Fashion

This Local Style Shop Is the Source for Ultra-Rare Vintage Bags and More

Whether it’s a tartan Ralph Lauren duffel or a piece from a more obscure brand, Vittore Vintage Arsenal is your go-to for timeless heritage goods.
IMAGE INSTAGRAM/VITTOREVINTAGEARSENAL
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If you're looking for a leather weekender or a briefcase that carries a certain history, then Vittore Vintage Arsenal may be your best bet. The shop, run by young menswear aficionados JP Centeno and Alec Delos Angeles, carries authentic and secondhand dry goods, all of which address timeless menswear needs.

“Most of the dry goods we carry over at Vittore are a mix of three essential menswear styles: sartorial or tailored clothing; Ivy, based on 1920s collegiate fashion in Ivy League schools; and workwear, wearable items originally designed for laborers that are comfortable and made to last,” JP shares.

JP and Alec share an affinity for the classic styles, an interest that was developed in college. The two founded local shoe brand El Marikeno, which offered loafers, brogues, and Chelsea boots crafted by local shoemakers in Marikina, in 2017. The success of their first venture led them to consider other menswear goods—storied vintage items with heritage and provenance from iconic names, such as Ralph Lauren and Yves Saint-Laurent, and niche labels that thrill local menswear circles.

Each item is carefully studied and then filtered according to reputation, authenticity, and the details that would ensure its quality even after time has passed. “We then acquire, refurbish, and maintain the pieces to fully retain their operative condition and achieve their optimum form,” JP adds. With the precision and meticulousness that goes into acquiring and priming each piece for sale, there is a certain sense of victory achieved when clients take home unique findsa quality that is reflected in the shop’s name.

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“‘Vittore’ is the Italian form of the Roman Latin ‘Victor,’ which translates as conqueror,” JP explains. “We were inspired by the Roman history of a single gladiator awarded by the emperor with a laurel crown after fighting against hundreds of warriors and winning the battle royale. Much like our arsenal, which boasts one of one pieces, it is like awarding each unique piece to our rightful client who raced first toward victory, a true conqueror today.”

Although a large portion of its business is conducted online, buyers can schedule trips to its private showroom in BGC, where they can view each item in the flesh—while following proper protocols.

Esquire Philippines spoke with JP on the character-filled pieces from Vittore, and why segunda mano is never a bad thing.

ESQUIRE PHILIPPINES: How has the pandemic affected your business? Has it influenced the pieces that consumers look for?

JP CENTENO: Pre-pandemic, the majority of the goods we carried leaned toward the dress-up and formal-type pieces. With the majority of the population unable to travel and go to work, we decided to switch to more versatile goods, like weekenders made from cotton, canvas, and nylon materials. In this way, clients will be able to pair these to almost any outfit and still stand out, even if it’s just a trip to the grocery. 

We shifted from what used to be our main service of personal curation and transitioned to servicing through our social media accounts and taking advantage of the huge traffic these platforms provide.

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Although classic office briefcases took a backseat, sales during the pandemic did not plummet, contrary to what we were expecting. We stayed true to our essence by being purveyors of authentic vintage menswear dry goods.

One advantage is that it allows us to safely disinfect the pieces, ensuring each piece is safe for our clients to take home.

ESQ: Many of your items are secondhand. To you, what is the value or appeal of a secondhand piece, especially in the items you carry?

JPC: There are two main considerations for secondhand pieces that give value and appeal.

One is history. It gives us a glimpse on how the primary owner valued the brand’s story and created his own story for the piece and presents the opportunity for the next owner to cherish the piece’s journey, before eventually being passed down again to a new owner. 

Second would be design. This gives us a view of how things were carefully and intricately made back then. How every piece was handmade by real people (not machines) who take pride in what they do and consider these pieces as works of art.

Every once in a while, we are able to acquire exotic goods that are on a greater level, above the essential styles. On occasions like these, we are ecstatic to share them with our beloved patrons.

ESQ: How would you describe the Vittore wearer?

JPC: A Vittore wearer is someone who clearly knows what he wants. Every Vittore wearer has a refined taste when it comes to their way of living, may it be in fashion, art, or business.

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He gives importance to the intrinsic value of each piece he is acquiring, knowing it’s more than just the functionality and beauty of the piece, but the history and story behind it. 

ESQ: What kind of clients do you usually get? What sorts of things do they look for in your pieces?

JPC: We wouldn’t say there’s a singular group of customers we get. Our clients consist of university students, lawyers, doctors, real estate agents, accountants, stockbrokers, art collectors, and even some A-listers. Name it, we service them. Majority of our clients go to us in search of bags and some for shoes, watches, garments, and other accessories.

Although they come from different backgrounds, they all share this fondness toward vintage, functional pieces with history to tell. Some look for pre-loved goods at a great price, while others search for rare collector’s items.

ESQ: Can you walk us through the selection and curation process. How do you source these items? How do you judge authenticity? And are there certain items that you are particularly on the lookout for?

JPC: The curation and acquisition process is crafty and requires a personal approach.

First, we examine its authenticity—validated from extensive experience from the acquisition of thousands of goods. We also ask our trusted local and international partners for verification. Since we are dealing with vintage pieces, standards and marks of authenticity have changed a great deal to what we know today. This gives more reason for us to educate ourselves and learn how to authenticate pieces that were made decades ago.

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Second is its brand, which entails thorough research on heritage so we can discern whether or not a piece is worthy to be included in our collection. The countries of origin the brands we carry come from the U.S., Europe, and Japan—brands that hail from countries known for superior craftsmanship and timeless products.

Lastly, we select universally appealing pieces, which are based on both our preferences and client requests.

ESQ: Each secondhand item will have some extent of wear and tear. How do you ensure the quality of each piece? What details in terms of construction and appearance are non-negotiable to you in determining whether an item is worthy of being offered to clients?

JPC: Understanding that secondhand pieces have already been used, we are specific and selective on the pieces we carry.

We consider heavy damages like cracked leather, broken piping, and torn base material as indications of an automatic refusal.

On the other hand, marks that make pieces vintage in the first place include patination on the leather, hairline scratches, and slightly tarnished hardware, all of which can be refurbished and restored by hand. We proceed with their acquisition.  

Some of our clients actually prefer their goods untouched, as they want that wear and tear as proof of its age and usage.

ESQ: What are some of the most memorable pieces that you acquired and sold? 

JPC: The most memorable one was a vintage Polo Ralph Lauren Black Watch set. The set had four pieces: a duffel bag, briefcase, satchel, and a clutch. 

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This was actually an acquisition request from one of our clients who is really passionate about collecting tartan pieces specifically from Ralph Lauren. We worked tirelessly with our partners to make sure each piece adhered to our standards.

To be honest, finding all four pieces was one of the hardest searches we’ve ever made, but at the same time the most fulfilling. Tartan Ralph Lauren pieces in great condition are extremely scarce nowadays. And when we were able to complete the set, our client was over the moon.

ESQ: You’ve opened a private showroom in BGC. What experience can a customer expect upon visiting your space? And how do you manage this given the current pandemic situation?

JPC: The Vittore private showroom called The Bunker is located at Forbeswood Heights Condominium, BGC. The name was in reference to its context of a reinforced shelter for storing fuel typically for use in wartime.

Visiting The Bunker offers clients to see and hold exclusive dry goods that we have not publicly shared yet. It grants the utmost exclusivity and upper hand to bring home coveted pieces.

For Bunker visits, our clients book an appointment by sending us an Instagram message. Right before visiting, we require proof of vaccination and or the latest COVID-19 test to ensure our client and team’s safety. The bunker is disinfected before a client visits and after they leave.

@vittorevintagearsenal on Instagram

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