Depending on the social circles you hang around in, Cebu’s streetwear brands either evoke a comforting familiarity or a distant curiosity. To many who are in it, they are perceived as a badge for how cool you are; and to some degree, there is truth to that. Several local streetwear brands attach the word “lifestyle” to their identity like it’s magic—like, omg, we’re so cool now—as if people will start buying as long as that term is there. It’s crazy how that word has been mauled over due to some brands’ excessive and superficial use of it.
Rest assured, these three homegrown streetwear brands I’ll be sharing with you do not belong to that category, and actually do have pocket communities that have specific lifestyles associated with them. The first two are considered to be pioneers, while the third one is technically a new player, but whose founder is not so new to the game. Beyond these brands are their creators who have stories worth telling.
Deadways by Franz
Tattoos, fixed-gear cycling, BMX, motorcycles, and everything else in between make up the identity of Deadways, which was founded by Franz in 2013, bringing all these groups and their aficionados under one roof. When Franz started Deadways, he was a fixie rider, which is how he attracted that group. Recently, he’s been more involved in contributing to the BMX community by sponsoring events and building ramps for them.
Before Deadways, Franz had another brand in 2009 called Product of Uranus, which consisted of loud, cartoony tees with a “toilet” theme, obviously—it was all the rage then. Scene kids my age and older will remember this fondly with a slight embarrassment upon recalling the glory days. Franz had designs that weren’t appropriate for Product of Uranus, so he set them aside for what was going to be Deadways. Eventually, he decided to let go of Product of Uranus to focus on his new venture.
The brand name was the result of a happy accident. His friend, Sheldon a.k.a. Dudes or Duder of 6twelve Indie and Joints and Cookies, suggested naming it “Dead Weights.” Franz misheard it as “Dead Ways” and went with it because per syllable had four letters, achieving the visual and aural balance he was looking for in a name. Plus, it was the perfect amount of letter tattoos for all 8 knuckles when put side by side.
9 years later, Deadways remains to be revered among today’s scene kids. According to Franz, it’s important to evolve and ride the wave of change. He cites his taste in music as an example, confessing that he only used to listen to punk. Now, he’s proud to say he listens to hip-hop too. Also, as his interests shift between fixed-gear cycling, BMX, and motorcycles, the brand evolves along with him.
The biggest changes would be his becoming a life partner to Eli and a father to Pacific in March 2020. Deadways’ social media content and marketing materials used to be provocative, showing off ladies in barely-there outfits—if you can still call them that since what they wore was next to nothing. They’ve reined it in a bit, focusing less on suggestive imagery. As someone who has more important priorities, Franz admits he has already outgrown the things that used to excite him as a young lad. He’s done a lot of growing up and continues to plan for the future. He looks forward to transferring to a bigger and better location with a café where his customers can have coffee and chill.
With so many streetwear brands around the city and the possibility of new ones coming up, Franz has advice on starting a business and how to stay relevant: “Di gyud ta immune sa stress sa failures, challenges, and disappointments. Naa gyud na bisan unsa ka ka-maayo sa imong field. Di lang jud ka mu-undang every time naa’y mu-abot nga challenges kay wa man gud na siya maabot para mu-stop nato; niabot na siya para ma-improve ta. (We are not immune to the stresses that failures, challenges, and disappointments bring. It will always be there no matter how good you are at your chosen field. Do not give up when disappointments come because they are not there to stop us, but improve us.)”
The name Deadways serves as a reminder of how limited our time is here on earth. Franz says we should not expect to live forever, sharing, “Kung naa kay ganahan, buhata gyud. Wa bita’y ma-wa. (If you want to do something, do it. You have nothing to lose anyway.)” Insert Shia LaBeouf’s “Just Do It” motivational speech.
Visit Deadways at their flagship store, Pacific Originals, located at 271-A Rahmann Extension, Gorordo Avenue, Cebu City. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
Strap by Edel Tribiana
Like Deadways, Strap also started in 2013. Founded by Edel Tribiana who began skating at 16 years old, Strap is purely rooted in skateboarding. While there were existing brands that offered skate apparel, Edel wanted to create a brand that was 100% catered to skaters. Another driving force was that he was expecting his first baby. He strapped down—pun intended—to see Strap’s full potential and get that bread.
Early on, he was already exposed to the garment industry with his mother being the head honcho of their garment manufacturing business. From fabric types to pattern making, Edel learned everything he could about production to achieve the quality of his products.
With the production side seemingly taken care of, he was now focused on having a name that was short and catchy. One drunken night at the old KOA Tree House, Edel and Cliff Rigor (photographer and videographer who handles Strap’s collaterals) played around with “street apparel.” They started crushing out some letters, eventually arriving at “strap,” a combination of the first letters of those two words. It’s also coincidental that the term is some urban slang associated with hip-hop culture, which Edel is a huge supporter of as well. Everything worked out.
According to Edel, starting Strap was fun, but sustaining it has been the real challenge. With self-discipline and a balls-to-the-wall attitude, Edel would “flip” or double up his earnings to keep his business running like his figures of inspiration, the Corleones, despite being broke. From the very beginning, he wanted to produce top-to-bottom merchandise from headwear down to shoes. Little did I know that the world of skateboarding fashion is as broad as Edel described it. This gave him a lot of room to explore in terms of product development. According to Edel, skaters are actually trendsetters with Japanese skateboarding brands leading the way. From skinny jeans to the looser-fitting work pants, a skater’s choice indicates not just their taste, but their age too. No offense, skate titos!
As the skater’s look changes over time, one thing that has unfortunately stayed consistent is the prejudice against them for being dirty and disheveled troublemakers, or in other words, yagit. This is the reason behind Edel’s creative choice of having their brand adapt a clean, neat, and streamlined look. Aside from aesthetic preference, this specific look is also Edel’s attempt at breaking stereotypes.
Since day one, Edel has been looking out for skaters like Motic Panugalinog—a name I have a feeling will blow up soon—offering Strap as a stepping stone for their skating careers and letting them go once they find even bigger opportunities. Strap also organizes skateboarding competitions, donates obstacles, and even supports local hip-hop artists like Enrico Reems by letting them perform in their events.
As Strap continues to support the skating community, Edel is also looking into producing and designing workwear for various industries soon. However, his biggest ambition is to build a skatepark in Cebu to finally provide a proper facility for skaters that will last.
Find the Strap flagship store at Century Plaza Complex, Juana Osmeña Street, and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
The No Good Crew by Chad Nimor
Like I said earlier, this last brand is “technically a new player, but whose founder is not so new to the game.” Unlike the previous pioneering brands I talked about, The No Good Crew (TNGC) by Chad Nimor has a unique business model. TNGC is primarily a retailer carrying various local brands, a manufacturer for some brands they carry, and, on top of it all, a brand itself.
It was first established in Manila in May 2018 with the initial purpose of bringing back Nick Automatic there after a two-year hiatus. Chad was involved in the operations of Nick Automatic, which is owned by his older brother, Nicolo Nimor. Once again, shoutout to scene titos and titas who just got a flashback. IYKYK. It was a good run with the help of Koi Busalla who organized “The Nick Automatic XL Show,” a live music event headlined by Urbandub. The tickets were made available only at the TNGC store, which was the turning point of TNGC’s exponential growth in Manila. Despite their success, the two brothers had to agree on who was going to handle what: Chad would run TNGC on his own as CEO, officially leaving Nick Automatic with Nicolo as its original chief.
TNGC transferred to Cebu and opened just last May 2021, exactly three years after their Manila opening. From dri-fit and casual tees to caps and socks, the store has something for everyone who adheres to certain lifestyles and hobbies like cycling, skating, etc. On the other hand, TNGC Originals is Chad’s manifestation and expression of his personal taste in clothing, describing it as utility wear. This particular line consists of plain tops and bottoms that are neutral in color and gender too. Chad specifically wants to target everyday commuters by focusing on both form and function, which is why he incorporates more than the usual number of pockets into his pieces: “I want to make my wearers’ lives easier.” Making functionality a priority is rare for casual wear, which is what sets TNGC Originals apart.
The name “The No Good Crew” came from a Nick Automatic t-shirt design that piqued Chad’s interest. For Chad, it serves as a reminder of how he was constantly being told by people he supposedly loved that he won’t amount to anything. It’s important to him to maintain a “noob mindset” as a springboard for unceasing progress. Chad also points out the negative aspect to this, which is the potential for a total loss of self-confidence resulting in an unhealthy mental state. His way of battling this is to eat well, exercise, and not rush things. The shortcut to success, according to Chad, is trying to become a fad: “That’s the easy way of getting things done. But I don’t work like that. I like to build slowly and surely.” He adds that this way, he gets to know himself deeply and translate that to his brand, making an identity for himself that is separate from his past.
To those who want to start their streetwear brand or business, Chad says, “If you really want it, don’t give up. It’s not an easy path.” To those who say you’re made for life when you start a clothing brand, he says, “Buang ka du” (You’re insane, dude!)” (The English translation is so lame and does not have the same impact.) He shares how challenging his time in Manila was, surviving on canned goods and not paying for some of his jeepney rides. He recalls one of his darkest moments when he was alone, burning the midnight oil trying to finish their inventory while simultaneously arguing with his significant other online through video chat. Right in the middle of it all, Chad blacked out and had five consecutive seizures. His better half witnessed everything through the screen. There were also nights he would cry out of nowhere, questioning whether he’ll live in the next two years. Chad says that the bigger your ambition is, the greater the sacrifice: “If you want it, go take it, but never stop doing it.”
The core belief that TNGC operates on is to always strive to be better. Chad wants to convey TNGC’s principles of self-improvement and kindness through their pieces. He wants to send the message of the stoic philosophy of managing your emotions and that you can be “confident in your sober self.” In time, Chad wants to release more TNGC Originals collections and hone in on the manufacturing side of his business as well.
The No Good Crew flagship store is located at B.B Cabahug Street, Guizo, Mandaue City. Some of their items can also be found at Wworkshop Studio in #3 Molave Street, Brgy. Kamputhaw, Cebu City. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
As a non-participant and mere close spectator of these aforementioned lifestyles, communities, and streetwear brands, I had a great time going past the trivial “hi, hello” and actually talking to Franz, Edel, and Chad. The conversations I had with each of them were all insightful in their own ways, giving me a glimpse into who they are as individuals. The common denominator is that their brands are more than just businesses. Deadways, Strap, and The No Good Crew are reflections of their founders’ singular journeys, which they each share for the world to wear.