Jowee Alviar and Mon Punzalan have been doing one thing since they started Team Manila in 2005: promote Pinoy pride through a slew of lifestyle products carrying their distinctive design. “Whatever we did before, that’s what we’re still doing now, but it’s just more,” says Alviar.
Through the years, Team Manila has never deviated from their mission of spreading nationalism in a “digestible” fashion. The constant effort has paid off: “Before we had no voice when we were doing this,” says Alviar. “But now we are able to influence other people, which is a good thing.”
It’s perhaps ironic that the first time Jowee Alviar and Raymund Punzalan appeared in the pages of Entrepreneur, it was in a now-defunct section called “Almost Famous.” Unless you’ve been living under a very big rock, the founders and owners of Team Manila Graphic Design Studio and Team Manila Lifestyle, are now anything but. Let’s put it this way: they’re bigger. And while the two may point out the obvious weight gain since their first feature, they’ve grown in all senses of the word.
What started with just the two of them in a spare room in Alviar’s Parañaque home in 2001 has now evolved into a team of more than 60 people in what the public has grown to recognize as the company that made nationalism ready-to-wear and Pinoy pride mainstream. While other retail brands have been spreading the same message before, it was the multidisciplinary design studio’s retail arm, Team Manila Lifestyle, which made it—fashionalism—a legit word.
“What’s great about it is that we were able to work with many interesting people on interesting projects,” says Alviar. “But it doesn’t feel like 10 years. It still feels like we’re starting out.” His business partner Punzalan, meanwhile, says: “We have accomplished a lot of things that we really wanted to do before, but it’s been a constant thing. Whatever we did before, that’s what we’re still doing now, but it’s just more.” More doesn’t even begin to describe it.
With a capital of P400,000, they launched their own line of lifestyle products in 2005 in what was the garage of their Makati office. Selling silk-screened T-shirts, tote bags, and wallets, “We [would] earn around P100,000 monthly from [that] store alone,” reminisces Alviar.
Fast-forward to today, Team Manila Lifestyle now has four stores located in major malls around the metro, more than 20 resellers around the country, and a catalogue of items inspired by pop culture, history, and urban life that encapsulate the whole Team Manila lifestyle.
Not since the passing of Ninoy Aquino has nationalism become so fashionable. And not just for the oldies. “Since we started this,” says Alviar, “the nationalistic spirit of the youth was revived. It became much more digestible for them because of what they saw: great graphics, a positive message that isn’t baduy (tacky), and since young people put it out, they can relate to it.” He adds: “Before we had no voice when we were doing this. But now we are able to influence other people, which is a good thing.”
Another good thing that has come out of it is the creation of the country’s first graphic design conference, the Manila Design Week, which they started in 2009. Held every August, the reason for the conference, says Alviar, is that “there are a lot of really talented graphic designers in Manila, but there’s not one platform where they can get together, show their skills, and collaborate with other individuals. With Manila Design Week, we want to bring graphic design to the public.” His vision is big: “We can see that there’s big potential for graphic design to be a big industry [in the country].”
While the shirts, hoodies, and other merchandise are what made Team Manila the pop culture icon that it is, the core of the company is still graphic design. Just as they were doing almost 10 years ago, the company is still doing projects for big corporate clients, creating commercials, designing collaterals, and developing visuals. “It’s an ongoing process,” says Alviar. “We’re still achieving some of our initial goals and continuing what we started.” And part of that is putting Manila on the map—or in this case, the shirt.
Jowee Alviar and Mon Punzalan:
The Design Duo
TEAM MANILA GRAPHIC DESIGN STUDIO
146B Jupiter St., Barangay Bel-Air, Makati City 1209
(02) 899-1570; firstname.lastname@example.org