By  on August 4, 2011

MANILA — When entrepreneur Mark Gonzalez opened the groundbreaking Homme & Femme store 16 years ago in Manila’s upmarket Shangri-La Plaza shopping center, directional designers were considered a risky undertaking for the country’s largely play-it-safe fashion sensibilities. The choices in men’s wear were particularly conservative and predictable: during the week, business suits or the barong, the local formal dress shirt made from pineapple silk; on the weekends, it was the preppy look very much inspired by Polo Ralph Lauren. Thus, the likes of Martin Margiela, Dries van Noten, Y-3 and Comme des Garçons were labels unknown to all but a very select clientele.

Gonzalez persevered with his vision and built up the Homme & Femme brand. “It took a while for us to build our niche, to be understood,” he explained. “Not only to be understood, but to have a recognizable manner of running our retail operations.”

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