Starting out as a ready-to-wear business built on bold ideas, Penshoppe has become one of the country’s biggest retail brands, with a roster of “All Stars” that makes them poised to take on the international market. Bernie Liu and Golden ABC are a prime example of how a group who barely had any background on the industry staked a claim on fashion with designs that capitalized on youthful fun.
It is not surprising how the country’s leading fashion powerhouse, Golden ABC, would trace its roots to a province in the Philippines known for its resilient and fiercely independent people. Cebu may bear traces of the beginnings of Spanish colonization from hundreds of years ago, but prior to that, it had always been a center of trade for what is now called the southern Philippines, whose people had long been doing business with China, Malaysia, Japan, India, Burma, and other parts of Asia. In a land that nurtures the entrepreneurial spirit, visionaries and business leaders are always on the rise.
Chasing his own fierce dream of building a company that would house the most admired fashion brands in Asia, Bernie Liu and his group of friends—all young architecture graduates when they drew up a blueprint for the business, so to speak—anchored their vision on the growth and development in Cebu that was reflective of what was happening in the rest of the country. It was, after all, the time of groundbreaking changes. The year 1986 had ushered in a “peaceful, bloodless revolution” for the Philippines—an upheaval fuelled by years of prior political unrest but unprecedented, just the same, in the unplanned yet historic triumph of People Power. It was a time when anything seemed possible. It provided the perfect opportunity for young idealists armed with a lot of guts and a fair amount of know-how—Liu’s family owned a modest-sized garment factory—to start their own revolution.
Legend has it that Liu had ventured into an informal business of designing and producing t-shirts for school and corporate giveaways even before he graduated from college and passed the board. After briefly working for the family’s lumber business, he had an epiphany regarding the potential of branded retail, and this would mark his return to the garments business. Lured by the growing demand in Cebu for colorful shirts, Liu and company zeroed in on what would be their biggest group of buyers—the young college students and new grads like themselves. They decided to name their brand after the students’ constant companion and writing implement, the pen.
Although none of its founders had any professional training on how to design and sell shirts, they ventured into a market already cornered by several other successful brands. What they had going for themselves, though, was that they were armed with bolder ideas. It was said that they were the first to pay special attention to individual shirt packaging before any other local brand did, and shunned ordinary retail racks in favor of customized (pencil-shaped) ones. Indeed, what they lacked then in sales know-how was compensated by their sharp knowledge of design, translated successfully into catchy graphic images on brightly colored t-shirts. They also had a surprising grasp of marketing, committing to the principle of building a brand through focusing on image—that of youthfulness and being fun and hip.
If they had indeed been told that they would never make it in Manila, the young Cebuano entrepreneurs failed to heed the warning, and this would prove to be one of their major feats. Penshoppe became the flagship brand of Golden ABC, a line of ready-to-wear clothing and accessories launched in March 1986, just one month after the EDSA People Power revolution. Five years later, the brand would officially go national, opening its first boutique in what was then the biggest mall in the city capital, SM North EDSA.
By 1995, Penshoppe was given the Award of Excellence at the 14th Philippine Advertising Congress, a recognition that underscored the brand’s consistent and solid focus on its market. Penshoppe’s evolution into an overall lifestyle brand also saw the growth of the mother company that by then had begun to cater to different market segments by establishing the chic and trendy high-street brand Oxygen in 1996; the affordable brand for young executives, Memo, in 2002; and the brand celebrating each woman’s uniqueness, ForMe, in 2004.
Penshoppe was also awarded the Most Outstanding Retailer by the Philippine Retailers Association and the Department of Trade and Industry in 2000 and 2001, and by the following year had been entered in the Retail Hall of Fame. It furthered its imaging and branding with winning media campaigns like the award-winning “Battle Cry” television commercial, which received a bronze award in the 2005 New York Festivals. In 2006, the same campaign received another bronze from the Advertising Foundation of the Philippines and the Adboard, and silvers in the Araw Values Awards in the print and television ads categories.
Golden ABC continued its growth with the opening of its subsidiary Red Logo, a direct selling company, in 2008. The following year, it acquired Regatta, a leisure-lifestyle brand. Then, in 2011, it launched its first premium brand Tyler, offering day-to-night, business-to-leisure apparel for women.
As the story goes, Penshoppe’s owners tried to crack the Manila retail scene with their dogged refusal to take no for an answer—they were said to have “literally walked all over the capital trying to sell their shirts and product concepts,” as related on the cebu-online.com website—and their penchant for doing the unexpected. At that time, when other companies relied heavily on personalities and models to sell their products, they opted for the road less traveled and picked real people as their brand champions, and would launch its first batch of young and unknown, but cool models—the kind that most of their growing clientele would easily identify with.
These days, however, with increased globalization, Penshoppe steps up to the plate to make its own mark. It would become one of the local retail brands that would be endorsed by top Asian and Hollywood stars—from Thai superstar Mario Maurer to “Gossip Girl” mainstays Ed Westwick and Leighton Meester, “Vampire Diaries” hottie Ian Somerhalder, and heartthrob Zac Efron—on the way to its becoming a global retail name to be reckoned with. Its presence has become truly palpable and its claim solidified by improved clothing lines, bold media campaigns, and enhanced boutiques.
Armed with a formidable retail presence over 500 stores strong all over the country, Golden ABC sets its eyes to expanding beyond Asia and opening stores in the Middle East. Penshoppe’s success, bolstered by the equally impressive retail performance of its sister brands, has indeed given credence to the company’s goal of establishing itself as the most admired fashion brand builder in Asia, with its visionaries truly exemplifying the valiant spirit and high standard of excellence of the hardworking Cebuanos.
- by Annie S. Alejo
- photos courtesy of Golden ABC
CEBU’S GALLERY OF ROUGE: Mistress of Disinfo, Vixen of Vexation and the Duchess of Disorder
Ogle La La
By Alexandra Fortabat de Hermès
Cebu’s own Lady Whistledown is back after a long hiatus and talks about the naughty ones who comprise the initial #TroubleTrifecta, three ladies who you may or may not know…
It’s been eight years since someone’s picked up this particular (jewel-encrusted) quill so thought it rather apropos to begin sharpening those French-manicured talons and polishing our sardonic wits once again. After all — dear amigas — there is only so much Netflix one can watch, or peloton one can engage in, or caviar-topped foie to prepare, while we’ve all been locked down in our kubôs for well over a year!
To be sure the last twelve months have been a rollercoaster of emotions, a carousel of follies and a series of blunders that have reversed decades of growth resulting in historical levels of unemployment while a very few have been channeling Winston Churchill’s adage of “never waste a good crisis” a bit too much. While we can go on and on about the bungled and disastrous government response, we will limit our political commentaries here as we have no interest – nor inclination — to open that rather voluminous Pandora’s box.
The armoires that we will explore will belong to three types of our island’s “alta” sociedad who – in this last revolution around the sun – made us cringe and bust out many tubs of popcorn through their sheer audacity, lack of sensitivity, and overall dopiness. This – ladies (and lady wannabes) – is therefore the debut edition of the #TroubleTrifecta.
The first is that amiga who, by choice or plain predilection, just cannot keep her facts straight. Let’s call her Mistress of Disinfo coz one simply cannot trust what comes out of her well-lined lips or read from her often convoluted (and run-on) status updates. In this age of ubiquitous and nearly instantaneous information and the proliferation of fake news, the least one can do is check the veracity of what one puts out in the social media realm. As with anything else, quality is key!
The next Vixen of Vexation is that overbearing arriviste who is desperate to bowdlerize her courtesanal past by plastering her obviously enhanced and Gluta-enabled mug on every surface (and platform) known to modern man. This self-proclaimed Madame Multiverse is quick to brandish her (dubious) accomplishments, has an affinity for B (or C?) rated actors and milks her closeness to certain members of the Old Guard. In her perpetual quest for legitimacy and acceptance by the upper echelons, perhaps this Señorita aspirant should heed the advice of Malcolm Forbes when he declared: “How to Succeed: Try Hard Enough; How to Fail: Try Too Hard.”
Our last Duchess of Disorder is definitely NOT the least in this Gallery of Rouge and has actually been the source of not just consternation but of many a disruption – and not in a good way. This Soaper Woman is so-called due to her propensity to air out all her filthy lavada to anyone who will listen or bother to read her IG stories. Besides giving any Grammar Nazi a massive coronary, this Fräulein of Fracas has been known to commit acts of arson, has no qualms of engaging in online character assassinations AND seems to have a never-ending bevy of skeletons that are constantly feasting in her many closets.
Ladies, please! While we have to admit that we derive a certain guilty pleasure from your virtual explosions and implosions, they do get very prosaic – very quickly. Discretion, like intelligence and proper manners, truly never goes out of style.
So there you have it folks. These tumultuous times we live in certainly do not need any more brouhaha so please remember to be precise, don’t try too hard and always maintain a certain sense of delicadeza. Not only will your lives be simpler and more pleasurable but maybe, just maybe, you may finally crack that clique that you’ve been clawing your way to be a part of.
New Year’s Eve Dressing for 2020
What’s an ideal New Year’s Eve soirée outfit? Three of Cebu’s young fashion designers share their suggestions for the ladies on how to ring in the year 2020 in style…
“Holiday dressing is all about sheer skin and comfort. A silver gray palazzo jumpsuit with sheer lace cut-outs is in order.” -Mikhail Achas, Fashion Designer
“Holiday dressing is all about clean lines and sophistication. A tailored blacked tea dress with godet insertions will totally give out a modern vibe with a toast to the 50s.” -Bree Esplanada, Fashion Designer
“I chose this design because it is so comfy and light. The raffles make it look elegant and versatile for different events, like awarding ceremonies or a New Year’s Eve party.” -Eve Navales, Fashion Designer
Something to watch out for this year from these young designers will be their collection exclusively designed for the cast of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues for V-Day Cebu 2020, which will be staged in March. For more information, visit the Facebook page V-Day Cebu.
Rajo Laurel, Amina Aranaz-Alunan, and Bianca King Share Tips on How to Take Better Care of Your Clothes
To help keep your clothes in the best shape, check out these tips from Electrolux FashionCare Ambassador Rajo Laurel, along with the FashionCare Council members Amina Aranaz-Alunan and Bianca King.
Wear it well without wearing it out! That is the fashion philosophy shared by Electrolux, a
leading global appliance company from Sweden, when it comes to clothes. You don’t
need a lot of clothes to look stylish – just give them some TLC, especially when doing
To help keep your clothes in the best shape, check out these tips from Electrolux
FashionCare Ambassador Rajo Laurel, along with the FashionCare Council members
Amina Aranaz-Alunan and Bianca King. From washing to storing, these practical hacks
will help keep your clothes looking new for longer.
Check the Label
Acclaimed fashion designer Rajo Laurel shared that his number one rule when it comes
to caring for clothes is to check the care label, which teaches you everything from the
temperature, the kind of cycle and even instructions on drying, bleaching and ironing.
And if those laundry symbols look like hieroglyphics to you? Executive director and
teacher of SoFA Design Institute, and Creative Director of fashion accessories and bag
label ARANÁZ Amina Aranaz-Alunan’s practical tip: print out a guide that explains the
symbols for laundry instructions.
Caring for White Shirts and Tops
A staple in anyone’s wardrobe, the classic white tee is a great piece to build your
wardrobe around. It’s easy to dress up and down, going from casual to business-chic.
To keep your white shirt looking new, before washing, unbutton your shirt including its
cuffs and collar. Check the label recommendations for care guidelines. Use a laundry
detergent that contains bleach to really make your whites, white.
And if your white shirt or polo gets wrinkled easily, check if your washing machine has a
Steam or Vapour Care setting – this relaxes the fibres and removes odours to bring back
that soft, fresh feel to your white top.
Caring for Colours
Having coloured pieces is a great way to make a look pop but they are also prone to
fading faster than dark or white clothing. To help make sure your coloured garments
don’t lose their vibrance, sort your garments by colour before doing the laundry. Bright
clothes such as purples, reds and oranges can be washed together, so can bright blues
and greens. If a colour stands out on its own, consider washing it alone. Then check the
garment for stains and apply a small amount of liquid detergent to the stain and shake
gently in water. Turn your garments inside out to minimize rubbing of fibres. Choose a
low temperature and avoid hot settings that can cause fading. You can also use a gentle
Caring for Jeans
Denim is durable but to make them last longer, especially the coloured and printed
denims or anything with a deep indigo wash, you need to give them extra special care.
The key to a long life is to wash at a low temperature and avoid over washing. First off,
be sure to wear your jeans for as long as possible before they are first washed to give
them a comfortable shape and a natural fade. Separate your jeans from white or other
brightly coloured clothes because they might bleed colour. Turn them inside out before
washing as well.
Dealing with Stains
The FashionCare Council members all share that it’s best to deal with stains
immediately. Soak or try to wash them off right away. For food and wine stains, Laurel
shares that he uses salt and soda water on the stains before washing as these help to
lift the stains.
Here are some other helpful tips to remove common stains: For ink stains, blot the
stained area with alcohol using a clean cloth and rinse thoroughly. For coffee stains,
first try using cold water through the back of the stain for 10-15 minutes. If the stain is
not fully removed, use liquid laundry detergent and a little cold water, or try using dish
washing liquid. Gently rub the liquid detergent or dish washing liquid with your thumb to
loosen the stain for about five minutes.
The FashionCare Council members also shared that storage can play a role in keeping
clothes looking their best. Model and actress, Bianca King advised people to keep their
closets neat so you have a full account of everything you own and to know which items
should be hung or folded (if it’s a knit or weave). And speaking of hanging, Laurel and
Aranz-Alunan both mentioned the importance of using proper hangers – Laurel
mentioned avoiding those without foam defense as they could ruin the shape of clothes.
Another advantage of keeping a closet organized is it could help you plan your wardrobe
– you can rotate your pieces, as shared by Laurel, to help prolong their life.