Feature by Ticia Almazan, Billy Caluag, and Arnold Rillorta
Photos by Julia Carpio and Maiko Ng
Cubao, a district in Quezon City, seems to be asleep in the interests of present day Filipinos. To many, it may just be a stop on the LRT 2 or a place that is home to the Araneta Coliseum, but there is a life that is breathing and thriving in its very own Cubao Expo—and its lights have never been so bright.
Cubao Expo is an art and shopping hub that was prominent from the 1960s to the 1980s. Its selection of stores and restaurants had shoppers coming all year round, and today, it still has its staples that attract generations.However, with the creative minds and artistic hearts that have been converging in this two-road complex, a relatively new addition to the culture has been gaining traction: a fashion scene that is local, independent, and true. Heights explores the resident clothing brands of Cubao Expo that have created a culture that promotes and celebrates individuality, along with the pride, community, and passion that have driven these brands to become what they are now.
The Twelfth House
The Twelfth House solely comes from the personality of creator and designer Mikki Dela Rea. Each design embodies an aspect of who Dela Rea is. It is simple and honest—nothing less. The designs are minimalist in nature and they do not try to stand out, usually displaying one or two symbols that represent a million passions and a few words that merit a million stories.
“It’s me, it is an extension of myself,” said Dela Rea. As a child he frequented Cubao, and when he developed a creative and artistic vision it became a home. Dela Rea was exposed to the ropes of the business from being inspired by other brands,and he was able to immerse himself in the culture. In 2011 he established The Twelfth House, and in 2014 he gave the brand a home in Cubao Expo.
The brand defines the individual as reserved, yet furious—one who walks the earth shamelessly and true to one’s self.
Taking inspiration from the grit in Manila’s underground fashion scene, Proudrace showcases its sense of innovation through the deconstruction and reconstruction of garments in order to create pieces of oddity and beauty. Pat Bondoc and Rik Rasos, the brand’s founders, aim to inspire a new wave of streetwear and maybe even change the definition of it.
With Bondoc and Rasos being exposed to fashion powerhouse cities like Japan and New York, Proudrace is as influenced by the trends that sweep the international market as much as it is with what’s in vogue locally. Their 2012 Spring/Summer collection, “Working Class”, is an ode to the classic laborer silhouette. It is also disfigured by the experimental tailoring and oversized fit that are standard for international streetwear brands, like Balenciaga and Vetements.
The brand is a mirror for modern-day Filipinos, or at least who Proudrace thinks they should be—people who are not only rooted in Philippine culture, but who also ride the wave of globalization.
With no one in mind when designing their pieces, the brand aptly named “Nobody” is free of the reigns of traditional marketing strategies. Despite the owners’ blasé approach to customer satisfaction, the effort that comes from them is quite the opposite. It is in this nonchalance that gives the brand its charm: a fresh perspective on what inspires designers to make clothing.
“Nobody began in the gutters of Cubao Expo,” one of its owners shared. Now, the brand has put up a brick-and-mortar store that does not only house their own collections, but also pieces from other clothing brands that need help in being put out there. Without a doubt, its owners are driven by their artform, seeking not fame for themselves but for the resurgence of an appreciation for the anonymous and unknown.
In the streets of Cubao Expo bathed in dim light and faint music, Medisina Clothing fits perfectly. A clothing brand established in 2006 by bandmates TJ Brillantes and Reg Rubio of metal/hip-hop group Greyhoundz, Medisina advocates for timelessness and originality. Brillantes shares that Cubao Expo is home to Medisina because of its conduciveness to creative freedom and encouragement of unabashed individuality. The clothing designs vary, but are all inextricably intertwined by the drive to be one’s self despite the constraints of a society inclined to conform. Medisina—like Cubao Expo itself—remains a source of relief; as a catharsis for the restless souls.
The local fashion scene in the Philippines is still one that is cultivating, and it’s safe to say that Cubao Expo is the home base of choice of many independent labels. With these brands’ visions tethered on the basic notions of shattering societal conformity, it’s almost difficult to not take pride in the development of the local fashion industry here. Sartorial boundaries are constantly being challenged by the quiet minds of creators at work, going so far as to uphold virtues over earnings. Upon being asked what advice he would give to those aspiring to start their own brands, Medisina’s Brillantes said: “Don’t do it for the profit, do it for the culture.”
Perhaps as both consumers and creators of culture, our biggest responsibility lies not necessarily on making noise, but paying attention to these brands and the messages they strive to convey.