In the designer’s newest venture Casa Selma, each furniture piece is a means to help others.
Vito Selma, who has dabbled in different aspects of furniture design since 2006, has done much in his career.
He was creative director and later, head design director for Stonesets International Inc. before establishing his own brand named after himself. He enrolled at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco for a formal education in design, but soon moved to Italy to earn an MFA in Industrial Design at the Scuola Politecnica di Design in 2012.
During and even after his studies, he also attended workshops by the Campana Brothers, a Brazilian design team, and the Spanish Studio Cul De Sac, and connected with mentors like Debbie Palao, George Haast, and Raffaella Mangiarotti.
Though he is part of his family’s third generation in furniture-making, Selma has made a mark of his own in the field. In 2010, he won the Industrial Design Award in the 2010 DOST National Invention Contest for the Geo Table and Best Design for Material Innovation at the Cebu Next 2010 show for the Wrinkle Lamp. At the 2016 Philippines International Furniture Show, his Remini bookshelf, described as an architectural marvel, won for Best Contemporary Furniture Design, while his seemingly gravity-defying Nova lamps were awarded Best Home Accessory.
His work, characterized by natural, minimalist, yet complex, geometric-inspired designs, has been featured in international publications such as Elle Décor, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue Living Australia, Habitat South Africa, and Architectural Digest in Mexico.
Despite being accomplished, the Cebu-based designer is eager to do more, not just for himself, but also for communities near him.
“There comes a point in every designer’s career where they feel a sense of fulfilment,” he tells Lifestyle Asia. “I realized that I was nowhere near there yet.”
Enter Casa Selma, his most recent idea turned into reality.
A furniture and home accessories company, Casa Selma is home to a team of creatives closely involved in the entire design process—from factory to a client’s space—to develop and create pieces that “inject novelty into the familiar” that’s called home.
“For the longest time, [the brand] was just an idea,” Selma says. “It took a pandemic for it to actually happen—we were forced to pause, conceptualize, and create.”
Their main design principle: thoughtfulness.
Its first collection called Understated Tropical, for instance, exhibits this idea by drawing inspiration from the modesty of Filipino homes and tropical elements in the country. From seating to tables, and lighting fixtures to accessories, all 41 pieces reflect simple and familiar forms, while highlighting Filipino craftsmanship and its playful use of materials and techniques.
But it is also thoughtful in its mission for greater good.
“I realized that design is not just about creating beautiful things, but that through creating beautiful things, we can help others,” Selma says. “That’s where we, as designers and makers, can feel true fulfilment.”
Every piece in the first Casa Selma collection and all that will follow it, he says, are and will be created in partnership with a local community or NGO to make their efforts in designing and manufacturing a means to help people who need it the most.
“It was very important to us from the beginning for Casa Selma to not solely revolve around the designing and the furniture, but also the communities around us,” he adds. “It just so happened, too, that we were set to launch in June, which is Ocean Month, which is why we decided that for our first collection, five percent of our proceeds would go to our fishermen in Lapu-Lapu and in teaching them how to fish sustainably. Whenever a product is purchased from Casa Selma, it helps us help them.”
Making it happen
The brand’s first collection is on display at a pop-up at an Aruga Resort and Residences Mactan model unit in Power Plant Mall.
Styled as if it’s inside an actual home, the temporary exhibit provides a close look into some of the first collection’s pieces, as well as some from the Vito Selma brand, and offers an opportunity to see various weaves and finishes to choose from via a swatch display.
For an interactive experience, all Casa Selma pieces have tags with QR codes that lead to the website, so visitors can immediately shop for and customize pieces they want in their own homes.
Selma admits that it was quite a journey making Casa Selma happen.
“From faulty prototypes to difficult consultants to everything in between, we faced multitudes of challenges,” he says. “To be honest, the whole process of putting up the brand was a journey full of roadblocks and teaching moments.”
But for homes that look and feel cozier, for the team that learned through the process, and for the fisherfolk that Casa Selma has helped and will be helping, Selma says it is all worth it.
The Casa Selma pop-up at the Powerplant Mall is open until August 8, from 11 A.M. to 9 P.M.
Banner Photo from @VitoSelma on IG