style by Alyssa Castillo

Tenement Wants to Make It in Manila

Q&A with the local lifestyle brand inspired by run-down basketball courts and ’80s sportswear.

It’s all fun and games until things get serious. From hobbies and interests to beliefs and advocacies, the kids of Tenement are shaping up to become prime movers in the retail industry with their distinct take on sportswear. Promoting camarederie within the local street community through art and design, Van Valdez gives the NBHD a lowdown on the fledgling brand.tenement-2Tell us about Tenement. How did it all begin?
Tenement is a multi-concept lifestyle brand inspired by art, community, and sports. It has two divisions, People’s Homebase which is community-centered, and Sports Club which is heavily inspired by all kinds of athletics. The brand itself was 6 years in the making. It all started when we (the 4 main partners: Javi Villareal, Chubby Romero, Jolo Riego de Dios and I) got hooked on the show How To Make It In America—a great TV series that was abruptly cut after two seasons. We still watch some episodes from time to time.

Javi, Chubby, Jolo, and I have known each other for years and we’ve always shared the same interests in music, fashion, and sports. Then we met Mariana Mercado in college, and she became the 5th partner of the team. We all just came together to create and materialise this vision that we had in mind.

What sets your brand apart from other local labels?
Our brand is heavily influenced by sports in the Philippines. As a brand, we always strive to highlight being active and engaging in sports as our way of being responsible contributors in the community. tenement-3We noticed that your brand has a friendlier, more wholesome image for a streetwear label. What made you decide to take that particular approach?
That’s one of the main reasons we decided to start Tenement, actually. We want to be known as a brand that is open for all… To try to be as relatable and as friendly as possible. We want to promote a healthy and active lifestyle as well as be an advocate to the youth. Streetwear in America usually makes drugs or other offensive references in their designs—and that’s the kind of vibe we want to veer away from. As a team of former school athletes, we also take pride in using sports as an outlet to somehow get kids “off the streets.” We want to promote a healthy and active lifestyle as well as be an advocate to the youth.

Seeing as you’re a young team, how does that affect your brand as a whole?
Being young has its advantages and disadvantages. We’ve got a lot of room to grow and improve but at the same time we’re swamped with academics since we’re all still college students. As a young team, money has also been a roadblock for us but at the same time we do see it as a blessing in disguise. With our finances, we’re only able to put out around 4 shirts and 2 hats per release, but by starting small, we’re able to make sure that everything we put out is the best quality possible.

Who do you envision wearing Tenement?
Our target market is the group of people who wouldn’t mind spending more on quality products for everyday use. During the recent #PursuitFair, we were shocked to be so well-received by the community and that people bought our products considering the somewhat steep price points for a local brand. It was really unexpected because for one, I personally believe that we haven’t geared up our marketing strategies, let alone our social media following. It’s humbling to be appreciated by a community of different kinds of people.tenement-4Can you tell us a little about your influences?
Tenement is inspired by the Tenement Courts in Taguig where NBA superstars like Lebron James, Jordan Clarkson, Paul George played hoops with the locals living there. Streetwear here in the Philippines is synonymous to the number one played sport in the country—Basketball. You can see courts set up everywhere, whether it’s in an alley, or half-courts by streets, or make-shift hoops… the basketball scene here has always been a significant part of the street culture. We internalise and take inspiration from everything—from the text on a Chinese noodle bowl to the placards on jeepneys to the hand-painted signs of Old Manila.

Give us a walkthrough of your designs–from the colors to the slogans to the retro graphics.
Our designs are heavily inspired by the ’80s and early ’90s. We usually go through old archives and incorporate a modern feel to it. Sportswear is also one of the greatest products that ’90s produced because that was the time when Air Jordans, sport suits, sweatshirts, and graphic-heavy tees really boomed. Our incorporation of sports are very much in line with those eras and our colorful designs add to the “friendly” image we’re going for.tenement-5So, what’s next for Tenement? Is there anything we should watch out for in 2017?
We aim to produce more and to be able to cater to people who are not only based in the Metro. We’re currently in the works of staging a collaborative event with one of the older local brands and an upcoming brand here in the Philippines and it should, hopefully, revive the culture here. But of course, two of our biggest goals for Tenement is to get consigned internationally, and to produce a collection with brands that we look up to (like Titan, Unschld) in the future.

Produced by Alyssa Castillo and Sam Potenciano
Photography by Andrea Beldua

Processed with VSCO with a9 preset
Alyssa Castillo
Alyssa Castillo is a freelance writer and is concurrently Rogue Media's Editorial Assistant for The NBHD. She reads for fun, writes for a living, and wastes too much time entertaining the possibility of a zombie apocalypse. Find her on Instagram as @lysscstll.
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