Over the weekend, 27-year-old Cebu-based designer Neil Felipp showed a whimsical collection of minaudieres—small handbags so beautiful they may as well be considered jewelry—at the Greenbelt showroom of his teacher and now collaborator, Kenneth Cobonpue.
Apparently, the award-winning designer from Cebu has quietly been mentoring enough young talents to launch ‘Progeny by Kenneth Cobonpue,’ a series of exhibitions features workings by young artists he’s mentored. Over 15 years, designers from here and abroad have approached Kenneth for mentorship.
Neil, who apprenticed with Kenneth after enrolling in his Industrial Design program at the University of the Philippines-Cebu, gets the honor to be first.
“I used to think Neil has this certain signature style and then he did something else that’s different, and I like that. It’s a world of fantasy. It’s his world, all his own,,” Kenneth says of his student.
He emphasizes however that it’s never just about talent. “Disciple for me is very important—the hard work that they are willing to put into their work. Because there are a lot of creative people out there but they don’t put in enough work. It’s not talent, it’s not just raw talent. Design, just like sports, needs practice. Design is a discipline. You have to keep working on it.”
Neil apprenticed with Kenneth for five years before he finally felt ready. “Working with Kenneth was challenging in a way because he needed me to first understand myself. What do I want to create? How do I want to make a difference? How do I make ‘noise’? Now that we’re finally doing the collaboration we always wanted to have, he told me, ‘Okay, Neil, this is you. This is finally you.’”
Included in the exhibit were the award-winning Siren bag in blue capiz, Neil’s homage to the island he calls home, the Medusa & Midas bag, which was inspired by Greek mythology, and Anita, a white resin minaudiere emblazoned with small brass ants, which happens to be Kenneth’s favorite. “I’ve always loved that piece. It’s very playful.”
According Kenneth, after discipline, creativity and a little spunk are the two most important things in a designer. “Design is not a science. There is no formula to it. It’s very subjective. [That’s why] you need a good teacher, a good mentor who can help you see things with a different set of eyes,” he says.