,” he muses now, recalling the “unexpected standing ovations and awards” he’d received with wonderment.

Still, even a courageous creator such as Furne isn’t immune to some missteps, if critics can be believed. One of them is Agenda Online magazine writer Kaylene Peoples, who declared Furne as “just a self-proclaimed artisan” and that his Spring 2012 collection shown at Vibiana during LA Fashion Week last January was “more of a costume line than anything realistically wearable in the real world.” She goes on to talk about “the parade of D-list models” on the catwalk—some of which sported face-constricting headgear—and the “less than worthy stitching of these garments.” Nevertheless, she conceded that must have gone wrong for the collection was its “presentation, or lack thereof,” where the clothes were showcased in a less-than-theatrical setting than they called for.

Just the same, mixed reviews and negative criticism are not uncommon, especially in fashion where views can often be subjective and murmurs are not always constructive. Even the greatest minds can use some room to learn—it is, after all, the only way to get better. Self-assured, Furne notes almost defiantly, “Good and bad reviews are my memorable achievements.”

The Path to Greatness A brief overview of his feat would reveal the opening of his first boutique Amato, which means beloved, in Dubai in 2002. From here, he supplies his elite clientele of Eastern World royalty with an array of hand-stitched designs and intricately detailed creations. Amato’s success would land Furne a commissioned project from Swarovski in 2007, for which he created a staggeringly glittered bridal dress to grace the limited edition book “Unbridaled.” His collaboration with Swarovski continued to be celebrated with show-stopping collections for the Crystallized Swarovski Elements events.

By 2008, Furne’s work would the toast of European fashion elite, thanks to his exposure on “Germany’s Next Top Model,” where he was invited as a special guest designer for the show’s season finale. The tremendous response to the work showcased there would have him featured for three more years thereafter, rocketing Furne One and Amato Couture into the international fashion spotlight that would soon win him his celebrity clientele.

Furne has been described as “unstoppable,” praised for articulating a mix of edginess and glamour in his aesthetics that he showed at the Perth Fashion Week earlier this year. Blogger Ushi Sato of www.theshadesandscarf.com would also note Furne’s strong desire to stand out as an original and to “create thunder in silence.”

His show in Perth was made up of stunning pieces with slender silhouettes and incredible beading, with models who had big platinum blonde wigs adorned with dazzling headpieces or spiked crowns, and sparkling shoes. Donna Ferreri of Perth’s www.stylehunter.com would gush, “Furne One has produced the most exquisite show I have possibly ever seen. My eyes are still blinded from the mere sight of the thousands upon thousands of crystals and jewels that adorned the fabulous garments that shimmied and shone down the catwalk as part of the ‘Mata-Hari’ collection.”
Indeed, if this is Furne speaking in silence, he is managing to do so in a voice that can no longer be ignored.

The Future Demands “Like any other designer, I started to work for other fashion houses to experience the tricks and trade of the business,” he points out, underscoring the fact that things can’t just be left to chance. “It’s a tough battle, but patience, hard work, determination and a little bit of luck kept me going—so I could earn my way to where I am now.”

He forgets to list sheer guts and inborn talent to his formula for success, but that much is evident, whether it is articulated or not. Undeniably, Furne’s name will only grow bigger in the global fashion arena as his collections expand and his creations take their unstoppable flight. This year, Furne marks a new milestone in his illustrious career, following the monumental opening of Furne One and Amato Couture boutiques in Los Angeles, with plans to further expand.

Being described as a “Global Pinoy” only makes Furne proud. But while many would agree that local fashion could actually become a voice in global design, homegrown designers with talent and creativity face certain challenges that could hamper that growth. For his part, Furne notes that “government support to send young and talented Filipino designers abroad” is what’s needed. He adds, “We can also open more fashion schools to help broaden and educate young design aspirants,” and wishes them financial support as well. “I believe the Filipino is very talented. We have so much to offer.”

We asked him what his clothes would say if they could speak and Furne quips, “Look at me!”
Indeed, here’s looking at you, Furne. We celebrate your very bright future, and the trail you have blazed for other Cebuanos and the Filipinos in general. If there’s anything his success can teach us, it’s the fact that if you are bold enough, you can dream it; and if you can dream it, you can make it true.

  • by Annie S. Alejo
  • photography Tina Patni
  • hair and make up Gene Ginno Alducente
  • couture Seduction of Mata-Hari Collection by Furne One
7 Comments

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Design

Filipino graphic designer makes history, joins Switzerland’s Museum of Avant-garde among genre’s greats

PJ Ong of Inodoro, an internationally renowned graphic designer, is the first Filipino whose work will be part of the permanent collection of Switzerland’s Museum of Avant-garde

CEBU CITY — In a groundbreaking achievement, Cebu-based graphic designer and art director PJ Ong of Inodoro Design Studio, is set to become the first Filipino artist permanently exhibited at Museum of Avant-garde (MA-g) in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

Cebu-based graphic designer and art director of Inodoro Design Studio, PJ Ong

Ong’s recognition at MA-g places him among over 250 avant-garde artists, including iconic figures like Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, signifying a profound milestone in museum history.

“Avant-garde,” is a term that refers to pushing the boundaries of artistic expression.

“I am extremely honored and humbled. It is a remarkable milestone in my creative journey, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of such a prominent platform. The acknowledgment, especially considering Switzerland’s exacting standards in art and design, is truly fulfilling,” said Ong.

 

Part of a stellar contemporary collection

Under the museum’s Contemporary Collection, Ong will join global contemporary agencies such as M/M Paris (collaborator of Icelandic singer-songwriter and composer, Björk), WORK Pte Ltd (brainchild of the “Godfather of Singapore Graphic Design,” Theseus Chan), Bedow (Stockholm), BVD Stockholm AB (Stockholm), Socio Design (London) and Milkxhake (Hong Kong), among others.

Ong’s music packaging design for the Filipino harsh noise duo, White Widow, will be featured in the museum. The band’s album “The God Uterus Dissolves” — released under Melt Records — features an unconventional cassette tape packaging incorporating a hand-crafted wire mesh, elevating it into a unique and bespoke collector’s item.

The museum’s selection process for its Contemporary Collection involved three categories: Graphic Design, Photography, and Illustration. Swiss-Canadian Fritz Gottschalk, a prominent figure in contemporary graphic design, led the Graphic Design category.

“This is profoundly validating for me as a graphic designer. Being part of a museum’s permanent contemporary collection is a lasting testament to my capabilities as an artist,” said Ong.

‘Poetry you can touch’

The graphic designer from Cebu City further defined the album as a “deliberate departure from the ordinary,” stating that it was a testament to the artist’s and band’s dedication to pushing boundaries and offering the audience a unique and immersive experience.

“Careful consideration was given to every detail, including choosing a premium supplier for the cassette tape. Opting for a screen-printed cassette, where design elements were applied directly to the surface, gave it a contemporary and visually striking result, helping us reinforce the design narrative,” said Ong.

“From the cohesive placement of elements to using symbols instead of track titles on the spine and customizing fonts, every aspect was carefully thought out. Rather than opting for the conventional wire mesh treatment on print, I took a bold step by incorporating a hand-crafted wire mesh, adding a unique and sensory dimension to the album — almost like poetry you can touch.”

 

Profound honor

Established in 2003, Inodoro Design Studio under Ong’s leadership has garnered global acclaim for its bold design philosophy, spanning music, fashion, architecture, culture and technology. In becoming the first Filipino whose work will be on display at the MA-g, Ong stated that it is “particularly humbling.”

“Traditionally, these privileges are given to individuals who have amassed decades of experience, attained mastery in their craft, or even as a posthumous acknowledgment. To be among those selected is a profound and unexpected honor,” he said.

“Museums typically focus on visual artists, and for a graphic designer, especially within the realm of commercial work, recognition can be more elusive. I appreciate the challenges of this less conventional route and I am committed to proving the significance of graphic design in the broader artistic landscape.”

Art enthusiasts can anticipate viewing Ong’s work with “The God Uterus Dissolves” at MA-g, scheduled to open to the general public in 2025.

***

About The Museum of Avant-garde (MA-g)

The Museum of Avant-garde compiles an original body of work from private collections, providing a unique perspective on the cultural and artistic significance of avant-garde movements. These movements, synonymous with transformative ideologies and daring experimentations, played a pivotal role in challenging political and societal conventions. For more information, visit www.ma-g.org.

 

About Inodoro

Inodoro is the creative moniker of graphic designer and art director PJ Ong, a prominent figure in the Philippine design scene. Established in 2003, Inodoro Design Studio, based in Cebu, Philippines, has garnered international recognition for its bold and distinctive design, with a focus on thought-driven imagery and iconic visual language. The studio specializes in identities, custom typography, graphic design and art direction. For more information, visit www.inodoro-design.com.

Continue Reading

People

Ladies Who Support Ladies

Women’s Circle is an organization composed of Cebuano ladies who are successful entrepreneurs and top executives.  They recently held a fellowship event at the Sheraton Mactan Resort, with special guests from the Women’s Business Council Philippines. Chairperson, Rosemarie Rafael and Council Secretary Cynthia Mamon both flew in from Manila to discuss alliances between the Cebu and Manila groups.

Loot bag from Jo Malone, Sheraton, R&M Chocomanga, gift card from Maayo Clinic, sarong from Ferimar.

The half day event was organized by Perl Jacalan, Gina Atienza and Eva Gullas. Sheraton Resort through its GM Dottie Wugler Cronin supported the event as it is aligned with the hotel’s women initiatives.  The successful event was made more fun with generous give-aways, notably Jo Malone perfumes, Sheraton bags, R&M Chocomanga and sarongs from Ferimar.

Continue Reading

People

Eight Years of Redefining Hospitality Service

by Allain Dumon Fonte

The person behind the very successful chain of Bayfront Hotel  Cebu is the youngest son of entrepreneur couple, Edgar and Gregoria Cokaliong.  I first met Charlton as a young and dashing gentleman busily working in their textile business.  I am impressed with how he excellently juggled taking care of orders, organizing shipments, arranging deliveries, accounting, and even managing the staff of their textile company.  Charlton is an alumnus of Cebu Eastern College where he finished his primary and secondary education.  He then went to the University of San Carlos and studied accountancy.  He successfully passed the accounting licensure examinations, and worked as a certified public accountant while helping in the family’s textile business; who would have thought that he would venture into hospitality.  

Charlton Cokaliong (Managing Director of Bayfron Hotel Cebu). Picture taken at the Bayfront Hotel Lobby.

In 2014, he first opened Bayfront Hotel Cebu at the North Reclamation Area.  I even wondered why of all the places that he can start a hotel, he had to choose the North Reclamation Area.  I find the location appalling for a hotel.  What view will the guests see?  I would not want to stay in a room where the views are cranes, machines, and container vans from the sea port.  Yet, Charlton foresaw the future of hospitality service.  He knew that with the recent developments of Cebu City, people will prefer to stay in hotels that are near to the city, and have access to almost everything they need.  The hotel is right across SM City Cebu, 10 minutes from the sea ports, 30 minutes from the airport, and 15 minutes to almost all the tourist destinations in the city and in the hills of Cebu.  Then, he made the hotel packages and event packages reasonably priced; yet, with a 5-star quality of service.  I even questioned, are you not losing for the prices that you have set?  However, since the hotel opened and up to the present, Bayfront Hotel Cebu has always been fully booked and is becoming the primary choice of venue for events and celebrations.  Charlton explained that he foresaw that with the rising economy and the rising population of the metropolitan, people will always prefer to celebrate special occasions; yet, considering the inflation every year, people will also choose to become more practical by spending less  without compromising quality.  And this is what Bayfront Hotel Cebu delivers, an experience of excellent hospitality service at a price that no other can match.

Bayfront Hotel Cebu in Capitol Site.

Because of the continuous demand for their hotel rooms and venues, Charlton opened another Bayfront Hotel Cebu in September 2021.  This time the location is at the heart of the uptown of Cebu in the Capitol Site.  Again, Charlton banked on the great location of the second Bayfront hotel.  I once again questioned him on this; considering the competition in the area because of the many up and coming business hotels that offer the same rates and packages.  Charlton smiled and confidently said that apart from the great location, he also banks on the quality of service that his staff can deliver.  “If you take care of your staff very well, your staff will take good care of your customers”.  I have seen first hand how Charlton handles and manages his staff at their textile store, so I know how he also handles and takes good care of his staff in the hotel.  And I realized that this is his biggest selling point, the hotel’s incomparable service and friendliness.  Even though the hotel opened in the middle of pandemic restrictions, the new hotel is getting countless reservations; most especially that the Capitol Site Bayfront Hotel offers an amazing view of the city skyline at its roofdeck bar and pool area.  The gym , pool , and bar amenities at the hotel’s roof deck with its view are a must to be experienced.

Standard De Luxe Room at the Bayfront Hotel Cebu.

Early of 2022, Charlton also opened the hotel’s in-house dining feature.  For seven years, Bayfront Hotel Cebu was catered by a third party food concessionaire.  But, again, Charlton foresees that the Filipino market will be more critical to food and taste.  I asked, why is this?  Charlton explained that with travel becoming more affordable and accessible, people will get to experience different kinds of food and dine in different restaurants.  Hence, people will now learn to benchmark, not only from local restaurants, but also from their dining experiences around the Philippines and overseas.  Therefore, Bayfront Hotel Cebu needs to step up its game in dining.  With the opening of Caja Kitchen, Bayfront Hotel offers more selections of Asian and Filipino comfort food fusion with international cuisines.  With Caja Kitchen, Charlton turned a Filipino menu into an international dining experience. I asked him how he came up with all these.  Charlton  explained that dedication to make his guests happy and satisfied is the key motivation why he does not stop thinking about innovating and reinventing everyone’s hospitality and dining experience. 

Caja Restaurant: Bayfront Hotel Cebu’s in-house dining facility.

In September of this year, the Bayfront Hotel Cebu in North Reclamation Area is officially celebrating its 8th year of wonderful and excellent hospitality service; while the Bayfront Hotel Cebu in Capitol turns 1!  Great and exciting anniversary promotions and packages await its patrons and guests!  Please visit the social media pages of Bayfront Hotel Cebu to know the amazing anniversary deals!

With my last question, what does he have in mind now.  Charlton just smiled and said, “Well, who knows?  Another Bayfront Hotel Cebu shall rise soon!”.  After this interesting conversation, I can say that Charlton is truly a man who can foresee the future; may it be in business, in the market, with the trends, and with new experiences.  

Continue Reading

Trending