Fashion

How 7 Very Cool Filipino Style Brands Evolved During the Pandemic

For the strange new rules of the stay-at-home life, local retail brands adopted a more relaxed vibe while staying in style. 
IMAGE Instagram/ sapateromanila, studiosampaguita
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As they say, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” These menswear and style brands squeezed their creative juices following the pandemic’s events to survive. From creating WFH-ready outfits to migrating to online platforms, here are the ways local retail outfits pivoted their offerings and services during the quarantine period.

Masanting Sastreria

 

Mark and Carin Aguas, the husband-and-wife duo behind suit specialist Masanting Sastreria, quietly launched Studio Sampaguita, a homegrown label that features tailored casuals with optimistic designs in local fabrics. Thanks to Masanting’s loyal following, Studio Sampaguita quickly became a hit among the stylish throng of WFH wearers who have traded their suits for seersucker shorts and linen shirts for Zoom calls. 

“Creating a tailored casual line was always part of the plan, even before the pandemic,” Carin shares. “Through the years, our wonderful clients had always encouraged us to make pieces that complimented the other parts of their wardrobe. We saw this as an exciting challenge and the pandemic gave us the opportunity to fast track that plan.” 

As for Masanting Sastreria, it still has its hands full with grooms’ suits, offering digital swatches and online fittings instead of in-person appointments.

Studio Sampaguita on Instagram. Masanting Sastreria on Facebook and Instagram

 

Fifth Code

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A post shared by FIFTH CODE (@fifthcode)

In 2010, creative director and designer Lorenz Namalata launched Fifth Code while in college and then grew the brand to become a source of made-to-order blazers for the country’s most popular teen stars. In 2019, the designer was ready to showcase his artistic growth and individual maturity with a relaunch—then the pandemic hit. 

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The downtime was good for inspiration as it led to “Tahanan,” a collection inspired by toile de Jouy prints and the country’s rural landscapes. “Fifth Code has grown as a brand. It’s still all about pieces that are unique and special, items that hopefully elevate one's look or lifestyle, but now I think we're also more about celebrating Filipino culture and [promoting] the values and principles behind each product,” Namalata says. 

He continues, “We don't like to produce something that's already been done without having our own say on it. We also had to make some pieces that appeal to a broader age range and are useful for people who work from home.” 

Fifth Code on Instagram or e-mail [email protected] 

Vittore Vintage Arsenal

 

 

Men with an affinity for vintage goods can get their fix at Vittore Vintage Arsenal, a purveyor of authentic carryalls, shoes, and other apparel like leather jackets. From personal curation services, the independent brand shifted to a mostly online setup during the pandemic. With people out of the office and events pared down to low-key affairs, Vittore also adjusted its offerings to more casual pieces. 

“Pre-pandemic, majority of the goods we carried leaned toward the dress-up and formal-type pieces. With most people unable to travel and go to work, we decided to switch to more versatile goods such as weekenders made from cotton, canvas, and nylon materials. Clients will be able to pair these with almost any outfit, even if it’s just a trip to the grocery,” explains Vittore Vintage partner JP Centeno. 

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Vittore Vintage Arsenal on Instagram

 

Tiño

 

Local haberdashery Tiño is still busy crafting bespoke pieces for a man’s most significant milestones. That said, the group recognized the need to realign its direction according to the current landscape. 

“Plans were already in place to shift the marketing and product mix so this process was sped up by necessity. The result of this shift is underway, with a focus on bespoke tailoring as our primary strength while complementing it with our made-to-order program,” says Bermon Magat, Tiño’s creative director. Aside from suits, the brand shifted to more casual, ready-to-wear pieces such as guayaberas and safari jackets.

Adds Magat, “Tailoring will always be relevant; it’s only a matter of making use of that skill to make garments that are relevant to people’s lives.” 

Tiño on Instagram and Facebook 

Leon Denim 

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A post shared by Le?on Denim (@leondenimph)

Adjusting to an online setup presented a learning curve for Leon Denim, but thanks to an active and faithful community of selvedge fans, the local denim label successfully transitioned online with new products and services such as a small collection for bike riders. 

“We got into biking during the pandemic and designed some shorts and bags that we can use. This fits into our theme of classic, vintage-inspired design and materials,” says founder Jake Antig. Leon Denim also branched out to more accessories as well as alteration services that stay true to its product’s integrity. 

Leon Denim on Instagram, Facebook, and leondenimph.com

 

Sapatero Manila

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Sapatero Manila, one of the first artisanal brands that pioneered the Marikina shoe revival, is known for merging local heritage with premium leathers sourced from Europe. Early in the quarantine, the brand temporarily closed its showroom in Ortigas. “The pandemic taught us to be much more creative when it comes to our social platforms. We had to think of ways to bridge that gap created by the pandemic between us and our clients,” says Sapatero marketing head Jim Pacifico. “[We maximized] our online presence in order to provide that same level of intimacy and service to them.” 

Sapatero continues to cater to its discerning clientele in the pandemic, launching the online series “Sapatero Saturdays,” a premium bespoke service dubbed “Linya de Ilustrado,” and new products such as lounge slippers and sneakers for the stylish WFH wearer. “These products are for the same people we have always served. [They’re] designed to fit their status and lifestyle, allowing them to continue moving toward each milestone in comfort and style even during times of more laid-back dress codes,” says Pacifico.

sapatero.com

 

13 Lucky Monkey

 

Local ring maker 13 Lucky Monkey has made a splash here and abroad, with its pieces sold at the Dover Street Market in Japan, as well as locations in Hong Kong and London. According to partner Dante Dizon, the group has been lucky to receive support from its local clientele, along with foreign buyers with the reopening of international markets. But the brand struggled to produce pieces because of the lack of raw material during the pandemic. “We had to adapt during the first few months because orders were coming in, but we didn’t have enough raw material since we couldn’t get any through,” he explains.  

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Still, the artisanal brand kept busy with other endeavors, such as a traveling exhibition at Dover Street Market’s locations in London, New York, and Los Angeles, featuring pieces by head sculptor Noli Coronado and jewelry designed by the team. It also mounted an art exhibit last November at Modeka Art.

As for creative projects, Dizon shares this about a skull with a smiley face in the eye: “It was inspired by a friend and in the times we live in. No matter how bleak the situation, always try to smile and things will work themselves out. The contrast of a skull with a golden smile is what I will remember during these times.” 

Lucky Monkey on Instagram or e-mail at [email protected].

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