What would you do if you weren’t afraid? What would happen if you follow your passion? TIME Magazine’s “Rattan First Virtouso”, Kenneth Cobonpue, is a living proof that pursuing you passion and enjoying what you do can actually help you achieve your goal. He is a multi-awarded furniture designer and manufacturer in Cebu with designs that won him the “Designer of the Year” in the first edition of Maison et Objet Asia held in March 2014 in Singapore, Grand Prize of the Singapore International Design Competition, Japan Good Design Awards, Design for Asia Award of Hong Kong, the American Society of Interior Design Top Pick selection and the French Coup de Coeur Award.
However, all these successes didn’t come in a snap. Like most of those who followed their hearts, he also struggled to become who he is today.
Kenneth Cobonpue was born in a Chinese family with father who really wanted him to take up Business course. But his love for designing rooted at an early age. His mother’s backyard factory became his playground where he made use of various materials which eventually led him to creating his own furniture pieces. Such exposure enabled him to join his mother in various furniture affairs around the world.
Following the wish of his father, he took up a course in Business in UP Diliman but his love for designing urged him to shift Fine Arts two years after. Though he was really interested in taking up such course, he was not accepted because he could not draw well enough. Still, he persisted and studied Industrial Design at the Pratt Institute in New York, apprenticed for a leather and wood workshop near Florence, Italy, then took up a scholarship program in Furniture Marketing and Production at the Export-Akademie Baden-Württemberg in Reutlingen, Germanybefore working in Bielefeld and Munich.
In 1996, Kenneth came back to Cebu to manage Interior Crafts of the Islands, Inc. – the furniture design and manufacturing company of his mother Betty Cobonpue. He had to face tough challenges including the absence of advanced technology for furniture here in the Philippines, creation of his own brand of designs, and the loss of some clients. But these didn’t stop his determination. He began creating modern designs using natural fibers and materials, crafting pieces of functional art. Today, the KENNETHCOBONPUE® brand receives numerous recognition around the world and among renowned individuals because of its unique designs. Every year, he reveals new sets of designs in Milan and New York. He also appeared to countless European television, international magazines, and films like Ocean13 and CSI.
The limitless potential of his creativity was once again acknowledged last July 2016, when he and his business partner Christopher Reiter were selected as high-impact entrepreneurs during Endeavor’s 65th International Selection Panel held in Indonesia. On the same year, he also designed the children’s playground on the 3rd largest shopping mall in the Philippines – SM Seaside City. He brought to life the colorful world of children’s imagination by creating designs from dinosaurs to outer space.
Truly, people should not be afraid of challenges that would come as they pursue their passion, instead, they should see these as opportunity to grow and become better.