A year ago, three design-loving friends Jules Veloso, Andrew Bercasio, and Enah Baba founded Itooh Homestyle (pronounced “ee-too,” from the Pinoy phrase “Ito, o!” meaning “That’s it!” ).
Knowing that the sale of home furniture is expected to reach $4.6 billion by 2020 and that people were shopping from home due to the pandemic, they created an online platform with a well-curated assortment of local and imported furniture that customers could easily add to Chariot.
“The pandemic has turned many Filipinos into digitized consumers,” notes Veloso. “There are now 40 million Filipinos transacting online, more than twice as many as three years ago. There is a growing internet penetration, an increase in cashless transactions and a growing demand for e-commerce. These are all signs that we are probably not returning to the old era of offline shopping. »
So Itooh initially partnered with 15 brands and made home shopping a convenient and seamless experience. To earn the trust of customers, they recruited a team of qualified interior design graduates to vet merchants and curate their pieces well.
More importantly, Itooh is a valuable resource for local handcrafted furniture. “We are committed to proudly supporting Filipino craftsmanship because we have a lot of great craftsmen here in the Philippines,” says Baba. “Right now, over 40% of our merchants are local, and we’re integrating more by partnering with CITEM and the Philippine Chamber of Furniture Industries.”
Itooh’s home categories include living, home office, home accents, dining, kitchen, outdoor, bed and bath, and kids, with the most popular being ” life”. “Filipinos must like to entertain a lot because everyone is looking for a sofa and an accent chair,” laughs Bercasio.
Two of Itooh’s local flagship brands, in particular, are Prizmic & Brill and Jed Yabut Furniture & Design.
Matthew Brill, an American from New York who came to the Philippines at the behest of his designer sister, stayed there for 36 years and is the creator of Pampanga-based Prizmic & Brill, making export-quality pieces from leather and of wood (currently mahogany is the most available, he says).
“Our two top-selling categories locally would be the office category – we have one office in particular that just simply sells better,” says Brill, “and bars. We saw a lot of bars, a lot of booze,” he laughs.
Bercasio says: “I’m super excited because every time I talk to our customers, they ask me if our parts (Prizmic & Brill) are imported from abroad, and they are handmade locally, because almost all of these pieces are actually made by Filipinos. who have been with him for more than three decades.
Jed Yabut’s eponymous brand was launched just two years ago, triggered by the pandemic. One of Manila FAME’s youngest members, Yabut had worked as an architect in Japan, where he earned an MBA from Waseda University, and in Singapore, where he landed a dream job, until the pandemic hits and everything collapses.
So, Yabut returned to the Philippines and took refuge at home until he felt the need to be creative and pivot after a few months. He started designing furniture until he had 24 models and sought out Filipino craftsmen who could execute them. In Nueva Ecija, he found a workshop specializing in rattan, and Yabut lived there for four months, learning the trade from the artisans themselves.
Thus, Jed Yabut Furniture & Design specializes in rattan and wooden pieces. “The bestsellers from my own shop and from Itooh are also for life: the Kweba mirror, the Alon chair – the No. 1 chair I produced – and also the Bunot side tables and the Kapa lamp “, he says. “Wood products are currently in high demand; many people order buffet tables.
Yabut opened its own showroom in Taguig yesterday, and viewings are by appointment only.
And now the art
Now known as ShopItooh, the three friends plan to launch an art category in the fourth quarter of this year, led by Bercasio in collaboration with a Filipino curator based in Singapore.
“If you go to Taytay, you’ll see a lot of artists who don’t have platforms or gallery representation, but are doing really interesting modern pieces,” he notes. “So the lens is really exclusively for artists from all over the Philippines. Instead of going to a department store and buying a print for 50,000 pesos from China, you get an artwork for 10 000 pesos and it is a unique and unique piece made by a Filipino.
ShopItooh also offers design consulting services in collaboration with Grupo Santamaria and other interior design companies. “We want to make it more accessible and something that Filipinos wouldn’t be intimidated to get,” Baba says. “Filipinos think home decorating is expensive, but in reality, you can save more if your space is well organized and the rooms make sense.”
A year later, ShopItooh has 69 shopping partner merchants and represents 104 brands. Their site, which features nine home styles, ranging from minimalist and eclectic to industrial, receives an average of 3,500 daily visits. “We want to make sure you find a piece that you love, based on your style,” says Baba.
They have also branched out into the second-hand furniture, upholstery market and, with the knowledge they have acquired over the past year, want to create their own line of furniture.
Together with their partners, ShopItooh has supplied hotels, resorts, restaurants, corporate offices and responded to direct inquiries from foreign companies, especially in Europe. They recently filled an order for a container full of Filipino furniture to be shipped to this continent.
“Our goal is to make sure we elevate and spotlight local furniture makers,” say Veloso, Baba and Bercasio. “Our vision is to bring the talent of Filipino artisans to the world.”
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Visit https://shopitooh.com for details.
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