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Claim to Fame: Founder and creative director of The Third World and Episodes.TV
Maj Veloso, the current founder and creative director of The Third World, a creative and lifestyle platform, saw the humble beginnings of sneaker culture in the Philippines. She retells the days of Multiply and Friendster, both filled with would-be sneakerheads just trying to make a buck out of resales.
But with her decade-long observation of its ins and outs, Maj shares valuable insight on where the sneaker community is going, and how much influence it holds beyond its online communities.
What’s been the biggest shock to you in terms of the interest in sneakers has grown?
The past decade, it was very slow. People knew about sneakers, but it was such an intimate community. It was just a few hundreds and we were in one community, so we were all talking to each other via Multiply.com. It even started on Friendster, you know? So compared to now, it’s super shocking ‘cause it’s just boomed like that. I guess the reason is these celebrities rocking certain sneakers. Like let’s say, Kanye West, Travis Scott, all these rappers, all these high profile celebrities in Hollywood, I think they’ve given a big impact to Filipinos ‘cause Filipinos are so westernized in fashion, in the way that whatever they see in the US or in Europe but mostly in the US, they copy and bring it here. I guess it’s a good thing that people are aware that there’s a sneaker community in the Philippines. That’s good; I hope it just keeps on growing.
Why do you think Filipinos have such an interest in sneakers?
Filipinos love sneakers because of the hype. It’s what I see right now. But at the end of the day, if you study the shoe, the history of it, that’s where the beauty comes from. The history. The story of the shoe. So going back to that question, aside from the hype, it’s the value of the shoes. ‘Cause you see these massive lines from Jordans Manila, from adidas stores, from New Balance stores. Filipinos are quick to pick up on New Balance ‘cause of Teddy Santis, yung creative director ng New Balance US; he’s the founder of the brand Aime Leon Dore. It’s from New York, so that’s why New Balance is such a trend right now. You know, I’ve been wearing New Balances since 10 years ago. I was just an all around sneakerhead before. And now it just died down ‘cause all of these people wanna just buy shoes and resell them.
How do sneakers help define the Filipino identity outside of just sneakers?
Sneakers make a big statement in every industry, not just the sneaker industry itself. I mentioned earlier that I love to match my sneakers with my outfit as much as I can; so with style, it comes with that, if you love to match outfits. And I guess it just gives you more character as a person. When it comes to music, it’s also a big impact ‘cause going back to music and history, there’s this hip-hop culture and sneakers has been a big, big part of contributing to that kind of music, that genre. I can also say, it’s not just hip-hop. Sabihin natin rock music, but [it’s a] different kind of sneakers, but it’s still there. Sneakers as a whole, in that industry, contributes to the person. Kasi diba parang nakakadagdag siya ng character. In style, it just adds up. It completes the whole outfit. In music, it completes the whole story. No matter who you are or where you are, it’s gonna be part of you.
If you could have known how big the sneaker community would get, what would you have done differently five or ten years ago?
Looking back now, no one would expect that it would boom like this or that it would be this big. Honestly, we’ve been through so much shit as “sneakerheads.” We went through that phase where we used to resell a lot, like make profit off shit but you know, people used to hate me for that. I understood why they thought that way, I guess it was too much hype and everything, and my perspective of that changed a few years later, ‘cause… I really didn’t wanna do that reselling thing, but I respect every businessman’s hustle. But for me, I would just cop what I want and style it and make other ways to make money. And then, maybe I would’ve changed the way I was thinking [of] not going for all trendy sneakers. ‘Cause I was young back then, and when you’re a teenager, you want to wear all the coolest stuff. Now that’s not the thing; I just really wanna be myself.
Fill in the blanks for us: Youth culture in the Philippines is defined by ____ and kept alive by ____.
Youth culture in the Philippines is defined by authenticity and kept alive by the next generation.
Another one: It’s about time Complex arrived in the Philippines because ____.
Because it’s been long overdue! I mean, bro! Bro. The Philippines deserves it.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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Photography Erwin Canlas
Art Direction Alexandra Lara
Art Alexandra Lara and James Francisco
Makeup Aica Latay
Hair Angel Marinas
Styling Consultant Janna Silao assisted by Salvador Silao
Story Adie Pieraz
Production Design Luis Pelo