On a recent lazy Saturday afternoon, Borgy Manotoc invited Lifestyle to the opening of his tailoring shop named William Lee in Legazpi Village, Makati.
The model and operator of several clubs in Makati explained that he’s been wanting to have a tailoring shop since he moved back to the Philippines from Singapore.
“I was thinking of opening even just an alterations kind of shop,” he said, pointing out that it was primarily for a personal reason. “I don’t really fit off-the-rack, my arms are too long. If I don’t have my clothes bespoke, it’s difficult.”
From a business view, the entrepreneur son of Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos and eldest grandchild of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos said, “I also noticed that there was a gap in the market. People go to local designers, but fashion designers are not necessarily tailors. On the other side, there’s the traditional tailoring shop, but I couldn’t find something for myself.”
Present at the opening of his shop was Manotoc’s business partner, Sono Advani, who came with his siblings and parents, former Indian nationals and now naturalized Filipinos.
Sono’s father, Shyam, told Lifestyle that he first came to the Philippines in the 1970s to study and eventually settled as a businessman in Baguio.
Manotoc said he and Advani are “not tailors ourselves but businessmen who want to offer something better for the local market. It’s difficult, unfortunately, that local tailors have been doing it for so long and they don’t have new artisans, or youthful craftsmen in the industry. It’s something that’s kinda passé already.”
His shop’s specialty is the two-piece suit, which will be made in Hong Kong from imported fabrics.
“In Hong Kong it’s a very lively industry,” said Manotoc. “There are young tailors, old tailors… I just want to bring a level of quality mixed with the value. There are tailors from Italy, Spain and France coming to the Philippines to make suits, but those types of tailors are not really accessible to all Filipinos. Some take six to nine months to make a suit and cost $3,000 to $5,000.”
At William Lee, Manotoc said a two-piece suit starts at P29,000. “We offer Italian soft fabrics in a place that’s approachable even for the younger market. What we want to bring to the table is structured tailoring and fabric for our weather. A lot of times, when you have suits made, you don’t know the weight of the fabric, the lining, the shoulder pads…
“We go through the whole process of meeting our clients to talk about their lifestyle, going into details, what is it they need the suit for. That’s a major service that can make a difference.”
How he chose the name William Lee is interesting in itself. “It was the initial pen name of William S. Burroughs when he wrote ‘Naked Lunch,’” said Manotoc.
Burroughs, an American writer, was closely identified with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac of the so-called Beat Generation of artists known for their unconventional approach to literature. William Lee is actually the lead character and alter-ego of Burroughs in “Naked Lunch.”
“I love the juxtaposition of tradition and counterculture in the name,” said Manotoc. “At the same time, in Hong Kong, there’s the British and Chinese heritage, so ‘William Lee’ works!”
William Lee also offers dress shirts at a specially discounted price of P7,000 for two pieces.
William Lee, 117 Aguirre St., Legazpi Village, Makati City; Call 5093815 and 09176305505.