From day-one believer of the local market to global pioneer in fashion furniture

There was a good full hour before the fine-dining lunch crowd filled the tables of this swanky BGC restaurant when Ferdie Ong walked in. Sharp in a navy blue suit, the founder of luxury furniture company Living Innovations breezed through the doors looking calm and collected, with one hand pocketed and the other out for firm, introductory handshakes.

It’s safe to assume that Ong has had his fair share of meeting new people, having traveled the world over in search for the next furniture brand to introduce to the Filipino market. This time, however, the agenda is to meet the press and talk about his group’s latest showroom, which is billed as their “most exquisite” to date for featuring a first-in-the-world execution.

Located at Shangri-La at The Fort is Sovrano, a 200-square meter space that houses in one display three premium Italian brands: Armani/Casa, Bottega Veneta and Fendi Casa. Never before and never anywhere have the luxury brands permanently shared a space prior to converging at the groundbreaking showroom in BGC.

The setup is a product of and a testament to the vision of Ong when he founded Living Innovations in 2002. He believed that he wasn’t alone in the country with a penchant for the “nice things.” Ong recognized limited furniture options for Manila’s discerning homeowners, and decided to bring in European brands.

He started with indoor and outdoor furniture from Minotti and Dedon, before dabbling into kitchen systems and appliances from Gaggenau and Bulthaup, and eventually to audiovisual toys for the big boys from Bang & Olufsen.

“We try to show to the Philippine market that, one, hindi tayo small time, that we can afford it; and, two, Filipinos can appreciate quality and understand it, as well,” Ong said.

The selection process on which brands to bring in personally depends on Ong. Having been in the industry for more than 17 years, he simply reflects if the brand represents him, or if it’s something that he can use in his home.

“Of course, there are things that I liked so much but the market is not ready for,” he said. “So, I’ve also learned over the years to be a little bit less avant-garde.”

Today, Ong said there’s more room to operate with the local market more mature, evident on “houses getting prettier and cars getting flashier.” It’s also the timing Ong has been waiting for to introduce a concept like Sovrano, together with the three brand it carries.

Armani/Casa, Bottega Veneta and Fendi Casa have all made names in the fashion furniture industry for seamlessly translating their brand of luxury on the runway onto home pieces. Each brand has premium offerings in terms of design and price tag, where a P5 million sofa is on a par for the course.

Armani/Casa features furniture pieces that define sophisticated comfort through simple lines and perfect proportions with elegant and refined finishes. Meanwhile, Italian high fashion brand Bottega Veneta is renowned for its use of leather and intricate intrecciato pattern. Lastly, Fendi Casa paved the way for the Roman fashion house to launch its line of furniture and home accessories, specifically upholstered furniture, with an elegant, sophisticated and timeless look.

Ong believes that luxury home pieces, including the three brands they carry at Sovrano, have replaced watches, cars and houses as the new status symbol.

“If you have a super nice house, you’d like to show it off,” he said. “And you can do it by just buying accents and accessories for the home, like a Bottega Veneta mirror or an Armani/Casa tissue holder that would immediately make your place look new.”

Despite the differences in the three brands’ philosophies, Ong assured their partners that each will stand out and work together at the same time at the Sovrano showroom.

There are more display spaces in the pipeline for Living Innovations, according to Ong. They want to cater to a wider audience by offering everything from lighting accessories to outside furniture and “everyday things that look very designer.”

“Now we’re tackling this super-niche, high-end brands, but I think a middle-upper will come somewhere along the line,” he said.

But in all of the planned and existing showrooms, Ong maintained that what is displayed are not merely pieces of furniture but a philosophy on how people should approach living spaces.

“There is,” he said, “art in furniture.”

Find the best collections from Fendi Casa, Bottega Veneta, and Armani/Casa.