THE ME TEE; Niche and Non-Brands Point to a Trend towards Individuality
Byline: yonina chan
"WALANG season ang T-shirt,a says Jowee Alviar, co-founder of the now hugely popular Team Manila Graphic Design Lifestyle brand, on the enduring popularity of the tee. Creative director of T-shirt brand Artwork Cristine Cher Villamiel echoes the sentiment. aHindi nawawala yung tees,a she says. aOnly the attack on the design changes.a
Indeed, most agree that it is basically because of the local weather that tees, regardless of style, are so popular in the market. Yet the renewed regard for tees and the consequent explosion of brands and independent designers, seems to stem from more than climate considerations.
A new approach to dressing up. "There was a time when people were dressing a bit more formally. Naka-polo ang mga tao pag lumalabas sila," recalls Spoofs Limited chairman Andrew Marcelo. "Now, people go gimik in tees.--it's not just for casual daywear anymore." Siblings Jon and Rosario Herrera, streetwear savants and trend observers who are now opening up a branch of the hot LA streetwear boutique Grey One locally, agree that part of the resurging popularity of tees comes from a general change in how people dress. "Looking good is not just based on GQ standards anymore," Jon explains. "Internationally, the styles have changed, especially with the streetwear culture and the many subcultures influencing how people dress. Plus there are more magazines out now that support different ways of dressing up--like Nylon Guys, for example."
The case for individuality. From the '90s to the 21st century, the specific progression of T-shirt trends in the country can mostly be summed up as a shift from conformity to individuality. "We all remember the late '80s and '90s," says Spoof's Andrew Marcelo. "Everyone wanted to wear the same shirts--and everything was usually in free size."
"But today, people are more expressive," Andrew continues. "You have blogs, MySpace, Multiply, and all these sites that are evidence of how much people want to express themselves. And it translates into what they wear." This desire for expression comes as a combination of several factors, even political, notes Magnolia Yap, owner of the T-shirt boutique Store With No Name or SWNN--a name which she had chosen to specifically address this desire for individuality among consumers. "It is the result of people realizing they do have choices and options and a voice," Magnolia says. "Which translates into the desire for creative freedom and the freedom of expression, even on a subconscious level."
One of the best illustrations of the shift from conformity to individuality is the evolution of statement tees in the country. Artwork's Cristine Villamiel recalls the kind of statement tees that their company had produced back in the '80s and '90s. "Before we were Artwork, we used to produce those 'I love New York' tees and other popular 'souvenir' designs," Cristine remembers. "Everyone wore those before, and it seemed a universal sentiment that they bought into."
"Then when we started making new statement tees about five years ago, we started with wordplay and wittier text," she continues. "What you notice is mas may attitude na yung mga statement tees." Given this, what becomes evident with modern statement tees is that they work on a personal emotional level, rather than on the level of conformity. "It allows people to express things in a way that they couldn't say themselves," Magnolia of SWNN says. "I hear people in the stores telling each other, 'Uy ikaw yan! Bilhin mo yan!' when they read a certain statement tee, like 'Retired black sheep' or 'Former ugly duckling' or 'Monotone singer.' "
Local pop culture observers agree that much of this trend towards individuality owes to the shifts in local music culture, as well as the advent of the technology and the internet, which has allowed Filipinos easy access to global trends of style, subcultures, and graphic design. …