25 October 2016

How to run a Lifestyle Shop? These well-crafted Local Shops share their Thoughts


Running a local lifestyle store involves a lot of things—business acumen, street smarts, and talent. But in these days, people are starting to ask themselves what brands help define and add value to who they are. In a digital sea of hashtags against the tides of trends that come and go, where does the solid ground lie? What separates the best from the rest? What makes the cream of the crop? We’d like to believe that when it comes to lifestyle stores, the main differentiator is authenticity—staying true, being consistent in its vision—as these stores we’ve interviewed would like to believe as well. We’ve talked to people managing Signet (Menswear), Tenant (Beach and Surf Lifestyle), and Calle (Skate and Street Culture): stores that have made a name for themselves in the metro.

Interview by Lex Celera

Signet - GF3 Shangri-la at the Fort, 30th St., BGC, Taguig City


As the name suggests, Signet is an authority in local menswear that encapsulate the word “gentleman” in the fullest sense of the word. The lifestyle store is big on bespoke—clothes that are fit for the person and made to order. The manager of Signet, Kevin Yapjoco, who we talked to for this interview, also operates the local menswear blog Bespoke Man (bespokemanblog.com).

“We don't use models when we photograph our clothes; they are instead worn by the team.”

How would you describe your shop to someone who's never heard of it?
Signet is a one-stop shop for men. We carry a range of clothing from formal to casual, rugged to resort wear.

What influenced the start of the business?
The founders are inspired by men's stores and tailoring shops in other parts of the world. They want to bring the same experience to the Philippines and price the products accordingly. We try to also match the prices abroad and other stores worldwide. All of the owners have their own style and taste and each of them exudes a certain sense of style.

Can you share to us the brands/products that are available in your shop? How do you curate the selection?
We have over 50 brands in the store. That ranges from suits and jackets, footwear, shirts, umbrellas, braces, neckties, pocket squares, polo shirts, swim shorts, military jackets, Japanese jeans, umbrellas, walking sticks, cuff links, hats and caps, sneakers, and trousers.

We look for brands with a deep heritage, quality craftsmanship and a sense of style. We also want to know where they source their raw materials, who sews and makes the products and where they make it. We also need to talk to the owners of the brands that we carry, we need to know what their direction and emotion are for the brand they're handling. We need to know what kind of machine they use, what threads, how long for them to sew on the collar of a shirt or what kind of leather they use for a shoes' insole. We're looking for brands that make things the way they should be: without taking shortcuts or sacrificing quality.


What distinguishes you from your competitors?
Service. The team is stylish and knowledgeable about all the brands that we carry. We will recommend items based on your personal style and how you want to build your wardrobe. We teach customers how to care for items to prolong their lifespan so they can be enjoyed for a longer period of time.

Can you describe your ideal customer?
The Signet man is one who cares about heritage and craftsmanship. He chooses items that are stylish yet timeless. He dresses appropriately for the occasion. He wants something that cannot be dated. He is someone who isn't into fashion but style.

How much of a deal are trends when it comes to business?
We keep an eye on trends but we don't just blindly follow them. We have our own aesthetic and the brands we carry aren't very trendy either.

Other than your products, what are you focused on in the store that you think is also valuable?
What we'd like to do is bring back the quality of service, client knowledge and personalized service that is lacking from fast fashion and commercialized stores these days. You could say we are old souls.


How important is the product/brand mix of a lifestyle shop?
We try to minimize brands that might overlap with each other. One example is footwear. We carry many brands but each brand is specialized or geared for a certain market. Carmina Shoemaker is for those who are starting to build their wardrobe while Edward Green is for connoisseurs who want the best and are willing to pay more.

Do you think being authentic or keeping it real is necessary for keeping a business? In your opinion, what makes a shop/business authentic?
It's very important and necessary for us. We don't use models when we photograph our clothes; they are instead worn by the team. It's a way to keep it real, so to speak, and that you don't need to be a model to wear our clothes. Customers can meet the artisans we work with and we let our products speak for themselves.

Tenant - 9639 Kamagong St., San Antonio, Makati City



Located in Kamagong in Makati, Tenant is a relatively new lifestyle store that’s all about beach and surf culture. Tenant houses select menswear brands while also offering beverages and snacks as a café. The store was conceptualized by co-founders Anton Lopez, John Esguerra and Mike Te, who have experience in design and fashion after years of collaborations around the globe. We talked with Anton to share to us more about Tenant and his thoughts on lifestyle shops.

“You are who you sell” is I guess is one way to put it.

How would you describe your shop to someone who's never heard of it?
A premium surf and beach lifestyle concept shop and cafe in San Antonio Village. Great staff, good vibes and a relaxed environment.

What influenced you to start the business? How long have you been operating it?
My partners John, Mike and myself have been involved in the clothing industry for many years and have always wished to conceive a concept that was original and new to the Philippines. We felt the timing was right to launch our own brand. The Philippine market is growing so quickly, we wanted to contribute in some small way. We've been open since February 2016.

Can you share to us the brands/products that are available in your shop? How do you curate the selection?
We stock Engineered Garments, Saturdays, Quality Peoples, Mollusk, Hillside, RVCA, Apolis, Converse as well as a wide variety of design and lifestyle books and magazines and some great new brands that are exclusive to Tenant launching soon. We do our best to work with brands that reflect the values and culture we try to represent; premium quality and design, good vibes! We carry the same thoughtful thinking in our cafe which offers a selection of carefully curated sandwiches (custom made for Tenant from down to the freshly baked baguettes, croissants and ingredients, all are handmade) and pastries as well as great wine, beer and cocktails.


What distinguishes you from your competitors?
Well, above all, we're a new brand that's distinctly Filipino. Our brand was conceived, built and made in Manila and the brands we launch are rare to the local marketplace. Integrating Filipino culture into many aspects of the shop, cafe and brand are in motion and we will be sharing these plans and products very soon.

How much of a deal are trends when it comes to business?
We do our best to stock a balanced assortment of product that is in trend, but is at the same time seasonless. Trends and the intent of which the brands you stock choose to participate in trending design is always a tricky part of the retail landscape. It all comes down to trusting that your brand partners deliver product that moves beyond what is 'of the moment' and into products that are relevant past seasonal trends.

If you could go back to the past with what you know right now in handling your business, what advice would you give your past self?
Business is constantly changing. Our neighborhood is constantly changing. It's too soon to know. We are constantly learning and adjusting our selection to suit the local market. Our hope is that we continue to provide product that is uncommon to our customers.

What does the future look like for your store in the next few years? What are your upcoming projects?
We are launching our own collection in the near future. We will also continue to do our best to bring new and unique brands to the Philippines. We have every intention to grow the brand, but to maintain the integrity of embedding, supporting and contributing to new and exciting areas that step outside of the typical mall environment. And our online shop will be launching very soon.


How important is the product/brand mix of a lifestyle shop?
I think it's everything. It's a reflection of one’s taste, who you see your brand/shop sitting next to on a global level. “You are who you sell” is I guess is one way to put it.

Do you think being authentic or keeping it real is necessary for keeping a business? In your opinion, what makes a shop/business authentic?
Regardless of the type of business, I think you're either authentic to yourself or not. Some brands and shops choose to emulate known formulas and some choose to take risks and go on their own path. We can't say what's wrong or right, it's whatever you're after I think.. I can think of many local stores that are far more established than ours that follow the latter path and enjoy great success. However, our belief is that to truly contribute to the local and global dialogue of culture and design, a space needs to offer something new to the city they're in. Our shop and café, from design, to service to brand matrix all ads up to what we think is a reflection of what we believe is a genuine, personal and authentic experience that can only be experienced at Tenant.

Calle - #14 San Guillermo Ave., Brgy. Buting, Pasig City


Taking its name from the Spanish word for “street,” Calle is a skateshop with underground roots and a cult-like following of both old and young heads in the skating scene. Calle recently celebrated their 7th anniversary, and the brand is still going strong, recently launching their own brand of skate wheels, alongside their current stock of apparel and shoes. We caught up with founder and owner, Maylan to talk more about his shop. Featured photos are from the Calle blog.

“We curate the brands that we carry simply by knowing the history of that particular brand, its roots and influence and how it is relevant to the culture we have here. We always see to it that we can actually wear what we sell and not the other way around.”

What events do you hold? What are the most memorable?
We have "Battle at the Highstreet" at BGC Taguig (Game of Skate) and Pusakalye Alley Cat Race annually. Every year is remarkable.

Can you share to us the brands/products that are available in your shop? How do you curate the selection?
Currently we have Vans and Circa for footwear, Benny Gold, Chrome, FTC, God and Famous, Baker, Deathwish, ShakeJunt, Thunder, Venture, Spitfire, Independent, Justice, Symbolic, Black Knight, Psychos, HUF, Volume 4, Brklss, Deadways and Sack It, more will be added soon. We curate the brands that we carry simply by knowing the history of that particular brand, its roots and influence and how it is relevant to the culture we have here. We always see to it that we can actually wear what we sell and not the other way around.


What distinguishes you from your competitors?
We are not in it for the money.

If you could go back to the past with what you know right now in handling your business, what advice would you give your past self?
Don’t do it.

What does the future look like for your store in the next few years?
10 branches and a collab with Vetements.

How important is the product/brand mix of a lifestyle shop?
Surviving this for almost a decade really boils down to how you interact with your customers, and your knowledge with the volatile market specially with a lot of shops opening and mimicking what you are doing. It is really important to have brands that is relevant with the culture, not just because it is popular now it means it can still sell after 10 years.

Do you think being authentic or keeping it real is necessary for keeping a business? In your opinion, what makes a shop/business authentic?
With this kind of scene that we are into you can’t last being fake. Real recognizes real. Look for another market to dwell and hope for the best if you think you can fake it, so I guess keeping it real is a must by any means necessary.



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