Monday, August 29, 2005
Jeans Genius Gives Pinoys the Perfect Fit
Jeans Genius Gives Pinoys the Perfect Fit
First posted 11:17am (Mla time) Aug 28, 2005
By Blaise C. Gacoscos Inquirer
VIKTOR, a pricey local brand famous for custom-made jeans, has hit Manila—big time.
Showbiz royalty Aga Muhlach owns 22 pairs of Viktor jeans. TV personality Korina Sanchez is a convert, with 22 pairs. Sexy star Maui Taylor, an avid collector since the label was just new, has eight pairs. Actors Richard Gomez and John Estrada bought seven and six pairs, respectively. And banker Ding Pastrana is Viktor’s number one client with 40 pairs.
Viktor creator Victorino “Ino” Tablang Caluza, Jr., 27, explains why they’re snapping up his creations. “Viktor is not about having trendy or cutting-edge designs. It’s about fit. You can have it customized according to your body.”
This Saturday afternoon, I interview Ino in his Ortigas condominium. I’m interrupted by four separate knocks on the door. Two Chinese-looking teenagers with their friends show up for fitting. A young couple drops by to pick up their orders. A first-timer slips into her first Viktor jeans and says, “It’s nice!” A girl who accompanies her friend to the shop falls in love with Viktor pants adorned with Swarovski crystals, and ends up having her measurements taken.
“Being a jeans designer is about proper measurement, proper cut, proper density of fabric. You have to know all these,” says Ino. “When Korina ordered 22 pairs, for example, I had to have her fit every pair because each fabric, when cut, reacts differently to the body. Some fabrics are loose, others are tight. It’s the battle of the centimeters. My client will notice if I mistakenly adjusted half an inch in the crotch area.”
Interestingly, Ino got his start working on numbers of a different sort. A graduate of BS Mathematics, major in computer science, from the University of Sto. Tomas, Ino worked at The Fourth Dimension, Inc. as computer-aided design department manager for two years. “It was my first job. I molded my talent in graphic design there.” He still does graphic design today as creative consultant of Business Day, a fortnightly magazine published by Saffron Publishing, Inc.
In 1998, he worked overseas as art director of Stallion’s Records in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, designing CD covers, posters and promotional materials. His contract was up for renewal after two years, but he chose to be transferred to Dubai. “Basically, I got fed up in Saudi—no entertainment, no night clubs, no theater, no arts.” He worked in the UAE for two months until he decided to come home.
On the side and unknown to many, Ino is also an artist, and has had three exhibits: “Steel Life” at the Hiraya Gallery, another at a gallery in Antwerp, Belgium, and “Nature works” at the RCBC Plaza. Upon returning home, he had a couple more jobs doing graphic and magazine design, but not content with the work, he entertained thoughts of putting up his own business—one that would be both enjoyable and profitable.
One day, Ino, a rabid Diesel jeans fan with two dozen pairs to his name, splurged yet again on three Diesels. The purchase, costing a total of P12,000, made him stop and think. “I realized that I was spending too much money on jeans. I told myself then, ‘This will be my last purchase in this store. After this, I will make my own jeans.’”
The following day, he did his research on the Internet, carefully studied his pairs and gathered reactions from his fashionista friends on what they liked about their jeans. After close to three months, Ino arrived at this conclusion: People weren’t too conscious of the brand and style, nor were they concerned about the price. The important thing was that the jeans would fit them to a T.
With only P1,000 initial capital, he bought his favorite tela from Divisoria, went to a tailor who makes fake Levi’s and Calvin Kleins, and had his designs copied. He named his label “Viktor,” because the most successful brands all bear the designers’ names. He had to spell it “Viktor,” however, because “Victor” was already a registered brand. And finally, he designed the letter V in the logo to look like an inverted pair of pants.
During this time, he apprenticed under Eric Alviar, research and development head of Litton Mills, an export company that produces the fabric for Levi’s, Guess, Calvin Klein, Armani, Express Jeans and Girbaud. There he learned every aspect of fabric making, from weave to color to thickness.
In November 2003, he produced his first 25 jeans—all for men—and called them his alpha test prototypes. He avoided making washed denims, but used fabric in the “raw”—meaning, the fabric came straight from the factory untreated. “They sold fast,” he recalls. In January 2004, Ino produced 100 more jeans with the Viktor trademark, red pockets made of US cotton. Etched on the buttons and rivets was the Viktor logo. This time, the jeans were both for men and women. He learned from fashion designer and friend Rajo Laurel how to get the perfect fit for women. and used his female friends and office mates as guinea pigs. The jeans sold briskly. “If this trend continues in the next few months, then I’m stuck,” he thought. It did.
In June 2004, he resigned from his magazine job to work full time in the business. Together with master tailor Romy Orogo, assistant tailor Edcel Casiño, his sisters Clarence Sevilla taking care of production and Jeanette Orencia handling quality control respectively, and brother-in-law Antonio Orencia doing the finishing, Ino produced 500 pairs. His bestsellers are five-pocket jeans, double-button jeans, jeans with a cowboy belt loop and jeans with zipper coin pockets and back pockets. He also makes limited editions.
Ino began pushing his jeans by bringing his jeans to clients, dropping by offices to take measurements and orders of fashionista friends, and delivering them, happily altering and readjusting as needed. With his ubiquitous cap, lean frame, huge bag full of jeans and funky haircut and T-shirts, Ino looked every bit the part of the designer. Today, the orders keep coming.
Wearing jeans is not a problem when you have the right body proportions, Ino says, but it becomes a problem when you don’t. A pair of Viktor jeans can solve the problem. For female clients with big hips, he suggests wearing boot cut or semi-flare pants. “If you have big hips, don’t insist on wearing pencil-cut jeans. You’re going to end up with a pear shape.”
If a client has big buttocks, he chooses a hard fabric that will firmly hold the butt. “I don’t use soft materials because lalabas ang bilbil (the paunch will be obvious).” He uses dark colored jeans instead of light colors to create a slimmer silhouette.
To make the average Pinoy look taller, he also opts for a straight cut from the waist to the knee and semi-boot cut towards the feet for “optical illusion.” Also, he notices that most US-made jeans have huge front pockets. But the Filipino is a smaller race. What Ino does is make the upper legs more visible by designing smaller pockets to make the legs look longer.
Rajo, owner of 14 pairs, says, “The beauty of Viktor jeans is that they actually accentuate the positive and hide the negative. I probably have his first prototypes—his palpaks and his winners, too—but the fundamental properties of Viktor were there: his attention to detail, his unnerving eye for fit which is very important especially with jeans, and his rock ‘n’ roll sensibility.” “Ino is very original,” says designer Randy Ortiz, who has three pairs. “His fit is close to perfection because it’s custom-made. He is very innovative. He does his own brand of embellishments and details. The denim community accepts him and appreciates what he has done to the denim.”
For Ino Caluza, seated comfortably in his favorite aluminum chair, it’s a lot simpler than that. “This is it. I’ve found the job that I want to do for the rest of my life.”