Josie Go put up her first store without coming up with a business plan or even a marketing study. She merely followed the suggestion of her mother, who said she might as well make something useful out of her passion for clothes and shopping. Go figured there was no harm in trying. “Rent was cheap, and I wasn’t busy with anything else anyway,” she recalls.
So, in 1980, Go opened the first Karimadon shop on a 40 sq m space at the Virra Mall in Greenhills, San Juan. However, she initially did not sell clothes as her mother advised, but PX goods like candy and snacks instead. It was much later that she decided to sell ladies blouses, first sourcing them from a local supplier, then eventually importing them. “If you buy from local suppliers, your selections are limited,” she explains. “But if you source from abroad, you will have many styles and designs to choose from.”
It was while running the first Karimadon shop that Go finally found her calling—to be a seller of unique, exclusive, and original clothing at affordable prices. In time, she became one of the first garment retailers in the country to buy, make, and sell her own clothes, a move that has made Karimadon one of the longest-staying apparel brands in the Philippine market. “We pride ourselves in being trendsetters,” she says. “If there’s a current style that’s ‘in’, chances are we had already been selling that style since as early as the year before.”
Go takes pride in the fact that the typical Karimadon customer is a long-time customer. She enters the store when she is 18, looking for prom dresses. Between that time and until she is 40, she will keep coming back for her various casual and formal wear needs.
“The secret of Karimadon’s longevity is twofold,” says Go. “The first is the quality and style of our clothes. Our customers know that anytime they come to Karimadon, they will find something affordable that will flatter their body, no matter the shape.” Indeed, Go is so meticulous about how her line of clothing will fit the customer that she has actually retained specific people to represent the different body sizes—small, medium, large, and extra-large. All new designs of Karimadon must fit these people perfectly before they can be approved for delivery to the stores.
“Secondly, since we have been in business for a long time now, the Karimadon name has developed its own cachet among buyers, something that makes them truly proud to wear something from Karimadon,” she says. A quick look at the end credits of primetime soap operas on local channels will prove her point: many of the female stars in these shows are actually dressed up by Karimadon.