Tips and Guides

5 Fantastic Pinay Designers

Get to know these Filipina designers who are making waves in the world of furniture, architecture, interiors, and industrial design


The local design industry has famously been a man’s world—ask a random design enthusiast whom he knows and he’d probably come up with two or three famous male designers’ names (we’re keeping our lips sealed on this one!). But the amazing works of these five Filipina designers prove otherwise, as they have exhibited extensively, both locally and internationally, are multi-awarded, and go the extra mile by promoting advocacies and championing local materials. Good job, ladies!

Lilianna Manahan

Industrial designer Lilianna graduated from the University of the Philippines and apprenticed under noted Filipino designer Kenneth Cobonpue. Her whimsical furniture and accessory designs—mostly of quirky beasts and geometrically-faceted décor—have earned her spots at Manila FAME and Art Fair Philippines. You can find her pieces at a11, Cura V, and AC+632. 


Debbie Palao

This furniture designer is one of the more seasoned Cebuano designers, starting her furniture company Design Ventures 30 years ago, at the peak of the country’s export trade. She has since exhibited at international fairs such as Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, and in Cologne, Germany. Debbie’s current project is HoliCOW, a Cebu-based store that sells Cebu-made furniture, décor, and fashion accessories that are sustainable and benefit small-scale industries (here she is at HoliCOW with her niece Kae Batiquin—also a designer). 

HoliCOW is currently exhibiting their pieces in Manila at the Philippine International Furniture Show (PIFS) at the SMX Convention Center from March 9 to 11, 2017. To read more about HoliCOW, click here. You can see the rest of Debbie’s lovely home (pictured above) here.

Christina Gaston

The Southern-based designer is the creative director of Negros-based export and furniture company Hacienda Crafts, which she runs with her husband Joey Gaston. Christina focuses on “envirosocial” pieces, such as lamps of renewable materials, bowls woven from fabric scraps, tables made out of old sugarcane trucks and more. She is also very active in the promotion of Filipino design and products, being an active member of the Association of Negros Producers (ANP), and chair of PIFS.

Seen here in the HoliCOW shop are Christina’s bar and stools made out of sugarcane trucks’ metal sidings, and reed baskets (topmost shelf) for Hacienda Crafts. Check out their booth at the Philippines International Furniture Show this March 9 to 11. (READ: 4 Reasons To Visit PIFS 2017)

Lara Fernandez Barrios

Lara is an architect and designer noted for her warm, cozy, and crowd-pleasing design for popular restaurants such as Wildflour Bakery and Café, Farmacy, and Pink’s Hotdogs.


Lara runs her own firm called Larawan Ink, which does both commercial and residential interiors, and has recently dabbled in accessory design, creating the popular Hippo hampers and lamps for Zacarias 1925, which were exhibited at last year’s Manila FAME. You can see Lara’s home here.


Olivia d'Aboville

Nature and the sea inspire Olivia’s works, and she has collaborated and exhibited with other designers in many Manila FAME shows. Her delicate Dandelion installation (pictured above) has traveled from Portugal, to Shanghai, and to Malasimbo. Also a sculptor and a textile designer, she utilized Philippine textiles like abaca to create graceful, and highly sculptural works of art for her last exhibit at Altro Mondo.


PHOTOS  Dairy Darilag (Debbie & Christina), Jun Pinzon (Olivia), Kai Huang (Lara, for Town & Country)

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