Monday, May 7, 2007

INO CALUZA: Lord of Denim

Djong Tan
Masigasig (Small & Medium Businesses)
May 2007

Maong, jeans, denim. No matter what it’s called, one thing’s for sure: we Filipinos love to wear them. And because of that, Victorino “Ino” Caluza is making fortune out of creating the perfect pair of jeans for his clients.

This denim fanatic admits that he used to buy hordes of expensive jeans. “I used to be a collector of Diesel Jeans; then I realized that I’d been spending so much money buying them, he relates. So one day, he set off for Divisoria, bought some denim fabric, and went to a tailor. Since he was a graphic designer at that time, he was able to give the tailor a pretty specific sketch of of what he wanted his jeans to look like. He had no plans of turning venture into a business, until his friends saw his jeans and decided that they wanted their own pair.
That was how Viktor Jeans came into being. Now, it’s one of the hottest designer denim brands in the country today. “Viktor jeans is all about customized denim, “ Ino explains. ”We do jeans depending on your body type, your preference when it comes to lifestyle, and even your fashion style for the moment. “The company’s thrust is quite simple, to give you the best fitting jeans you’ll ever own in your life. Celebrities, fashionistas and denim lovers (all of whom Ino refuses to name) swear by his jeans.

In the beginning, Ino would only accept clients by appointment at his Ortigas condo unit. Word of mouth help build the brand into success that it is today. In fact, word of mouth is still the only way he market his jeans. Due to the label’s popularity, he had to set up a more accessible store at The Podium. That’s where Ino encountered his biggest setbacks.
“”It was easier in Megaplaza. Normally, when you go to the condo at that time, (You already have an idea) what to expect—I like hat. But here (in Podium), it’s a different ballgame, “ Ino says. “(There are) walk-ins and sometimes people don’t have any idea about the jeans at all. “ He laments that some clients don’t get personalized jeans concept—the fact that each pair is a work of art made for you—and they balk at the price, which ranges from P3000 to P5000. And other client insist on what they want and then realize that what they want doesn’t suit them all.
He tries to each a compromise with clients by advising them about the fit, and how the actual jeans will come out.”In my case, I always give an honest opinion. (If it will not suit you), I’ll tell you right away,” Ino states. “You have to guide them very well.”
Aside from some minor client problems, Ino also admits that going it alone can be quite challenging at times. “The business side and the artist in me have to complement, or else (nothing will happen).” Admittedly more creative than business-oriented, Ino recounts times that he get so stressed because he has to think of the financial aspect of doing a business, while thinking about new designs.

Rather than dwelling on stress levels, however, Ino simply chooses to face the entire process head on. With his usual discipline, he focuses on the business aspect when need be, and finds mental release when working on the creative side. Of course, his BS Math degree from the University of Sto. Tomas has helped—making him no stranger to numbers and figures. After all, when he decided to take jeans-making to higher level, he knew what he was getting into. And he knows he has no reason to complain. “I realized that finally, I found something that I want to do for the rest of my life,” he says beaming with pride. For someone who’s barely in his 30’s, that is quite an achievement.
In fact, Ino recognizes that his age is a large part of his success. In business, although mature and older people have the advantage of experience, the creativity and energy of young entrepreneurs play a big role in success of their ventures. “(My youth) helps me a lot because, syempre yung ideas mo, mas bago,” he reflects.
Ino won’t stop with Viktor, though. He has plans for Vik, a more affordable line denim, and Lord Viktor, which will go beyond denim and into more serious realm of suits. I guess (my youth makes me) more aggressive. I’m not the only one who’s doing this (making jeans), but I’m the only one who’s doing with a brand.”

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