50 things I learned working at SM

- Anthony Nocom () - November 9, 2008 - 12:00am

The year 1981 was a memorable and lucky year for me when I received an offer to work at SM. I had been fascinated by fashion for many years, and was thrilled to learn that my dream of becoming a fashion designer would become a reality.

In time, I would be the last in-house designer hired from our batch, and the succeeding 27 years were a process of rigid training, wide exposure, and hands-on experiences in retail merchandising and creative designing. I had an opportunity to work closely with the SM team led by Tessie Sy-Coson, whose inspirational guidance and creative leadership was, still is and will always remain, an invaluable learning process no college degree or fashion school training can match. As SM celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, I would like to share 50 things I learned working at SM:

On fashion:

1. Fashion is change and therefore there is a need to constantly change. We have to constantly offer our customers new merchandise.

2. Fashion is just one part of how the world perceives you.

3. Fashion is the only thing that can go out of fashion (only to come back in style 10 years later).

4. Fashion is not just about utility. An accessory, for example, is a piece of iconography that can be used to express one’s identity.

5. Fashion is inextricably linked with social trends. Fashion does not just mean clothing, but also a lifestyle.

6. A fashion item is worthless when it is no longer in fashion, as value is implicit in the item’s being fashionable.

7. Fashion does not exist in clothes alone. It’s everywhere, in every direction you look — from the streets to the sky; from what is happening to the way we live.

8. Never sacrifice your professional image for the sake of fashion.

9. In fashion, one should always experiment with style.

10. Looking good is not always about being fashionable. It has nothing to do with how much money you spend or what designer labels you wear.

11. One should not just freely criticize another’s fashion creation — unless one is equipped with a thorough knowledge and seasoned exposure to the fashion design profession. That includes its history, evolution, cultural dimension, and its current phenomenon.

On designing ready-to-wear menswear:

12. Designing menswear is a constant challenge, requiring inspiration to be creative with basic shirts and pants.

13. When designing my clothes, I look for a creative blending of affordable pricing, consistent quality, detailing, and an up-to-date style.

14. There are three factors I have learned to consider when designing a collection: comfort, flexibility and selling price.

15. The challenge in menswear is to transcend the need for utility. Our clothes should not only make one look great, but also make it possible to develop his own personal style and individuality.

16. It’s the situation, not the suit, that dictates how one should put together his or her clothes.

17. The clothes I design never call attention to themselves. They are essentially basic in silhouette, design, and choice of fabric quality.

18. When designing clothes, it is important to be constantly aware of the qualities of the Filipino male physique, and come up with outfits that will give the wearer ease and confidence.

19. Menswear today provides men with the opportunity to express their individuality.

20. Contemporary menswear tackles issues of masculinity, femininity and everything else in between. 

21. Frustration comes when a designer refuses to understand that this profession is both a business philosophy and business function.

22. As an in-house designer, I’ve learned the importance of placing the customer at the center of my activities.

23. Likewise, I’ve learned the importance of coordinating and networking with the internal staff to meet the customers’ needs.

24. Quality in RTW is not exclusive to brands using high-priced materials. 

25. To achieve quality, a designer has to have a certain level of taste, style and an eye for detail to bring out the best.

26. In an interview, I was asked “What makes your clothes different from the others?” My reply: “The price.”

On the male consumer:

27. Metrosexual — the 21st-century male trendsetter; straight urban a man with a heightened aesthetic sense; man who spends time and money on appearance and shopping; a man willing to embrace his feminine side.

(Source: The Metrosexual Guide in Style by Michael Flockeraal)

28. I prefer to design for men as they are not as fickle as women.

29. How often do men shop for apparel? Once a week (3 percent); one to three times a month (36 percent); once every two to three months (37 percent); twice a year (17 percent); once a year (7 percent).

(Source: Daily News Record Survey, Fairchild Publications)

30. The Filipino male is not strictly a follower of trends, but must be treated as one who is self-assured, comfortable with himself and confident enough to create his own style.

31. The Filipino male consumer today has slowly relinquished his conservatism and is projecting his presence and personal style.

32. What do men really think? The quality of high-priced clothes is superior to mid- or lower-priced apparel (49 percent); name brand clothing is assurance of quality and fashion (62 percent).

(Source: Dress Casually for Success ...For Men, McGraw-Hill)

33. Top 10 things most men dislike about shopping for apparel: the time it takes, waiting in line, trying on clothes, high prices, pushy sales personnel, lack of size, lack of service, poor fit, style selection, color selection.

34. Fifty percent of those surveyed agree: Can wear casual clothes to work (70 percent); normally do not wear a jacket to work (63 percent).

(Source: Dress Casually for Success... For Men/McGraw Hill)

35. The good news about today’s workplace? Men have a world of choices on what to wear.

36. I believe that every Filipino male should have at least one dark suit in his closet.

On retail merchandising:

37. Retail is detail.

38. Most successes in fashion are achieved on the retail level when customers buy your clothes.

39. Competition is to be encouraged.

40. Always check the numbers before feelings. Feelings are good for creativity and design.

On SM:

41. Shopping for fashion is retail therapy.

42. At SM, we not only provide our customers with what they want, but also go out of our way to get their feedback.

43. It is important to recreate and reinvent ourselves by understanding our customer’s ever-changing needs.

44. We should help raise the Filipino customers’ aspirations to international tastes and global standards.

45. A retail store’s image is determined by its target customers and by a clear policy on its merchandising, display, marketing, and most important of all, service to its customers.

On work ethics and philosophy/women in a male-dominated business world:

46. Faith, passion, commitment and focus are important.

47. Discipline, hard work, good credit, opportunity, readiness and timing are some things we have learned working with SM and the Sy family.

48. For a designer to gain acceptance and staying power, a senior designer once said, “You are only as good as your last show and collection.”

49. In Philippine business, gender is not so much an issue — unless, of course, women make it so.

On Filipino creativity and design:

50. The innate talent and creativity in so many aspiring Filipino designers must be identified, recognized and fully supported.

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