When apparel brand Giordano started its Philippine operations in 1989, it was among the movers and shakers of the fashion retail industry. It was a time when United Colors of Benetton, Esprit, Giordano, et al, were the be-all, end-all of fashion. Two decades and a pack of both local and international retail brands later, many have since challenged Giordano’s position and are competing head-on against the brand. And as the company operates in multiple segments, it directly and indirectly competes against today’s top players.

“We were definitely affected by the new brands that came into the market,” admits David O. Magat, asst. operations manager of Giordano. “However, most of the ones coming in now are highly trend-driven and I think, because of our concept of selling basic value-for-money casual wear, we were able to pull through with the competition.”

Creating a Strong Brand Image

Clothing has always played a major role in the lives of consumers.

Wearing the merchandise enables people to express their individuality, which makes it the best product category to build resounding and exciting brand personalities.

“When we started, people viewed Giordano as a luxury brand, and then we were viewed as pang-masa because we started targeting the BC market,” says Magat. “But now that we’ve streamlined our items and changed the façade of our stores, we’ve become more warm and inviting, so we’re beginning to tap the high-end market again. We realized that brand equity is really the name of the game nowadays. If you don’t take care of your brand—the store, the merchandise, customer service, etc.—then you lose your customers.”

The company, whose presence in the industry has been largely subdued the past years, has also realized the value of aggressive marketing. “You don’t read a lot about us because we’ve been quite conservative when it comes to marketing,” says Magat. “But now, we’re making our presence felt. We’ve become more assertive in terms of styling our products—it’s not just your basic T-shirt-pants combo anymore. It’s all about how the consumer perceives our product, so now we’re more open to advertising and other mediums to communicate what Giordano is all about.”

Today, the company has under its belt five sub-brands that follow Giordano’s less-is-more concept. Giordano Functional, with its unisex multi-colored shirts and polos, remains the company’s bread and butter. However, it is Giordano Ladies and Giordano Concepts that are turning the heads of fashion smarts everywhere. “Giordano Ladies is high-end—we only have one store in Rockwell and the look is really corporate and cocktail chic. The designs maintain our profile of being simple, but the fabrics are of high quality,” shares Magat. “Giordano Concept, on the other hand, deviates from the concept of being basic. It’s not as trendy or outrageous as other brands in terms of styling, but the designs cater to a younger, more fashionable crowd.”

Value for Education

In line with its 21st anniversary, Giordano recently launched a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program, “Think of the Kids, Be the Change,” that heeds one of its foremost corporate values: Knowledge. “Education has been one of the driving forces to Giordano’s growth,” shares Magat. “Even within the company, we strive to educate our employees and encourage further learning to keep with the times. Even Giordano Hong Kong is planning to come up with a design school of its own where they train the future designers of Giordano. Education serves as our guide on how we operate.”

Here in the Philippines, the company partnered with the Knowledge Channel to help educate 1,700 children in four public schools in Surigao by way of an educational TV program. With a portion of Giordano’s sales going to Knowledge Channel, the company will provide four select schools in rural Mindanao with a 29-inch TV set, a satellite dish, and a digital receiver to help improve the quality of public education. “With television as a medium to educate kids below 13 years of age, we hope to change kids’ mindset that going to school is boring. Kids are very visual learners and Knowledge Channel is coming up with an exciting program that will enhance the quality of their education.”

Published in the November 22 issue of the Manila Bulletin’s Business Agenda section