Fashion designer Priscilla Ong Shunmugam is now expanding her Suvarnabumi universe of homeware to include a new rattan furniture line. Following her Suvarnabumi tableware range, Ong is introducing 13 pieces of home decor items including dining chairs, flower pot stands, a dining table, trays and basketry.
Ong designed and drafted the line during lockdown in her office in London, and decided the production will be made in Malaysia, where the sturdy rattan is to be found of a higher grade compared to Indonesia.
In the hands of veteran craftsmen, the furniture line is crafted using Malaysia-harvested Rotan Manau, Rotan Mantang and Rotan Sega species with mixed mediums - batik and synthetic rattan from Indonesia, jacquard from China, indigenous Iban weave patterns.
"We tried our best to take a different path by ignoring the common references of rattan furniture and upping the design value and differentiation quotient in a way that feels instinctual to us. Most of our pieces had no template to build upon, meaning we had to draw from scratch and the craftsmen had to build from our drawings. We also introduced the use of foreign elements like fabrics and batik in particular, and challenged the craftsmen with technically demanding requests to merge materials and structures together in ways that hadn’t been attempted before," Ong shared.
"The other angle that mattered to us was rattan as a material. We spent some months try to understand the many strands of the full picture - the cultivation of rattan, the manufacturing challenges but also the social importance of rattan; the overriding importance of rattan to some of the most marginalised people of Southeast Asia. A combination of forest clearing, forest conversion to cash-crops and Western conservation ideals/practices are changing the industry on multiple levels, and it feels like we’re looking at both imminent biological and cultural loss. We felt that was potential for us to come in and contribute our design values to the industry," she added.
Prices start from S$179 for a hoop planter; S$599 for a dining chair; and S$1,499 for a room screen.