Get to Know Proudrace, the Cool Filipino Label Now Famous Worldwide
Today, more and more brands are defying labels and expectations to great success. Take the case of Proudrace, an independent, Filipino clothing brand founded by Pat Bondoc and Rik Rasos, that’s been making waves worldwide. In 2018, it earned a feature in Vogue Italia as part of its Vogue Talents list, which features emerging designers worldwide. A year earlier, the global streetwear website Highsnobiety also included Proudrace on its Under the Radar list.
There are urban sensibilities to Proudrace’s pieces, yet to fully define it as merely a streetwear brand doesn’t capture the whole picture. Instead, its founders refer to the label as a contemporary fashion brand, which shares influences with streetwear and is largely inspired by Manila’s underground scene.
So, streetwear or designer brand? “We’ve always been a contemporary fashion brand, but it’s always been hard to pinpoint something when you are disrupting what is a traditional concept of what a designer is in our country,” says Rasos. “We are trying to evolve every time, with a clear path of what our brand’s DNA is.”
Esquire caught up with Proudrace to learn more about the Manila-based brand that’s been capturing the global scene with its distinct identity and aesthetic.
ESQUIRE PHILIPPINES: Since starting your brand in 2009, what has changed in terms of growth and creative direction? What has remained the same?
PROUDRACE: In 2009, when we started the label it was really more of a hobby with no specific direction of where we wanted take it. We just wanted to make clothes for ourselves that we couldn’t find in stores. And then we relaunched the label around 2012 with a clear direction and a collection that we felt like defined what we were as a brand. I always say that we are a constant work in progress.
EP: How would you describe Proudrace’s design philosophy now?
PR: Growing up in the Philippines, it’s always been a melting pot of different cultures. But we have always been inspired by the underground scene here Manila. It’s still about working up a full wardrobe based on existing silhouettes and re-working it into a new context. We still like to play with oversized proportions and offbeat references.
Pretty much our whole design philosophy remained the same. We are just more conscious now with what we are making and also transitioning into a more sustainable production. We still believe in a traditional way of creating clothing with our local artisans to produce forward-thinking collections globally.
EP: You were featured in Vogue Italia and Highsnobiety. Were you aware of the features beforehand? What was that like?
PR: Yes, both publications scouted around for us to be on their list. Vogue interviewed us and monitored the activity of the label, and then we got the news that we were part of the Vogue Talents lists maybe a month before it came out. It is really exciting for us because for the longest time we were put in a box of being a streetwear label. Being in Vogue was a validation.
Our label does have street sensibilities but they does not define who we are. Highsnobiety also interviewed us to be part of its Under The Radar list, and it’s amazing because we are the first Filipino brand based in the Philippines to get on it.
"We don’t have to mask our heritage as something else. We can just be ourselves and there will be people who are ready and interested to listen to us."
EP: Was being a global brand always the goal from the beginning?
PR: I really can’t say that it was the brand’s goal. But I think starting to sell the label’s first collection in Singapore first made us realize that we can do it. We can go out there, compete, sell our clothes, and thrive as a Filipino brand rooted in Filipino inspirations.
We don’t have to mask our heritage as something else. We can just be ourselves and there will be people who are ready and interested to listen to us even if we are not from their country. So we just went with it.
EP: As one of the first brands to get on the local streetwear scene, how do you think the scene has grown or changed since?
PR: Well, to be honest, it was always hard for us to relate with the local streetwear scene because the real local streetwear scene here is more about graphic designed T-shirts. For me, when you talk about streetwear, what comes to mind is Team Manila and Daily Grind, the true pioneers of the local streetwear scene. In the local scene, I was definitely inspired by Cecile Zamora, Defect, and Havoc. It is a movement that is somewhere in between the fashion scene and the streetwear scene.
But looking at how all the new streetwear brands are evolving now, I think there’s a blurred line already and you can’t really define anymore the separation of streetwear and the designer fashion scene here in Manila. Everyone’s just exploring both territories. Maybe that’s a good thing? It can be confusing but the more the merrier right. We can all just share the market.
EP: Can you describe your design and production process? Is everything made locally?
PR: When the label started everything was sourced locally. All the fabrics were from Manila and produced in Manila. I think the only difference now is we are exploring sourcing, from different countries, some of our materials like our leather and some fabrics for our outerwear. But we still continue to develop our main fabrics with local factories who partnered with us to create special blends that we need.
Right now, we are also trying to be sustainable by using fabric cuttings from factories and deadstock denim that we re-work for our denim line. But, of course, we are still producing everything with local artisans who are experts with their skills.
EP: You recently did a collaboration with Human late last year. How was that like? What inspired the concept for the collection?
PR: That was a great platform for us to reach out to a bigger market in a more realistic retail scenario. It’s a market that we are unfamiliar with, but it was a surprisingly easy transition.
We are very lucky to work with Human because it gave us complete creative freedom to create what we want. We were inspired to infuse both strengths of the label. Human’s always been about individuality and we got off from there. We based some of our pieces from old archived Human pieces, but deconstructed them with our more distinct styles.
EP: What influences your designs?
PR: Everyday people. Nostalgia, youth culture, and the Philippines in general. Nostalgia plays a big role in what inspires us. Growing up here in the Philippines, you won’t run out of inspirations from your past or present. Even the future excites us. It’s really finding something interesting in the most off-beat things that you encounter every day. Referencing the Filipinos and Filipino fashion is the best inspiration anyone can ask for.