Twenty-five years ago, in solidarity with the fight against HIV/AIDS, French luxury house Maison Margiela released a simple v-neck T-shirt with a striking, screen-printed message: “There is more action to be done to fight AIDS than to wear this T-shirt, but it’s a good start.” Donating portions of the shirt’s sales to leading French HIV/AIDS awareness organization AIDES, the brand was one of the first major fashion houses to actively support such charitable efforts. The shirt would become one of Margiela’s enduring designs, with various reiterations of the piece released annually since 1994.
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In celebration of the initiative’s silver jubilee, MM6 Maison Margiela launched a capsule collection for Spring/Summer 2019, reprinting the iconic slogan on various bags, accessories, and apparel. Manila got a preview of the designs during the launch of Cul-De-Sac, the latest addition to Noble House Group’s lineup of concept stores. Inspired by Margiela’s philanthropic deeds, the event also introduced the brand’s collaboration with LoveYourselfPH, the country’s counterpart to AIDES. On its pilot month, Cul-De-Sac allotted a portion of its sales to the non-profit organization.
“We never have events just for the sake of having them,” says Andrew Naval, operations manager of Noble House. “For the launch of Cul-De-Sac, we wanted to welcome people inside the store and highlight our products, we also wanted them to take away something deeper than just a party.” That’s why they decided to highlight a special collection from MM6 Maison Margiela, a brand they regularly carry, and champion its cause at the same time.
Joining Margiela’s capsule collection is a diverse mix of contemporary brands, streetwear labels, and novelty pieces from Noble House’s other spaces—Akimbo, Distinqt, and XCEPTION. The new lifestyle boutique carries renowned global names like Versus Versace, MSGM, Be@rbrick, and Opening Ceremony. “Each of our brands offer different identities,” Naval emphasizes. “Akimbo is the go-to destination for current and high-end streetwear brands. Distinqt provides a mix of sophistication and elegance. XCEPTION carries sturdy, essential, and striking home items.”
The Cul-De-Sac brand experience, he says, is as a combination of fashion, lifestyle, uniqueness, and interior design. He says that the in-store experience should spark wonder and surprise in their customers, allowing them to focus on the quirks and distinct qualities of each item. To achieve this, Noble House partnered with contemporary interiors specialist Jagnus Design to fine-tune the retail space’s clean and sleek aesthetic: brightly-lit interiors; touches of steel; shades of gray, white, and black; and glass-clad displays. These provide a sharp contrast to the vibrant colors, striking designs, and the unconventional silhouettes of the garments and statement pieces, allowing them to stand out.
Curating Cul-De-Sac is anything but easy. To determine the initial mix and future labels to feature, their team shortlists contemporary and rare brands that carry a unique and strong point of view. To whittle the selection, they look at international design trends and predict if they will sit well with the Philippine market. “Like every business, we have to start from scratch,” he recalls. “The team used to go to fashion weeks in Milan and Paris with nothing but a mere concept deck to present the retail experience we wanted to build and achieve in the Philippines. We just had to hope for the best, that they would allow us to carry their brands.” Through the years, Noble House’s efforts have paid off, establishing connections with many exclusive labels. Their strong retail portfolio and authentic relationships with the people behind the labels, Naval shares, have helped them reach out to stores that they previously couldn’t get in touch with.
While Cul-De-Sac’s selection of high-end clothing and novelty pieces are popular with style savants, they are more than open to welcome streetwear rookies in the store. In fact, Naval thinks that waves of new contemporary fashion consumers will keep on coming their way. The scene in Manila has grown over the past few years, he says. This is primarily driven by social media, the plethora of luxury houses and haute couture incorporating more contemporary streetwear designs into their seasonal runway shows, and the effect this has had on the endless number of fast fashion brands throughout the world. “We can help widen knowledge on contemporary fashion and novelty for consumers who are not as familiar with the brands we take in,” he says.
Given this, Naval is convinced that the local market is ready to take in more unique and niche labels. With a track record of introducing never-before-seen garments in the country, Noble House and its concept stores aim to fill in the gap between high-end and fast fashion. “The stores we carry create a more sophisticated market that isn’t focused on huge brands. Instead, we intend on featuring clothing that provides a holistic and form-meets-function focused identity that enthusiasts can leverage on.”
Cul-de-sac is on the second floor of The Podium, ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong. For more information, visit them at Cul-De-Sac.ph.