Pinoy designer makes waves in Japan
TOKYO - Jman, a clothing and shoe brand for men created by Filipino Johann "JC" Manas, has invaded the fashion-forward streets of Tokyo.
I hooked up with my good friend Manas during my Japan trip to learn more about his lifestyle brand and products.
Getting out of the box
Manas started his creative career as a photographer but later felt that the medium limits his artistic expression.
"I'm really a creative person. I started as a photographer, but something in me yearned for more...more innovation. I realized that fashion was that outlet," said Manas.
He decided to pursue his career in fashion and created the brand Jman.
"My exposure to high-end men's wear fashion like the authentic Gentlemen Shoes used by the Royal family in London inspired me to expand my horizons. So I started studying shoe design in the Philippines and eventually started Jman," he said.
Jman started with made-to-order "bespoke" shoes. Manas was happy to serve a market of celebrities and people of discerning taste, but realized that there was a wider market for his designs in Japan.
"Among all the places that I've been to around the world, it's Tokyo that I can relate to. In terms of fashion, it's the most diverse and multifaceted, so I applied to Vantan Design Institute and submitted my portfolio. I was very lucky that they saw something in my work," he explained.
Manas moved to the hip district of Shibuya, Tokyo in 2011 to pursue his dream. He was the first Pinoy to be accepted in Japan's Vantan Design Institute.
Another big break came when he was given a chance to present his brand during the prestigious Mercedes-Benz Tokyo Fashion.
"I was very lucky that my curriculum included a launch at the Tokyo Fashion Week. And that was the first time I introduced Jman to the Japanese market," he said.
Eventually, several Japanese buyers took interest in Jman products.
"I expanded my men's wear and shoe design collection and standardized my quality to meet the highest Japanese standards. When I did my second season after several months, a sales agent took interested in my collection and now, it's being sold here," he said.
A bright vision
Manas is working on his third collection and has bright prospects for his brand.
"I'm working on my third collection that will be out during the spring summer Tokyo Fashion Week exhibit this October," he said.
According to him, future collections will fuse indigenous fabrics from the Philippines with his street wear.
"One example is I used Lumban, Laguna embroidery and fused it with street wear to make a sweater pullover," explained Manas.
"My goal for JMan is to be a top selling brand in Japan and in other counties. I'm very proud to wave the flag of the Philippines and am very grateful that the Japanese market appreciates my design," he added.
Manas also conducts special VIP tours for English-speaking tourists who want to get to know Tokyo.
"The brand is a street lifestyle, so aside from my street wear fashion products, I conduct tours around the streets of Tokyo," he said.
"It's hard to get around in Tokyo if you don't speak Japanese. I experienced it myself so I studied [Nihonggo]. Now that I speak fluently, I happily entertain special groups who want to do fashion, shopping, food and nightlife tours," he said.
I was able to experience his gracious service and special skills as he helped me get around during my stay in Tokyo.
John Paul C.Tanchanco is a travel, food, party, film and music aficionado. He is also an economist, businessman, MYX/Awit award-winning media producer and Kala guitarist.
"Tha Good Life" is a special feature for ABS-CBNnews.com about pop culture, travel, music, entertainment, business, food, clubbing, shopping and events.