As told to Marge C. Enriquez
When the SM Woman Sleepwear went full blast in 2019, I wanted to include kaftans in our collection of night shirts, pajama and shorts sets. Buyers were resistant. They told me that it wouldn’t sell because kaftan is resortwear.
I reasoned out, “How can it be resortwear if it’s made of satin?”
The idea was shelved. Selecting stock for the store is always a risk. Retail buyers don’t want to be left with huge inventory. So I let it be. Meanwhile, I made a few kaftans for the women of Forbes Park. The idea was that they could wear it to the grocery, parlor or mah-jong session. The kaftan styles vary in the neckline and armhole. Some would want to show off their jewelry, so I designed round-neck styles. The few pieces for market testing were sold out.
Then the lockdown happened. Before the lockdown SM Department Store had a few visitors on its retail website. The online items were basics. But during the ECQ, online sales of SM Woman Sleepwear shot up, and it continues to grow.
The demand became so high that Tessie Sy-Coson (chairman of SM Retail Inc,) had to set up a buying day last August only for sleepwear. We have been getting regular orders for pajama sets, night shirts and robes because these are preferred by the market. When I presented the charmeuse kaftans, Tessie liked them. They were delivered to the store and sold fast. Charmeuse satin drapes fall well on the body and they feel well on the body too.
I gauge the success of the kaftans from my friends’ comments. They say it’s soft and cool to wear. These women chide me that the collection could stand up to a Josie Natori (which is priced much much higher). I shrug off the compliment because SM Woman Sleepwear has a different market positioning. I’m often asked, “What separates your clothes from the rest?” The price. It ranges from P549 to P699.
The head of Ladieswear said sales have been recording double-digit growth compared to 2019 because of the expanded lounge wear. Since people have been staying at home, they are looking for comfortable clothes.
Another buying day for sleepwear was held last October for the January and February deliveries. The buyers had to advance their PO’s (purchase orders) for delivery because they were afraid the stocks would quickly run out. The initial inventory was good till January. It’s the mandatory skeleton force in factories that is slowing down the production. The store had to be informed about possible delays due to quarantine restrictions.
Some people thought I bought the sleepwear from China and re-tagged them. In truth, my manufacturer has access to imported fabrics. It’s heaven for me because I don’t run out of choices. SM Women Sleepwear uses cotton knit and charmeuse, the lightest and shiniest satin. I design for both the young and the mature. Some prints are more suitable for older women. I add a few details—piping trim on pajama sets and lace trimmings on a camisole top. The “cami” can be worn with shorts for housewear or underneath a blazer for going out.
I owe my success to Tessie. All my knowledge in fashion comes from working with her and through experience. After 40 years, I’m still learning from her.
I joined SM as a store and window designer, setting up the displays in the Makati store. This was in the early years of SM. Tessie saw that I had the eye for fashion so I became a junior merchandiser in menswear in the old main branch in Echague, Manila. It also got me started on merchandising for ladieswear. Merchandising involves research, trend forecasting of what the market would want, predicting what shapes and colors would sell, and estimating the quantity per size and costing.
I got my first break when Tessie asked me to handle the in-house menswear labels— Newsmakers polo shirts, Men’s Club T-shirts and Designer Lines for Boutique Square. In 1989, I launched my own menswear for SM, Anthony Nocom. It was flattering and inspiring to share retail space with the big names, such as Jean Goulbourn, Caloy Badidoy and Lulu Tan-Gan.
After 26 years, I took a break from menswear. I never left merchandising for womenswear. While I was doing menswear, buyers and merchandisers would ask my opinion and I enjoyed giving inputs, looking at samples and trying to spot flaws in the fitting or finishing—not about colors, however, because it was the merchandisers who knew that best. Tessie understood that I gave comments to help improve the quality.
All those years were learning years from Tessie—being able to tell what merchandise she would reject or approve. A buyer once asked me, “How do you know what Tessie would approve or disapprove?” I’ve been by her side the past 40 years, actually.
In 2017, Tessie asked me to revamp the sleepwear line. She felt that something was missing. I felt that the styles looked frumpy and needed better design, sizing and proportion. I went around the store to look at other women’s sleepwear and asked around what women wanted. Pajama and shorts.
My plan was to pair cotton tops and satin shorts or pajamas. The buyers turned that down. Women like matching tops and bottoms and dislike high-cut shorts and low necklines. Sexy doesn’t sell. They wish to be comfortable.
So I chose younger colors and prints. I changed the proportion of the shorts, from loose cuts that only a lola would wear, to slimmer but relaxed fit. The manufacturer actually liked the selection because it came with increasing quantities. That meant that I must be doing something right.
SM satin sleepwear is becoming the must-buy for a growing number of people because it’s affordable yet luxurious. Many buy in bulk to give as gifts, especially last Christmas. Now I even see a lot of satin sleepwear being sold online and in bazaars.
Will I be doing menswear? I don’t think men would want to sleep in satin pajamas or matching sets. Filipino men go to bed in T-shirt or sando with loose shorts. I’m one of them.