It started with a bit of mischief—just as all memorable things do.
It’s 1985 and Cyprus-born Yiouri Agousti was then a design student at the Architectural Association in London who indulged in smoking with his fellow classmates in the courtyard in between lectures by Zaha Hadid and Issey Miyake. He had a crush on a senior designer who worked at the John Stefanidis studio where he was interning at.
“My friend encouraged me to ask her to come to this party I was going to,” He explains. “I said, ‘I can’t. She’s my boss!’”
Despite the slight obstacle, fate would work its way. Yiouri and the woman, Ria Macasaet, became romantically involved.
“When I met her parents, they were partaking in an auction at Sotheby’s in London. I wasn’t some guy in the pinstripe suit,” he says while laughing. “My hair was messy, and I was more of a rock and roll type.” But despite the aesthetic differences, Ria and Yiouri found a common thread: an unwavering desire to create beautiful objects.
Growing up in the Philippines, she watched as her mother painted. Her mother owned an antique store where Ria and her four siblings spent a generous amount of time.
“I learned about art and architecture from my mother and I noticed the brutalist architecture in Manila, which I thought was fabulous,” she says.
Ria studied at Marymount College in Manhattan where American artists caught her eye. Eventually, she moved to London where she would work with interior design legend Robin Guild. “He was really a mentor, and I got to experience his skill in design firsthand,” she says. “He had such a good eye for beauty.”
When Ria introduced Yiouri to the Philippines, their connection grew deeper. They shared an appreciation for the natural materials, local artisans, and sheer creativity woven throughout the country. They embarked on a design business, R+Y Augousti, in 1989 as a husband and wife duo.
Based in both Paris and the Philippines, they forged a name for themselves in the world of interiors and rose to quick success. Their first collection, Atlantis, was inspired by the famed lost city where sea creatures manifested themselves into mirrors, tables, and trays. According to the pair, they were each “shocked” to see the immensely positive reaction.
Aesthetically, R+Y Augousti is best described as a combination of a strong 1930s art deco presence in sculptural, warped metals. But their secret weapon? Shagreen.
This exotic leather made from rays is the most prominent material found in their work. Tables are supported by bronze-patina brass sculpted in a way that is reminiscent of tree branches. Trays are crafted with inlays of various materials such as brass, shagreen, and shellfish. Their Sylvie Chair, one of their earliest creations, is rooted in a curved seat fully made out of shagreen. It is a marriage of art and design.
When they first launched, institutions such as Bergdorfs, Barney’s, and Paris’ famed Hotel Crillon instantly fell in love with the duo’s work. “They appreciated the fact that we were using artisans and materials from the Philippines, our home country,” Ria says.
She says that she wouldn’t want to do it in any other country, and she is proud that their products are crafted in the Philippines.
“I have no shyness or shame in saying that,” she says. “The Philippines is often associated with wicker and rattan, but there’s so much more. And the artisans that we’ve worked with, many of them have been with us from the start. They pass these techniques to their children or their nephews and that is something we are proud of. They are family to us.”
When Kifu Augousti, their daughter, told them that she wanted to play a role in their business, the duo couldn’t help but react in absolute delight. “It was one of the happiest days in our lives,” Yiouri says. “We never forced her to. She came to us.”
Her line, Kifu Paris, which specializes in doorknobs, handles, decorative boxes, and other home accessories, often references her history in fashion: from working with Glenda Bailey at Harper’s Bazaar to Bulgari High Jewelry while studying at Sarah Lawrence in New York.
“I love design because it’s a bit different from fashion today,” Kifu says. “It’s not seasonal and I’m constantly designing and thinking creatively. Like any great fashion designer, there isn’t a season attached to what’s created and this is how I think about our brand, too. They’re completely versatile and can be interpreted in many different ways depending on the home or room they’re placed in.”
Kifu launched her brand at the tender age of 20, after her then-boyfriend, now husband, the Danish-born Patrick Coard, surprised her by buying the business’s domain. He, too, was heavily involved in the creative space having worked on sculptures for installations here and there.
Now a part of the family business, he weaves his background through the brand’s sculptural candles and accessories. “I am definitely the more wild one in the family,” he says laughing. “I’m unpredictable in a good way, I think. I work with a very organic flow and free process. Sort of like playing Jazz where you cannot be interrupted.”
Kifu says they can be very chaotic because they are all strong characters. “We aren’t one box kind of people,” she explains. “We share responsibilities, and we have different opinions. But it’s amazing to work with my family because there is nobody you can trust more.”
These sentiments are reflected in the designs. You’ll notice Ria and Yiouri’s art deco signature pairs well with Kifu’s youthful, modern take while Patrick’s sculptural touch only emphasizes it even more. “When Kifu and Patrick joined us, I felt that our universe was complete,” Ria says.
Now, a nine-month-old that goes by the name of River wields the power to expand the Augousti universe. One of their latest collections was inspired by River and includes an impressive bronze baby crib.
Will baby River carry the torch just as her parents Kifu and Patrick have? The couple says that they are doing a lot to stimulate her creativity, and that River is often painting and playing with colors.
While it might be too early to tell what path the child will take, design, taste, and heritage is in her blood. And the Augousti brand, in one way or another, will always be a family affair.
This story originally appeared on Vogue Philippines September 2022 Issue