How did you girls end up working in Tropa?
Argo: I got a referral from my old boss. I actually applied for the job on a whim, without knowing much about it. But I’m here now and really glad I took the plunge!
Erika: I’ve always thought that you should introduce, explore, and immerse yourself in all things you’re interested in, so through time, I’d engage myself in the industries of art and fashion. As I got older, I also forged my own identity, and with that, I developed a newfound appreciation for all things local that are well-made and thought of, which is how I eventually came across Áraw. Meeting Carla and Borgy, we formed a friendship, and now I’ve become a part of Tropa.
Was working in fashion always part of your plan? If so, how did the retail aspect fit into it?
Argo: Not at all. While I’ve always enjoyed dressing up and admiring people and their personal styles, fashion was just something I appreciated in magazines and films. I was never one to understand the science behind fabrics and cuts, or distinguish designers like the back of my hand. So diving in headfirst into the industry has been interesting.
Erika: I’ve always dealt with fashion growing up, whether it was my background working in front of or behind the camera, or just through having a genuine appreciation for it for as long as I could remember, I always knew I would end up doing something in the industry sooner or later. The retail aspect fits into it, because not only do I get to deal with clothing firsthand, but I also get to experience the back-end of things: daily operations, shoots, and everything else you need to run a store. You really get to learn the business end of the fashion industry and what it takes to create a strong brand. Learning the retail side of it definitely fits into my long-term plan of conceptualizing and developing something of my own in the future.
What’s your daily routine at the store like?
Argo: Our day at the store begins with setting everything up. We’ll put on a tune—usually The Beatles or some new wave band— just to set the mood and get everyone going for daily operations. It includes tasks such as cleaning, inspecting the racks, etc. Afterwards, when the customers start walking in, we’ll do our thing and help them with whatever they need. But in between that and closing, we do other typical shop duties like fixing the inventory or assisting with shoots. There are hectic days where people just keep pouring in, and some laid-back ones where we have time to sit back, enjoy the space, and just get to know our customers who come here to chill out.Erika: As the Store/Marketing Manager, a regular day consists of me running the floor and meeting with people who come in, manning the backroom, sales, planning marketing activities, running Tropa’s social media while also squeezing in a shoot or two within the day. Our space is really great to work with, so you can really multi-task. It’s very much conducive for work and play.
How would you describe the kind of customers that are attracted to Tropa?
Argo: There’s definitely a mix of people who walk in. Some young, some older, some titas who wander in thinking we were a newly-opened restaurant. Except for that last demographic, most of them have a common denominator: they all have an appreciation for slow fashion. I’ll admit, the clothes aren’t as cheap as your mall go-to’s, so our customers are the kind of people who have a true penchant for design and self-expression, who support local brands, and appreciate the quality and love that goes into creating clothes. They know that these are more than just pieces of cloth to keep you warm. And more often than not, they’ve got awesome style.
Erika: There are two types of customers that I’ve noticed come into Tropa. The first is the local community that comes in to support what we stand for: well-made local products with global standards. Products that are built for our unique tropical lifestyle but with a contemporary approach. The second is the foreign community. People who’ve been looking for fine products made locally that they can either bring back home or use here that aren’t your typical novelty items.
What are your personal favorite pieces in the store and why?
Argo: Definitely the Áraw jumpsuits! They’re the comfiest things I’ve ever worn and I could live in them for days.
Erika: It’s very difficult to pick my personal favorites, but right now, I’m in love with Áraw’s Presko Midi Dress in Lilac, which is exclusive to Tropa. Tropa’s Rain Jacket in Olive is also really great. It’s perfect for our weather, since it’s lightweight yet very durable and with a detachable hood. And lastly, the Eairth Kalinga Corsets are cool too, because not only can you wear them on the coast, but it’s a great addition to wear in the city. And they come in a variant of unique colors since they’re all hand-dyed using indigenous practices.
After this experience, where do you see yourself taking what you learned?
Argo: Besides my extensive color training that enables me to look at concrete and think, ‘Oh, what a nice shade of pewter!’, retail has really pushed me out of my comfort zone. As someone who has her introverted moments, I don’t think I’ve ever had so much human interaction in a day since I started manning the shop. It’s great though! It’s teaching me how to handle different kinds of people and be quick on my feet all the time. I think those are valuable skills you can apply anywhere, both with work and life in general. Oh, and the math! I do have to do the math with sales. I’m bad at it, but the numbers have to be had. Perhaps it’s good training for when I decide to become a math teacher. Kidding.
Erika: After this experience, I know it will open a lot of doors for me and for anyone else who comes and joins Tropa. It’s either I plan to finally get my own thing running or we’ll just have to see what new opportunities this will open for me. But either way, I know that this will take me to good places.