Cur­rently in fash­ion: Re­tail brands are send­ing food down the cat­walk


In­ter­na­tional re­tail brands are no strangers to play­ing the food card. In Tokyo, Bul­gari’s four-storey fine din­ing restaurant called Bul­gari Il Ris­torante serves Ital­ian dishes cre­ated by a Miche­lin-starred chef. Café Dior, lo­cated in the luxe fash­ion dis­trict of Seoul, is home to French pas­tries and mac­arons. Ralph Lau­ren’s New York City flag­ship store has an el­e­gantly min­i­mal­ist café on its sec­ond floor called Ralph’s Cof­fee, serv­ing gourmet South Amer­i­can and African beverages.

Even fast fash­ion brands like H&M have jumped on the band­wagon. Its new con­cept store Ar­ket will soon open in Lon­don with an in­house café serv­ing or­ganic Nordic dishes. Such brand ex­ten­sions have been hap­pen­ing since the ’90s and early 2000s, but fi­nally, Manila is catch­ing up.


It’s a strange but pleas­ant sur­prise that a re­laxed space like Ten­ant Manila could ex­ist in Makati’s cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict. Lo­cated right next to a small ho­tel, café and surf shop Ten­ant Manila per­son­i­fies the laid-back beach phi­los­o­phy its own­ers An­ton Reyes, John Es­guerra, and Mike Te are in­spired by. With wide spa­ces and min­i­mal­ist in­te­ri­ors, the es­tab­lish­ment is a tem­po­rary sea­side get­away from the hus­tle and bus­tle of ur­ban life­style.

“My part­ners and I fre­quently spoke about open­ing a cre­ative space that housed pre­mium brands with a café to match,” Reyes re­veals. “We felt like cre­at­ing a place where you can shop, eat, and have a cup of cof­fee. [ Ten­ant Manila] em­bod­ies the re­tail ex­pe­ri­ence we thought was miss­ing in the lo­cal land­scape.”

Ten­ant is home to a num­ber of surf and menswear brands like Mol­lusk, Con­verse, Surf is Dead, Kap­i­tal, and Satur­days NYC. The shop car­ries sun­glasses, shirts, shorts, shoes, and even cus­tom­ized Man­dala surf­boards. Es­guerra, a Hawaii na­tive with Filipino her­itage, also sells mer­chan­dise from his own brand Qual­ity Peo­ples.

While the ac­tual store is lo­cated on the sec­ond floor, Ten­ant’s ground level houses a quiet cof­fee shop fre­quented by stu­dents, cre­atives, and pro­fes­sion­als. A big chunk of the shop’s mar­ket is com­posed of mil­len­ni­als, thanks to a highly cu­rated playlist and good cof­fee. An added el­e­ment to the am­biance are Ten­ant’s friendly sun-kissed

baris­tas, whom you can im­me­di­ately tell are surfers and fre­quent beach­go­ers.

To cre­ate the menu, Reyes and his part­ners worked closely with a Ja­panese chef to make sure their items are con­cise and al­ways freshly made. “We felt like the com­bi­na­tion of West­ern and Ja­panese in­flu­ence cap­tured the clean and fresh fla­vors we were af­ter,” Reyes says.


When one thinks of Sun­nies, what im­me­di­ately comes to mind is the eye­wear re­tail giant helmed by prom­i­nent per­son­al­i­ties and so­cial me­dia in­flu­encers Ge­orgina Wil­son, Mar­tine Ca­ju­com, Bea So­ri­anoDee, and Eric Dee Jr. In less than five years, Sun­nies Stu­dios has man­aged to build it­self a life­style em­pire, now with roughly 40 out­lets na­tion­wide and branches as far as Sin­ga­pore.

Though the con­cept for Sun­nies Café only came af­ter the swift rise of the eye­wear brand, Eric Dee Sr. of FooDee Global Con­cepts notes that he and his younger brother, Sun­nies Stu­dios fi­nance di­rec­tor Dee Jr., had planned it from the get-go. Since the Dee Family brought Todd English Food Hall, Llaol­lao, and Tim Ho Wan to Manila, it was only nat­u­ral that the broth­ers come up with a home­grown food con­cept.

Dee Sr. over­sees the branches and shares that the la­bel’s eye for good de­sign and aes­thet­ics plays a role as big as the food they serve. “It makes sense to make a café be­cause it’s rel­e­vant to the brand. De­sign-wise, we de­lib­er­ate over what we need and what we’re go­ing to do—for ex­am­ple, with the height of the bar and such. We pay at­ten­tion to small de­tails. Menu-wise, we’ve been study­ing and try­ing to do Cal­i­for­nia a lot since it’s also in the brand­ing,” he says.

Was the open­ing of Sun­nies Café sim­ply a ploy to grow the main re­tail la­bel? Dee Sr. clar­i­fies, “We were adamant about not hav­ing Sun­nies prod­ucts what­so­ever in­side. It’s re­ally about open­ing a le­git restaurant with the Sun­nies brand­ing. At the end of the day, it’s the mar­ket­ing, and that’s where we de­cided to join forces in the sense that the syn­er­gies are there. We’ll do a café, make sure we run that well, and then we scale the busi­ness.” He adds that a Sun­nies Milk­bar will open some­time in Fe­bru­ary 2018.


Does a brand coun­ter­part give these es­tab­lish­ments an edge to the sat­u­rated restaurant scene in Manila? De­spite be­ing ini­tially wary of the In­sta­gram-crazed hype sur­round­ing the launch, Dee Sr. thinks that their brand mar­ket­ing started them off on a high note while con­tin­u­ing to de­liver through­out time.

“We were ac­tu­ally afraid when we first opened the restaurant. For the first two to three weeks, the place was filled with [fe­male blog­gers]. It’s good, yes, but we knew

Both Ten­ant Manila and Sun­nies Café are not only delv­ing into food to sup­port their la­bels but are also build­ing brand­spe­cific cul­tures Filipinos can re­late with and

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that we won’t sur­vive on that,” he says. “We wanted to fo­cus on the food, but the mar­ket­ing it­self is su­per strong. As we pro­gressed, the clien­tele has now grown and that’s what we want in a restaurant. We can’t rely on those fly-bys.”

While Sun­nies Café does not sell specs and sun­glasses in­side restaurant premises, Reyes be­lieves that hav­ing Ten­ant Manila’s prod­ucts and food in one lo­ca­tion pro­vides a re­fresh­ingly unique and all-around ex­pe­ri­ence to the Filipino diner. He notes that while dis­cussing Ten­ant’s con­cept with his part­ners, all had agreed that the café and the re­tail shop must co­in­cide—one can­not open with­out the other.

Re­cently, Manila has been wit­ness­ing more play­ers in the game. Em­pire Fash­ion Café, with branches in Mag­in­hawa and Pasig, share a sim­i­lar con­cept with Ten­ant Manila. Lo­cal lux­ury brand Har­lan + Holden opened a pop-up cof­fee shop in Green­belt 5 for a brief pe­riod this past year and are cur­rently plan­ning to launch a full-time café.

Solid brand­ing and a unique cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence are putting din­ing into a to­tally new light. Both Ten­ant Manila and Sun­nies Café are not only delv­ing into food to sup­port their la­bels but are also build­ing brand-spe­cific cul­tures Filipinos can re­late with and sub­scribe to.

Though both shops are only about a year old, the F&B busi­ness in the coun­try is al­ready vis­i­bly evolv­ing into one where sit­ting and eat­ing is sim­ply not enough for its din­ers. Restau­rants are turn­ing into an ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ence that car­ries out even af­ter a meal, whether it’s tak­ing home some mer­chan­dise from in-house shops or get­ting in­spired for cre­ative en­deav­ors by col­or­ful im­agery. Con­sid­er­ing their cir­cum­stances and ev­ery­thing they’re of­fer­ing, it’s likely that these con­cepts will en­dure both com­pe­ti­tion and the test of time.

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