While many mass fashion retailers are reporting less-than-stellar sales, with some of them even shuttering their brick-and-mortar stores, Filipino artisanal brands are reporting the exact opposite.
Marga Nograles, the woman behind the Kaayo Modern Mindanao brand, which she founded almost three years ago, has opened pop-up boutiques in two major malls.
After her successful stint at SM Aura in mid-2019, she was invited by Ayala Malls to open in Greenbelt, Makati, where she hopes to keep her brand for up to a year.
“It’s all unexpected. I didn’t plan these,” says Nograles, who was invited by SM Aura to do a pop-up boutique in July.
She hesitated because she knew how prohibitive mall space rentals could be. Up to that point, she was selling only in artisan bazaars and promoting her brand on Instagram and Facebook.
“But SM was so supportive and it worked so well. When it ended, I thought we were going back to just Instagram, but Ayala called and it was good timing.”
Fashion designer Randy Ortiz reports similar success with his soon-to-end pop-up boutique at SM Aura. But unlike Nograles, he planned it.
When he celebrated his 30th year in the business in 2018, Ortiz vowed to focus on pop-up retail, which he found quite lucrative. At SM, he’s showing contemporary wear for men and women from his studio, as well as shoes, bags and metalwork accessories in collaboration with local craftsmen. The pop-up ends February.
While the terno is on its way to mainstream popularity, with designers turning it into contemporary wear, Ortiz refuses to make the terno off-the-rack.
He maintains that the terno should remain couture. “It should stay that way. It’s something special. I don’t want my made-to-order clients to feel like it has become so common you can buy it at a pop-up.”
Beside, Ortiz adds, “How can I compete with Bench?” referring to the homegrown fashion brand’s limited-edition take on the terno for streetwear. Made of denim and meant for everyday wear, it has been selling well.
Ortiz’s take on Filipino fashion—which uses his bespoke embroidery and patterns, the Mindanao malong and inaul—is what he sells in bazaars like Katutubo and MaArte, to distinguish it from his contemporary designs at SM Aura pop-up.
Nograles herself has expanded her offerings. She started with beaded jackets and scarves to give livelihood to the T’boli tribe in Davao.
In the beginning, the stylish congressman’s wife served as her merchandise’s own model, and friends started to take notice.
Now Nograles works with several weaving communities to expand her contemporary wear line using indigenous fabrics and ornamentation.
With the growing interest in local weaves, and more communities working with social enterprises, it is now becoming a challenge for weavers to meet deadlines for supply.
But Nograles sees it as a happy problem. “They have expressed their fear to me. What if the market grows tired? But I don’t see that happening anytime soon. It has been very encouraging. My goal really is to make this a sustainable enterprise.”