When he stopped designing menswear in 2016, Anthony Nocom was arguably the only menswear designer in the country with a namesake label that had lasted for nearly three decades. He has since focused on SM Woman’s lingerie and resort wear.
Conscious about men’s need for comfortable dressing, Nocom produced men’s clothes that didn’t cling to the body. Nor did he embellish them with fussy details.
Perhaps it’s the practicality of the Virgo in him that defines his signature style—functional, relaxed yet tasteful.
Nocom recently went back to menswear because Philippine Fashion Week was paying tribute to his 30-year career.
For the show, he presented the sporty look of unstructured jackets in shorter lengths, denim wear, and high-waisted “carrot pants” or loose legs that tapered toward the ankles.
His favorite color, blue, was the dominant palette.
After graduating from Xavier School, Nocom studied at the Philippine School of Interior Design. His love for fashion landed him a job as an interior designer at ShoeMart in 1981.
Seeing his eye for detail and refined aesthetics, Teresita Sy Coson, the head of merchandising, promoted him to buyer/ merchandiser of menswear.
After four years, Nocom, along with the now late Bubum Melgar and Carlos “Caloy” Badidoy, were promoted to design menswear for the store brands at the Boutique Square, the section devoted to local designers.
But Melgar and Badidoy had their own womenswear to attend, leaving Nocom to deal with the men’s suppliers and manufacturers.
In 1989, Badidoy headlined a fashion show at Manila Hotel. He asked Nocom to create menswear to complement his women’s collection.
Male models strutted in Nocom’s cotton-knit shirts for casual wear and long-sleeved printed shirts and loose pants for dressy occasions.
Coson then decided that Nocom was ripe to have his own label at SM such that he became the pioneer in local men’s RTW.
Nocom introduced separates, casual and dress shirts and fully lined suits. He chose the finest local cottons and polyester blends since he knew men didn’t like creases.
Working with manufacturers, he had more access to fabrics that were not found in other RTW brands. Nocom favored safe shades of neutrals aside from his favorite blue.
Toward the latter part of his career, he introduced bold reds, light yellows and pink.
Nocom attributes his success to pricing.
“ShoeMart has always believed in good value,” he said. “My polo shirts cost P499 while the long-sleeved shirts were P799 back then. The polyester blend suits cost less than P2,000.”
But he also learned from Coson that although pricing is a priority, the product should still be ahead of the curve and entice the customer.
Nocom says designs should be uncomplicated for manufacturers to avoid delays in production and store deliveries.
But while his styles have always been clean, they are never boring because of his choice of fabrics and unexpected details.
At the start of his career, the men’s market was conservative. When he phased out pleat-front pants, men were still looking for those styles.
“Now they’re making a comeback,” says the designer.
“Men are fussy about details,” he adds. They want the seams of their stripes to be perfectly aligned and dislike creases around the crotch, he explains.
“I don’t make barong Tagalog and leather jackets because I don’t wear them.”
However, he would play with details such as turning stripes into chevron patterns or adorning the placket with contrast piping. He would play with the proportions of the lapels and jacket lengths.
Nocom said his designs are never too trendy or experimental. “Those won’t move,” he says.
He observed that men are late adaptors. Before they try on a new style, they’ll see if their friends are already wearing it. “If men like a certain style, they’ll buy a lot of it in different colors.”
But Nocom says he had grown somewhat weary of menswear, so Coson assigned him to handle the fashion and merchandising for SM Woman Sleepwear and the seasonal bridal lingerie.
“We’ve cut down on dusters,” he says. “Pajamas and camisole tops and shorts sell very well. Women love the sexy items for the bridal lingerie. We sell a lot of nice robes which they wear for the wedding photo shoot.”
He also designs cover-ups, tunics, kaftans, pull-on pants, and mesh coordinates for the Coco Cabana resort collection.
When SM partnered with Philippine Fashion Week, Nocom collaborated with stylists. Coson was impressed with how Nocom showed SM’s range of styles from casuals to formals.
Nocom says if he’d make a comeback in men’s fashion, his eponymous label would be more sophisticated and sold only at select SM stores.—CONTRIBUTED