For over three decades, Manila Fame has been showcasing Filipino craftsmanship, design innovation, and artisanship—establishing itself as the country’s premier design and lifestyle trade show.
Before it has grown to what it is today, which recently staged its 70th edition in October, the bi-annual show has always been envisioned for great things.
Former deputy executive director of the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) Lourdes Ilusorio said, “It was such an exciting period because it was the only show of its time that met international standards.”
Manila Fame has since become the second longest-running trade event for furniture, décor, and accessories in the Asia Pacific region.
A grand fair
At the helm of it all was Mina Gabor, who founded CITEM and Manila Fame under the Ministry of Trade and Industry in 1983. The export industry then took a turn and had a wider platforms to showcase their products in Manila.
“It all started with Mina Gabor. She was the one who laid out all the groundwork, and asked the buyers to come here,” shared Ilusorio. “She was very much for upgrading export standards of the manufacturers in the country.”
The trade show occupied various venues to accommodate the growing number of exhibitors. These included the Philippine Trade Training Center, the Philippine Convention Center, and even parts of the Golden Shell Pavilion.
The Golden Shell Award
Before Katha Awards, there was the Golden Shell Award which was given to small-scale manufacturers for excellence in design, product quality, and technical applications. Prizes included P25,000 and a plane ticket to an international design fair in any country.
One of the first awardees in 1983 was Shelmed Cottage Treasures, a 46-year-old company that is still active in manufacturing Bicol-made crafts and woven fabric for décor and fashion.
Another recipient of the 1983 Golden Shell Award was Narda Capuyan of Benguet for her efforts in reviving the then-dying craft of weaving Cordillera ikat. Since then, Narda’s has become one of the most successful exporters of handwoven fabric.
Among the first 12 Golden Shell awardees was designer Mario Katigbak, who created shoes under the MARO label using local luxury materials like fossilized shells and Ikat fabric. He went on to become a consultant and general manager for luxury brands such as Tiffany & Co. and Hermes.
Visitors and buyers would likewise make a beeline for the furniture exhibits to see the latest design trends, and also check out how the booths were styled. “The furniture and furnishings category was always the most exciting part of the fair,” recalled Ilusorio.
Fame’s current theme of “Heritage: Reimagined” encourages designers and manufacturers to delve into their archives to rework or find inspiration from their old designs.
The show’s archives revealed products and furniture from 1983 to 1987 that were timeless in material and form, along with some fashion accessories and clothing with styles that appear on-trend more than 30 years later.
The 70th edition unleashed the most iconic and forward-looking pieces from its collection and infused them with the vision of the new—creating an exciting amalgamation that honored a legacy of design excellence.