MANILA - Brian Dy started his clothing company with a simple vision: for everyone, especially the youth, to wear nationalism on their sleeves.
Dy, who heads MyPhilippines Lifestyle Inc., recently led a fashion show titled "Nasyonalismo", which showcased the company's latest line of signature t-shirts printed with nationalistic messages.
The 14-piece collection of round-necked tees were printed with statements like "Aalagaan Ko Ang Bayan (I will take care of the country)" or "Mag-aaral Ako Para Sa Ikauunlad Ng Bayang Ito (I will study for the good of the nation)" in colorful, bold letters.
"We wanted to target nationalism on a more personal level. Meaning, we made shirts specifically for different fields of society. There are shirts for students, mothers, activists, doctors, athletes - anyone who wants to change the country and anyone we can be proud of," Dy said in an interview with abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak.
The shirts were modeled by celebrities and public figures who have made a mark in their chosen fields, from tourism to entrepreneurship to being an overseas Filipino worker (OFW).
ASEAN paralympics gold medalist swimmer Arnold Balais, for example, modeled a shirt intended for athletes called "Lalaban Ako Para Sa Bayan Ko (I will fight for my country)."
Doctors Israel and Alice Chavez, who serve in remote barrios, sported shirts stating "Gagamutin Ko Ang Sakit Ng Ating Bansa (I will heal the sickness of this country)."
Other noted personalities include former Congressman Gilbert Remulla, filmmakers Aissa Peñafiel and Raymond Red, My Shelter Foundation's Ilac Diaz, the UP Mountaineers, photographer Niccolo Cosme, and others.
The show also featured a Cory Aquino tribute through the shirt "Ilaw ng Tahanan" meant for mothers. The company also has a special line of Cory shirts marked with a silhouette of the former president.
Proceeds from t-shirt sales of the "Nasyonalismo" line will benefit the models' chosen charities. "Whatever we produce, sold or not, it will go to the foundation," Dy said.
The shirts are available at SM department stories and Kultura branches nationwide, as well as through dealers in Singapore, Qatar, Iran, Canada, Dubai, and the United States.
MyPhilippines also has bags, caps, jackets, and other apparel.
Shirts for a cause
Dy started the company in 2003, and pioneered "Pinoy lifestyle shirts" that went beyond simple souvenier designs like tourist locations.
He said the company's lifestyle shirts are meant to depict Filipino culture and to inspire patriotic feelings in both wearers and onlookers.
"It's like a walking billboard. People see what you wear. It's a direct message to yourself and to the people who see these shirts. It's a reminder for everyone," Dy said.
The brand has had several high-profile endorsers like "Trip na Trip" host Uma Khouny (who ran a MyPhilippines shirt collection last August), as well as Jinkee Pacquiao and her children in 2007.
The company also ran a yellow "I Am Ninoy" t-shirt line for the I Am Ninoy campaign, a youth power advocacy by the Benigno S. Aquino Jr. Foundation.
Proceeds went to war-torn children in Mindanao via ABS-CBN's Sagip Kapamilya, a disaster response agency.
|Bryan Dy, President of MyPhilippines Lifestyle Inc.
With the 2010 elections around the corner, Dy said it is crucial to inspire nationalism in Filipinos, even if it is through a fashion statement.
"This is a proactive stance for the youth to use their brains. When you want change, you have to make a stand," Dy said.
He likened the subliminal effect of wearing a "nationalistic shirt" to planting seeds of nationalism in pride in people's heads, so they learn to love their country. The prime targets are the youth, who are bursting with idealism.
"If you love something, you won't do anything bad to it. If the youth learn that, then it's like you're investing in creating good leaders and followers," he said. "You hope this generation rises up to clean up the whole corrupt system. I can't wait."
The company's earliest statement shirt this year was "Gusto Ko Po Ng Pagbabago (I want change)", which spawned the entire "Nasyonalismo" line later on.
With their overtly political stance on certain national issues, Dy said the company is wary of politicians who want to ride on the brand's popularity.
He said they refused inquiries and orders for election campaign t-shirts, despite the opportunity for marketing mileage.
"Let's just say I'm not too happy with the political scene. I want a clean-up. I want people who are really good and true, and [those who] deserve to wear the shirts," Dy said.
Showing the love
Through their eye-catching and thought-provoking lifestyle shirts, Dy said their company was able to clinch more customers from the local market spanning people from all walks of life.
MyPhilippines customers were primarily made up of foreigners, OFWs, and "balikbayans" when they started out 6 years ago.
He's also seen a lot of customers sending messages of support and love for the Philippines through its official website, Multiply, and Facebook.
Dy sees this as a gauge that more people are loving the country, and expressing it by wearing their shirts.
Dubbed the "number 1 Pinoy lifestyle brand" in the Philippines, Dy said they sell tens of thousands of shirts every month, and that "sales have doubled every year" despite rampant imitation or piracy of their designs.
"There's intense competition, but no one loses here. All the brands promote nationalism, give jobs to people, and promote the country. We work hand in hand, and the country wins," he said in Filipino.
Though discontented, Dy remains optimistic about the nation's future. As one of the company's shirts proudly states: "May Pag-Asa Pa Ang Bayan." Report by Kristine Servando, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak. Photos courtesy of MyPhilippines Lifestyle Inc.