Like everything else, even Filipino fashion evolves.
I still remember during my younger years how kids and adults alike go gaga over foreign-branded threads such as Levi’s Jeans, Guess?, Adidas, Giordano, Esprit, United Colors of Benetton, Polo Ralph Lauren, Gap, Banana Republic, Tag Heuer, Tommy Hilfiger, Marithé + François Girbaud, and countless others. In those days, if you don’t wear them, you’re considered a pleb. It was as if locally made clothes are meant only for old-fashioned Manileños and the rural folk (called provincianos in a pejorative tone), especially for the downtrodden. Well, not all. Several stores in tourist spots have been offering locally made shirts and other fashion items for foreigners for the past several years. But that’s just it: those are meant only for tourists usually as souvenir items and not really for casual wear.
I still remember some relatives of mine who half-tucked their shirts to show the brand names of their expensive jeans. It was an appalling sight: the shirts were untucked in front, but tucked-in from behind for people to see the inverted triangle symbol of their Guess? jeans. An awful and hilarious scene, indeed!
And my basketball-fanatic childhood friends talked of Adidas and Reebok and Nike as if they were the only shoes in the world. (at hindí pa casama dian yung paguiguing fanático nilá sa mga original NBA jerseys). They didn’t even know that Mariquina is the footwear capital of the Philippines.
That is why many local brands, unable to compete with the more popular foreign branded shirts and clothes, were somehow forced to blatantly imitate foreign-made apparels just to stay above water. One can find many of these rip-offs in tiangues located in crowded places such as Baclaran, Greenhills, and Divisoria.
But before all this hilarity and “bragging rights” ever happened, I remember a time when Crispa T-shirts ruled the hearts and minds of Martial Law babies as well as New Wavers of the 1980s.
Some stories claim that Crispa was derived from the names of the said clothing line’s founders: Doña Crisanta and Don Pablo Floro. Sales of the plain and colored T-shirts were so huge that it even spawned one of the greatest PBA Teams in local basketball history: the legendary Crispa Redmanizers whose rivalry against the Robert-Jaworski-led Toyota Tamaraws is reminiscent of the NBA’s Los Ángeles Lakers – Boston Celtics rivalry.
But the popularity of Crispa shirts faded over the years. I never even had the chance to buy one. Yeyette gave me one of her Crispa shirts (a green one) when she was still my girlfriend. I used it only as pambahay because it was too small for me. But it was a queer feeling wearing one of the country’s most talked-about and legendary tees during a time when it was no longer vogue; the onslaught of stateside clothes did them in.
Too bad Crispa didn’t invoke a sense of nationalism which is heavily in fashion today. Many fashionistas and the local press call this phenomenon fashionalism, a combination of the words fashion and nationalism. But before fashionalism, there was already a local brand –in a sense a bit intrepid– who challenged the foreign giants: Pidro shirts, born in 1991. It’s owned and introduced by Danny Javier of the iconic musical group Apo Hiking Society. It was the first local clothing company which attempted to invoke a sense of nationalism and patriotism among Filipinos during the last decade of the 20th century. The name was very familiar because Javier kept on mentioning it in his group’s musical-variety show in ABS-CBN Channel 2 (Sa Linggo nAPO Sila). But it really didn’t become a household name. Guess?, Levi’s Jeans, Tommy Hilfiger and the rest of the overseas crew were still preferred by the masa although the prices of those branded clothes were notoriously high.
And then the Tommy Hilfiger controversy hit.
In late 1998, a shocking email made the rounds of the local internet scene:
Subject: FWD: Tommy Hilfiger hates us…
Did you see the recent Oprah Winfrey show on which Tommy Hilfiger was a guest? Oprah asked Hilfiger if his alleged statements about people of color were true – he’s been accused of saying things such as “If I had known that African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians would buy my clothes, I would not have made them so nice,” and “I wish those people would not buy my clothes – they were made for upper-class whites.” What did he say when Oprah asked him if he said these things? He said “Yes.” Oprah immediately asked Hilfiger to leave her show.
Now, let’s give Hilfiger what he’s asked for – let’s not buy his clothes. Boycott! Please – pass this message along.
Poor Tommy had a hard time warding off this nasty rumor. But it was too late: a lot of Filipinos believed the false email message maligning him. And here in the Philippines, the email was regarded as fact by a huge majority especially since the internet during that time was still considered young. That event somehow sparked a slight aversion against Hilfiger products as well as other high-class brand names.
Enter the 21st century. A slew of unprecedented events in the country followed during the latter half of this decade: airbrushed and personalized shirts, elevating prices, the stock market crash of 2008, the death of nationalist rapper FrancisM, and the passing of democracy icon President Corazón C. Aquino.
The proliferation of shops offering design-your-own tees were in vogue during the later years of the 20th century. They’re much cheaper, too. And since they can be customized, it was more endearing to shoppers instead of buying those which were already pre-designed and have been mass-produced. It was therefore an embarassing moment to come across a stranger wearing the exact same shirt while walking inside a mall!
Spoofs Limited shirts also created a rather short-lived craze. It parodied many foreign products on their shirts designs: Tag Hirap (an obvious parody of Tag Heuer), FedUp (a play on FedEx Corporation), Bolo (making fun of Polo Ralph Lauren), Hard Cock (for that boring music bar and restaurant), The Lord of Pranings (after the award-winning movie trilogy), and a host of others. A few years ago, Bench, a brand owned by a Chinese-Filipino, began experimenting on Pinoy-themed designs. They tried to break away from the foreign-flavored image which their shirts used to sport.
And then Team Manila and master rapper FrancisM’s respective apparels entered the local fashion scene just a couple of years back. They are actually considered as the pioneers of today’s so-called fashionalism phenomenon that is apparent in almost every nook and cranny in the country, as well as in other parts of the globe (thanks to OFWs and delighted foreigners who bring them there after vacationing in the country). Between the two, the FrancisM Clothing Co. stood out. It launched the 3 Stars & A Sun clothing brand (named in honor of the Philippine flag’s symbols). Formed in 2006, the FMCC sought to create products meant for the “urban patriot”, and the balicbayan. It instantly became a hit especially since it was FrancisM himself who promoted it. But sales of his products even became more popular right after his death last year. His previous songs –Mga Kababayan, Three Stars And A Sun, 1-800-Ninety-Six (1896), Kaleidoscope World, etc.– again ruled the airwaves. And this created a huge curiosity for his FMCC’s colorfully designed tees, caps, and other fashion items, most of which pertained to Philippine symbols such as the flag and José Rizal. Many even clamored that he be declared a National Artist for Music (he should be).
The nationalist fervor in fashion was even heightened when, a few months after FrancisM succumbed to leukemia, Tita Cory followed suit after a long battle with colon cancer. Millions of Filipinos were moved, and it ushered the come back of Cory Magic, bringing back her famed yellow color out in the streets and the laban hand sign. It also catapulted her son’s political future into the coming May elections.
The two consecutive deaths of these two Filipino icons further spurred fashionalism into sublimity. And because of this, Collezione C2’s My Pilipinas shirts have sold more than two million RTWs all over the country! The My Pilipinas design has the Philippine archipelago either embroidered or silk-screened onto the upper right side of the shirt. It was launched more than two years ago, but it can be observed that it became highly popular right after the passing of FrancisM and Tita Cory. Now, the My Pilipinas symbol is also available in sports shirts, shirt dresses, capri pants, and shorts. Even other unknown local brands imitate Collezione C2’s stroke of genius (the way they imitated foreign brands). In our office, we even gifted a French colleague who happily and proudly wore it with him back to his homeland!
And since Filipino fashion has become the in-thing, we now have “revolutionary” clothing companies that have relied more on Filipino stylistic changes and individualism. Clothing lines such as ARtwork CLothing and Y.R.Y.S. (Your Rules, Your Style) have captivated a young audience, ruling the distinct tastes of today’s fashion-sensitive youth. It offers funky and groovy clothing styles that has overturned individualism in style. Happy Days pays tribute to Filipino pop icons such as the late comedian René Requiestas, movie villain Paquito Díaz, the jeepney, and even former strongman Ferdinand Marcos! TV personality Tado also owns his own clothing company which has hilarious and funny quotes designed in front of every shirt: Di Bale Nang Tamad, Di naman pagod; Nag-Iisa Lang Ako (with his face printed on it); Mas mabuti nang magnakaw kaysa mamakla; etc.
Several days ago, Yeyette had a shirt customized with this single –and rather scary– word in front of it: SELOSA.
All these shirts come at a very cheap price, something which young Filipinos of yesteryears could not even flaunt as they are accustomed to being proud of overly priced shirts and denims.
Indeed, fashion tends to change from time to time. This fashionalism which currently rules the local fashion scene may not last for long, but it will certainly inspire more imaginative ideas from Filipino fashion designers who have finally realized that their foreign counterparts are not immortals.
Foreign branded shirts and jeans should now declare a state of calamity.