Sunday, April 22, 2007
For the Love of Jeans
By Djong Tan
People Asia Magazine 04/21/2007
Passion has often been the driving force for successful entrepreneurs, like Ino Caluza whose Viktor Jeans are starting to become a byword among serious denim lovers.
In past issues of this magazine, we have seen how passion has brought success to various entrepreneurs. Jay Aldeguer turned his frustration into inspiration by opening Islands Souvenirs, a souvenir chain where one can find colorful products that we can bring home as pasalubong. On the other hand, photography and his incessant hunger for learning new things propelled John Chua to become a leader in the field of advertising photography. From humble beginnings as an insurance photographer, Chua is now a maverick in the world of photography.
And now comes Victorino "Ino" Caluza, whose love for jeans has fueled a fashion wildfire. This BS Math graduate from the University of Santo Tomas started out in graphic design before building the customized jeans brand, Viktor. Based on his myriad interests – painting, architecture, graphic design, and travel – he chose to take control of his own wardrobe and create jeans that fit him perfectly.
"I realized I've been spending too much buying imported jeans," he narrates, recalling the major turning point that gave us Viktor Jeans. "I was a collector of Diesel jeans before, and I just decided that if I'm going to spend all my salary buying all this, might as well make my own."
So Caluza took a trip to a local tailor, who specializes in creating imitations of various brands of jeans. Drawing from his expertise as a graphic designer, he created his own jeans using his computer, using his BS Math background in assigning the most accurate spacing and parameters on his first design – the V1. After the first prototype was made, Caluza tried it on for size, and earned the admiration of his friends, eventually getting him to design jeans for them as well.
Three years later, we find Caluza in his very own store at The Podium, entertaining clients, offering pieces of service advice to his denim specialists. Surprisingly, Viktor Jeans's "design" philosophy is actually not centered on the design.
"Viktor is not about design, it's about the fit. If it doesn't fit you well, then it doesn't mean anything," Caluza asserts. Aside from having the perfect fit, a pair of Viktors will reflect your own style and flair. You can customize your precious pair by embellishing it with leather, choosing the color of the stitching, the fabric, the rivets – everything.
So how does one go about acquiring a pair of Viktors? You can either come as a walk-in client, or, if you want undivided attention, an appointment can also be arranged. You can set an appointment with either one of the denim specialists, or with the denim guru himself. During your visit to the store, you will be given advice on the perfect pair for you, depending on your lifestyle, and how you will use the pants. You will get fitted and measured, and you get to choose your embellishments as well.
It takes about seven to 15 days to make one pair with the proper measurements and the corresponding designs. Once it's done, you will be informed that you can now try your new jeans on. Once you try it on, and find everything in perfect order, you can walk out of the store wearing your new pair. However, if you're not satisfied, they will alter it to your specifications, free of charge.
But it's not like going to your tailor and having a pair of pants made. Viktor is more than that. It has a style series that you can choose from. First, there’s the V1 Series, which is the first pair that Caluza designed.
"It's very classic, it won't go out of style," he describes. His bestsellers to date are the Viktor Premiums. This style is known for its leather accents, and though more expensive than the V1s, they attract clients because of their "collectibility." "They're numbered, so you'll know kung pang-ilan ka sa nag-order," Caluza explains.
He also has the VO range, which stands for Viktor Originals. This collection is not numbered, and anyone can order them. The most expensive of the lot is the VX, or the Viktor Exclusive. Only 60 pairs of jeans were made in this range. These are also numbered, like the Premiums, but the difference is, VXs are limited. So once the 60 pairs are sold, you can no longer have that design made.
It's clear that after three years, he has learned the ins and outs of the denim industry. One of these is getting to know his market. "I did not have a fashion background. But I know what guys want for their pants. But with girls, there's a lot to consider," he shares.
"Guys and girls have different aesthetics when it comes to jeans. With girls, they want their jeans to look like a second skin already. With guys, no way. We guys treat our jeans in a very utilitarian way – use all pockets. With girls, you wouldn't even dare."
He is now applying every little tidbit he has learned to his business, expanding and improving on it little by little. For starters, aside from denim, Viktor now offers canvas, twill, camouflage, and even corduroy material. Though these are not readily available, and require special request, it's a testament to the brand's expansion. And aside from jeans, he has included jackets, skirts, shorts, capris and other denim products.
He has also embarked on a bid to conquer other parts of the globe. Right now, Caluza is starting to cater to clients in Singapore. "I just did my first two batches in Singapore. Every two weeks I'm supposed to go there," he says.
Speaking of further expansion, Manila will soon be witness to the unveiling of two new lines – Vik and Lord Viktor. Vik, as Caluza says, is "the younger version. It's cheaper, but it's for a younger market." To be released this May, Vik operates on the same concept as Viktor in that it also specializes in customized jeans. "But I have to explain how we're going to cut the cost. There will be less choices, especially the fabric. And less styles," he explains.
Lord Viktor, on the other hand, is targeted for the folks at the other end of the spectrum. "It's a mature Viktor. You don't expect these people (clients of Viktor) to wear jeans all the time. Somehow, they will go to a wedding, and they need suits. Or they have an important occasion and they need slacks. That's where Lord Viktor comes in," Caluza relates. This line will be available next year.
As for the future of Viktor Jeans in the country, avid Viktor collectors can look forward to a new series. Caluza will be launching the Gamma Series very, very soon, which he calls his "world domination series."
"Right now, as you can see, there's no label on it, no care instructions. With the Gamma version, you'll see everything already. Parang ready na siya for export, for international recognition," he says proudly. Every pair from the Gamma Series will include a tag of sorts in the pocket, indicating the number of the pair, the tailor's name, the date of purchase, even the name of your denim specialist. It also comes with the line, "This Viktor is specifically made for ___. Hope you get laid."
The last line is Viktor's current tagline and selling point. Caluza says he coined it when he was asked why anyone should invest in a good pair of Viktors. "Because a good pair of Viktors can get you laid," he replies with a flourish.
Slowly but surely, he is turning his passion into a denim behemoth – expanding his offerings, catering to clients overseas, and creating new brands to suit more clients. He has managed to turn the everyday pants of the normal Pinoy into something more glamorous and desirable. And it all started with a pair of je