Sabrina Uy marvels at how the children’s wear market has changed since she started Gingersnaps in 1993. Many of the girls and boys who grew up with her homegrown label are now parents themselves.
“We’re selling to a different mother now than we did when we started,” Uy says. “That part is fun.”
Gingersnaps quietly marked its 26th anniversary this year, and Uy says her new customer, the millennial mother—her tastes, her behavior as a customer—is a lot different from moms of her own Gen X generation.
“Even how you post on Instagram and all of those things, it has to talk to her. It has to be real to her and connect with her. That’s why if you compare our products to last year’s, the collection now is edgier and more fun,” Uy says, as she riffles through a rack of Gingersnaps’ Pre-Holiday 2019 collection at the brand’s Shangri-La Plaza Mall flagship.
Uy, who is Gingersnaps’ creative director, says what’s unchanging is how she designs for kids’ comfort even when the clothes are dressy.
Touches of whimsy
For the “Candytown” collection for preholiday—a retro nod to 1950s and ’60s sweet shops—girl tees are adorned with shiny reversible sequins that change color when the wearer fidgets and flips the ornamental disks.
“When you design for kids, it should be something they like and enjoy, so there’s a touch of whimsy all the time,” says Uy. “There’s playfulness to the clothes that you can dress up or style casually.”
For infants, it’s fundamental to use soft fabrics—anything that touches the skin is cotton, Uy says.
When the holidays roll in, Gingersnaps will go full-on “Orientalia” with Japanese kokeshi dolls—traditional carved wood toys—adorning the windows of its boutiques.
The theme is reflected in the details of the clothes for Holiday 2019—little embroideries of sakura flowers, gold fish, panda—a nod to kids’ love for all things kawaii (Japanese for cute).
Gingersnaps goes traditional with some frillier dresses for Christmas since the Philippine market “understands that on Christmas Eve, you dress your best. It’s a show of respect,” notes Uy. There are also festive red dresses for little girls, since customers always ask for them at this time of year.
For young misses who aren’t fond of wearing dresses, Uy and her team created options as compromises between mom and daughter—say, pink denim pants paired with pink ruffled tee and styled with a skinny belt. Or, a pink denim jacket over a guipure lace dress.
There are sporty details in Lurex on T-shirt collars and the waistbands of layered tulle skirts.
Little boys’ clothes sport the same Orientalia theme with sakura and gold fish motifs on tees and button-down shirts.
“It’s the little details that we love doing, even if they’re difficult,” Uy says as she points out the color contrasts of the buttons and threads of the boys’ shirts. “Boys’ wear is harder to make. Like menswear, you can’t go overboard but you also can’t not have any details.”
When Gingersnaps started, Uy didn’t even have kids of her own. Now her daughter and son are in their teens and could no longer wear the clothes she designs. Instead, they’re now giving her design inputs.
Gingersnaps has weathered the influx of many global brands, and has expanded to 37 boutiques and 18 store-in-stores nationwide.
Uy’s husband Jerry, president of the Gingersnaps company, Il Coniglio Bianco Corp., has steered the brand beyond Philippine shores. Gingersnaps now has some 70 franchise stores in Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
This year, the company also launched its online shop, gingersnaps.com.ph. Their brick-and-mortar stores continue to thrive “because you can’t beat that great store experience,” but they also want to respond to the needs of the ever-busier mom who has no time to go to the mall.
“I think we’ve been lucky that we’ve retained market share, if not grow it some more,” says its founder. “The influx of all the foreign brands was really a challenge for the local market. But we had the economies of scale, I guess, and we were at the right place at the right time. And we grew our export market. It allowed us to do a lot of things and be more experimental with the products. Otherwise we would be holding back. The Filipino market has been so kind to us. We’ve served generations of moms.”
The apparel retail business is continuous research and development, adds Uy. “It never stops. You have to be super open to how people buy. The consumer behavior has changed. The market is very diverse. The taste is a lot more sophisticated, because it’s really more global now. Also, because of the internet, you can’t stay stagnant. It’s not only the business model that has changed significantly, but also the products.”
She adds, “There are new players in the industry, so it’s very dynamic. The way we design and sell is so different from when we started. You can’t design one way. We embrace change. The imports take from our market, but they keep us on our toes. They push us to be better.”
She notes that Filipino creativity is what propels local brands forward. “That’s our competitive edge—we’ll make use of our resources however meager they are. We can make something even out of scrap fabrics.”
Since the beginning, Gingersnaps has been proudly Philippine-made. “There’s this renewed pride in Philippine-made, and millennial moms see that in Gingersnaps.”