Saturday, August 12, 2006

Exploring the ‘blues’ with Viktor

By Digs Ramos, Contributor

The text on the shop’s mirror speaks volumes of the brand. Ino Caluza, creator of Viktor jeans, laughs after the bold claim is pointed out. “Yes. We have clients who would call me in the morning and say that my jeans worked. I guess they are saying that they got laid.”

It is clear that brand Viktor is more than just hype. During the hour-long interview, more than a dozen people checked out the store or picked up their jeans. One European expat asked Caluza if he could have two girls visiting from Switzerland measured that week. It’s the kind of diverse and loyal client base that has transformed Viktor from a mom-and-pop operation into one of the leading upscale brands in the country. Almost three years after the business was set up, Viktor’s clientele is now practically a who’s who of well-known personalities from stage, screen and television.

“Fashion, in a way, is individualism. You want to be different. You can be trendy wearing different brands, but you know ‘marami’ kayo may-ari nun. Viktor is about good fitting jeans that makes you look and feel good. Viktor is about exclusivity,” the jeans maker points out.


It helps to understand what makes the brand different. A common complaint about ready-to-wear jeans is that it fits one area, but is bigger in another. “My problem is that my hips are bigger than my waist so I have to buy a bigger size so that the jeans could fit me. The problem is I end up buying loose pants,” Dynah Capile, who owns two pairs of Viktor, notes.

The story is nothing new. Men and, most especially, women have difficulty finding a pair that fits all over. An expensive pair does not guarantee the jeans will fit perfectly. Every single body is unique so it’s almost impossible to buy jeans that have the perfect combination. This is where Viktor comes in.

“Almost all of them (Viktor customers) want a good, fitting pair. These people had a bad experience trying other jeans and it’s their unending quest for the perfect fit that they eventually come to me and try it (Viktor),” says Caluza.

The appeal is largely due to what the man can offer his customers. Although custom-made clothes are not really new, good fashion sense and a personal approach in dealing with customers really set Viktor apart from the rest. Some tailors, for example, will approach an outfit thinking of what works for them rather than what looks good on a customer. The end result is customers paying a lot more for something that should have been a lot better than RTW.


Ideally, customers should wear their favorite jeans when they go to the shop. It will be easier to determine what style works if the customer wears casual rather than formal clothes. If the buyer wears loose jeans, the staff ‘tapes’ certain parts to show what the ideal fit should be. Customers are also asked to try the jeans on display to get an idea of the fit.

The brand is basically divided into four series:

1. Viktor Originals – The first line designed. Eleven series have already been produced. Each pair is not individually numbered.

2. Viktor Premium – This line has more detail than the V series. Each pair has a production number and some leather is used.

3. Viktor Exclusive – Only 60 pairs are produced. This limited edition line has 50 numbered pairs and the remaining 10 have special characters.

4. Viktor Supreme – This line is more labor intensive and has detailed stitching.

The price of each pair ranges from P3,950 to P5,700. For rush jobs, customers are charged an additional P300. It takes seven to 10 days for a pair to be made. “It’s always a rule to tell the customer that the first pair is dark blue jeans because you can wear it anytime of the day or several times in a week.”


Although Victor initially started as jeans for men, 60 percent of its customer base is currently women. The number of male customers might not be significant to some, but the figure shows that there is a market for men who have matured into more fitted jeans. After opting for a semi-boot cut in 2005, Filipinos now prefer skinny jeans. Going for a particular style or look, however, does not work for everybody. He points out that Filipinos, in general, are not tall, have short legs and long torsos. “I always see that as a problem so when I design my jeans, I make it a point that somehow it would have that illusion of longer legs so that’s when I try to solve it like it has to be close to the crotch. Because if you make it lower than that, it will be shortening the look.”

Such attention to detail is a big reason for the brand’s success. By yearend, the company plans to launch brand ‘Vik,’ targeting a younger market with a budget. A new store at Ayala's TRINOMA in QC will house the new brand. Customers will have fewer choices though compared to the original Viktor series, but pay between P2,700 to P3,900 only for a pair.

Caluza is also planning to introduce a more sophisticated line by the middle of 2008. The ‘Lord Viktor’ brand will be customized jackets, shirts and slacks. The project has always been the jeans maker’s dream and would be a “cross between Paul Smith and Dior.” The decision to launch Lord Viktor next year is largely due to the strong success of the rugged Viktor series. Since opening a shop at the Podium, the jeans maker has had to deal with a sharp increase in orders. The stronger-than-expected response has prompted Caluza to get more tailors to address the demand.

The quest for the perfect pair could be a daunting task in light of all the brands, cuts and styles available in the market. But Victorino Caluza has made it easier for those who know what they want. “The magic when happens they wear it. When they go out and people start complimenting them. Not because of a new watch or a new hair, but because of the jeans,” he adds.

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