What’s in our closet, and why we need to be mindful of our shopping

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hand-me-down sweater, shoes from a balikbayan box, and Terranova tights

Any fashionista out there knows how the Philippines is becoming a big market for global fashion brands.

EDSA alone is a window to power brands that are competing in the apparel/accessories industry; a stroll in Greenbelt, Bonifacio High Street, or malls takes a shopper to a survey of fashion giants from the luxury end–LV, Prada, Hermes, Chanel–to fast fashion retailers–Uniqlo, Forever 21, Cotton On, H&M–and new imports–American Eagle Outfitters, Aeropostale, Urban Outfitters.

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Local brand dress and necklace.

Fashion bloggers proudly wear these brands, and Filipinos who have spending powers waste no time in checking out the latest collection (never mind if it’s the Fall Collection, even if the Philippines has no Autumn). What the fashionistas need to know, however, is that the rise of foreign brands comes at the expense of their local counterparts such as Penshoppe, Bayo, folded & hung, and Freeway. In fact, retail sales of local fashion brands dropped by 50% in 2014 first quarter. If you take a look at the foreign brands in malls, their stores are enormous and right on the center of foot traffic, while local brands are sent somewhere to higher floors or distant corners where traffic is low. A clarification: I do have dresses from Forever 21, a hand-me-down Christian Dior office polo, Cotton On blazer, Uniqlo knee-high socks, etc. I won’t be a hypocrite and say let’s ditch them all foreign brands. I’m all for wearing beautiful dresses and laces, brooches and earrings, hats–oh adorable hats, pretty shoes and pink shades of lipstick–but knowing a little more about how the fashion industry operates may inform our shopping judgments. For instance, perhaps it’s a good practice especially for those with mighty purchasing powers to put a balance in their shopping carts: try the local brands; support budding designers; take a chance on Filipino retail brands.  Currently, my favorite and best find (because skirts are 99 pesos only) is Revolution 9, which has a tiny store in Glorietta.

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Polka dot mint green mini dress from F21 and long white skirt from the aparador

To answer my title, what’s in my closet: I don’t have many clothes. I just mix and match, like putting a vintage skirt over a cocktail tube dress, or a circle skirt with a serious looking long-sleeve polo, or a black suit over a bright, colorful sleeveless top (I have a couple of suits because of conferences in previous work, and a couple of cute sando and tees from Divisoria and small department stores). My mother likes to give me dresses and tops that do not blend well with my taste so I’ve learned how to play with them and experiment how to make them me (like this polka dot top). The rest of my lovely dresses are from Mike, Mike’s sister, thrift shops, and flea markets.

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Zen at home in Laguna
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A simple, cheap hat can make a difference (La Mesa Eco Park).

Over the years, I’ve given away many dresses and tops and skirts and shorts to my cousins and friends of my mother because my body has developed–a gentle way of saying that I’ve put on some weight and volume. From the basic tees and dresses I wore in college to summer dresses and teacher outfit I wore in the University, my clothing has shifted and expanded to include blazers, cardigans, pencil skirts, leggings, sports bra, mini skirts, micro mini skirts, and a few dresses. My favorites are those with deep pockets, like my blue robe-style dress and a black lacey hourglass mini. I’ve also taken a liking to plain white tops, none of them branded with big names, as I challenge myself to support local designers and fashion retailers, without letting go of my personal style.

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treebranch Car shot: white top from People Are People. Camp John Hay: colorful dress with pockets from Baguio ukay
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Hidden Mickey
Hidden Mickey
7 years ago

The thing is, a lot of these so-called “local” fashion brand at malls don’t really sell locally made products. They sell Chinese wholesale and knockoff designs. Suyen(Bench, Human, Kashieca), People are People, YRYS and Gozum etc. are guilty of this. I frequent Divisoria and I see similar stuff for a quarter of the price all the time. I feel no shame patronizing foreign brands just so these big local companies can up their game and try to win me back. By upping their game, I mean improving their brand image and curating products better. Examples of this done well is… Read more »


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