Living Innovations owner Ferdie Ong talks about his business and furniture design trends in the Philippines.

Business is flourishing and expansion plans are underway for Living Innovations. Yet its general manager, Ferdie Ong, remains unfazed and grounded. “I had some trouble in the beginning,” he reflects. “I was a young man—too young, even—from the Philippines, so no one was really keen on talking to me.” But the tables have turned. His hard work has reaped favourable results, and Ong is now at the helm of one of the most successful furniture businesses in the country.

The first brands he acquired were Bulthaup, a German kitchen manufacturer, and Minotti, a furniture company. Research told them that Bulthaup was the best when it came to kitchenware, so the next step was to find a connection. During a meeting with the regional operations manager in Japan, Ong was asked, “Ferdie, are you okay with losing money for the first two years?” His father, who had gone to accompany him, said yes straight away. It was a done deal. 

They chanced upon Minotti at Salone, the Milan Furniture Fair, in 2002. At that time, Minotti was just in its infancy stage, so there was an opportunity for Living Innovations to grow together with them.

PHILIPPINE TATLER: How do you choose your brands? 

FERDIE ONG: First, I have to like what the brand has to offer—it has to appeal to my personal taste. Second, it has to be marketable, with the potential to become mainstream or simply to appeal to the customers.

PT: What is your customer profile?

FO: There are people who want the trendiest, most unique things—things that others are likely not to own. There are also people who just want to own the best, most comfortable pieces.

PT: What sets Living Innovations apart from its competitors? 

FO: We are a one-stop shopwe provide both the products and the service to our customers. Our ultimate goal is to provide customers with everything that they could possibly need to create a beautiful home. 

PT: What is your marketing strategy for the Philippine market?

FO: Here in the Philippines, you can’t be too advanced. In terms of furniture design trends, we adapt a little bit slower than Europe or the United States. I usually allow six months to pass before bringing a new trend to the country.

PT: How often do you travel in search of good ideas or sources of inspiration? 

FO: Quite a lot. I attend the Salone every year and go on a few personal side trips to check out what’s going on in the design scene. 

PT: What do you make of the current design situation in the Philippines? 

FO: We have evolved quickly. In the last three to four years, more international brands have significantly entered the country, and standards have risen. Our personal style has also become more and more distinct, and this is mainly due to how innovative we have become. 

PT: What design trend is in right now?

FO: We’ve gone back to more opulent eras. Think ’60s or ’70s. Both wood and velvet are popular, and so are modern, organic shapes. Zen-inspired designs and clean lines have just taken a backseat to the fusion of the modern and the antique.

PT: What’s the future like? 

FO: I expect more foreign brands to come in and more local brands to innovate. We will eventually become capable of setting our own design standards in the future.