For more than a half century, one family has been synonymous with high-end retail in the Philippines — the Tantocos.
The first generation, Gliceria and Bienvenido Tantoco Sr., began Rustan’s in 1952 as a modest gift shop in Manila stocked with interesting and elegant products they picked up from their travels abroad. Today, Rustan’s is the country’s premier department store chain with prime locations in key cities. And the empire includes supermarkets and boutiques, as well as department stores with in-store shops for luxury brands.
The Tantoco children and grandchildren are actively involved in the family business. The full-fledged expansion into luxury retail has been spearheaded by Stores Specialists Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Rustan’s.
Anton Tantoco Huang, a third-generation family member, is executive vice president of Rustan Commercial Corp. and SSI. Explaining the impetus behind the establishment of SSI some 20 years ago, he said: “With the advent of the malls, the desire and need to go beyond the department store concept to target the luxury customer was too compelling.”
SSI has partnered with 56 brands, and its portfolio of prestige luxury labels includes Tiffany, Cartier, Gucci, Prada, Bottega Veneta, Marc Jacobs, Ferragamo and Tod’s. Many of their freestanding boutiques can be found in the posh Greenbelt complex in Manila’s central business district of Makati.
It has been an uphill climb for SSI. “Admittedly, it used be a challenge to sell the Philippines as a potential market opportunity for these international fashion brands,” Huang said. “But over the recent decade, with the increasing sophistication of that slim but strong upper market segment and growing aspirational middle class, more and more brands have shifted their focus toward us and have wanted to expand in this region. Now I can say it’s not uncommon for us to actually be approached by brands aware of the potential here in our country.”
While Huang concentrates on developing SSI beyond the department store concept, another young Tantoco descendant, Eman Pineda, seeks to refine it.
Forging a path separate from his family, Pineda this year opened Adora, a 25,000-square-foot store in Manila’s Greenbelt 5. It is a retail showcase featuring limestone floors, modernist furniture and velvet draperies. Adora already has set a benchmark in the market in terms of luxury and personalized service.
“Adora seeks to find its own niche in the department store-multibrand format, giving its own specific offer in terms of a departmental mix — i.e., from home to beauty to travel to watches to fashion [ready-to-wear], shoes and bags,” Pineda said. Concentrating on these departments alone is a departure from the traditional concept of having everything under one roof.
Within these departments, Pineda said, Adora aims to offer merchandise that is more directional. The watches department, for example, sells brands that have very distinct character, but are still not yet in the mainstream, such as TW Steel or Meccaniche Veloci. As for rtw, Adora carries a full range of brands, including Jil Sander, Etro, Marni and Missoni.
Pineda emphasized that Adora makes its selections with the customer in mind, “really editing those collections for its customers.” Moreover, “the choices of merchandise need to be well thought out and have a compelling reason to be in the store because the space allocation for it needs to be profitable, as well.”
Both Huang and Pineda acknowledge that the Philippine luxury market is relatively small, albeit influential. “It is difficult to achieve economies of scale with just a few brands,” Huang said. “Thus there are a few players with a multibusiness format.”
The market has matured, Pineda said, “but it still continues to develop, far from it having peaked. However, it will never be at the same level as a Hong Kong or Singapore.”
Mark González is an independent player whose successful Homme et Femme multibrand boutique introduced Azzedine Alaïa, Stella McCartney, Y-3, Lanvin and Dior Homme to the Philippines. Recently, he opened a freestanding Balenciaga boutique in Greenbelt 5. He considered the luxury market to be “at infancy age still,” and noted that merchandise tends to be accessories-driven, hence the offering at his Balenciaga store, which is limited to shoes, bags and accessories. “The bags are our bestsellers,” he said.
One reason for the strength of accessories in this market, Huang said, was “the price-versus-perceived value proposition.” Even this is slowly changing, however, “with the ever-increasing sophistication of the Filipino consumer and their desire to be in tune with each season’s collection,” he continued.
Pineda also cited “the strong culture of made-to-measure/made-to-order designer pieces from local designers” as another factor.
“The market is still new in terms of luxury rtw,” he said. “It will definitely change, in time, and luxury rtw will grow, but it takes two: the retailer to understand who the customer is and what he wants, and the customer to rely on the retailer for the needs [and] wants per season and understanding that the offer in Manila can be at par with the offer abroad.”
Though official Central Bank figures show that consumer prices increased at a slower pace in September, with the current turmoil in the global markets, the country’s economic growth forecast for this year has been revised to 4.4 to 4.9 percent growth from about 6 percent.
Yet retailers said business continues to grow. Bea Valdes, designer of an eponymous line of bejeweled evening bags and accessories available at Barneys New York and worn by the likes of Rachel Roy, said, “We are at an interesting point in Philippine retail evolution. In this new landscape, with an influx of international luxury brands, you have both local and foreign brands under one roof. So, ultimately, the consumer wins.”
Breaking News: @louisvuitton's men's artistic director @mrkimjones is leaving the French fashion house after nearly 7 years. Jones joined Louis Vuitton in 2011, following a three year tenure as creative director of British luxury goods brand Alfred Dunhill. Jones is to exit Louis Vuitton after showing his fall 2018 collection for the brand in Paris on Thursday. Read the full exclusive story on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
For men’s fall 2018, @giuseppezanotti drew on elements from streetwear, sport, biker, combat and rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are a pair of shoes from the collection, featuring zippers, rhinestones, and silver hardware. Head to WWD.com to see a roundup of the accessories from Milan’s men’s fall 2018 shows. #wwdfashion (📷: Andrea Delb)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of @ralphlauren’s snowboarding collection, the brand is mining its archives. The iconic brand is reintroducing vintage styles and dropping new designs for a color capsule that will be available in Ralph Lauren stores and @openingceremony on January 25. The capsule will consist of 10 pieces, including the Snow Beach Pullover, pictured here, which is a collector’s item that rapper Raekwon wore in Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video. #wwdfashion (📷: Tom Gould)
For @rochasofficial’s pre-fall 2018 collection, creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua channeled the sophisticated and intriguing Catherine Denevue in the film “Belle de Jour.” Polished collarless coats, midi skirts, suits and ’60s graphic motifs were all featured in the collection, adding a sense of discreet luxury. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
“We tried to produce clothing of that couture quality, but the most daunting part was that we only had a matter of days [to do it],” said costume designer Lou Eyrich, who recreated Gianni Versace’s iconic looks for @americancrimestoryfx. Eyrich searched online retailers and vintage shops for original pieces from the design house and for @penelopecruzoficial, who plays Donatella Versace. Head to WWD.com to read how she created the Versace world. #wwdfashion
Only three months after her stellar debut catwalk season, @kaiagerber has inked her first big design collaboration –– with @karllagerfeld. The collection blends Lagerfeld’s Parisian chic aesthetic and the model’s signature West Coast casual style via RTW, accessories, footwear and more. The #KarlLagerfeldxKaia collection will launch in September with a series of events. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews