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MN+LA’s Francc Mendoza on the Growth of PH Streetwear

MN+LA’s Francc Mendoza tells Complex Philippines about the foundations of local streetwear and the endless struggle that resulted in success.
Francc Mendoza, PH Streetwear
James Francisco

The year is 2015 and Francc Mendoza’s brainchild MN+LA (Manila Meets Los Angeles) is born.

As daunting as it is to enter the garments industry, undettered, Mendoza enacted a lifelong vision. He tells Complex Philippines that it wasn’t an immediate “lightbulb occurrence” but a gruesome back-and-forth between struggles, and finding inspiration and motivation—ultimately sprouting into the Philippine streetwear staple it is today.

MN+LA’s nearly decade-long existence evidences its ability to thrive with other players in an everchanging industry of limitless potential. For Mendoza, creating a lasting brand goes beyond design and product quality, emphasizing the need for perseverance, determination, and consistency brought about by a loyal following.

With nine local locations and one Australian chapter (and counting) as of writing and over 15 different purchasable wardrobe options, MN+LA’s wheels continue to churn in its quest to solidify an undying passion—a dream continuing to flourish while showcasing the lengths of a proudly Filipino-made brand.

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via Instagram

So why MN+LA?

MN+LA stands for Manila meets Los Angeles. I was born in Manila, then I traveled to L.A. (Los Angeles) when I was 21 years old. While I was there, I received feedback from people who liked what I was wearing. I would proudly tell anyone who would ask that I made everything and it continued from there. Whenever I go out, laging pinapansin yung mga damit ko (people always acknowledge what I wear). 

It’s crazy because sa Pilipinas, medyo mahiyain yung mga tao (in the Philippines, people are usually shy). I get the stare—people looking at me from head-to-toe, pero very seldom that they would walk up to you and say “Hey, I like your fit,” “I like what you’re wearing,” or “Where did you get that from” 

Here in LA, people would want to represent their character well and they would find the means to look different. 

How has Filipino streetwear/fashion changed since you started?

I see it (Filipino fashion) still in the development stages, but it’s quickly growing. Masasabi ko pa actually na wala pa ito sa peak niya (I can say that it hasn’t reached its peak yet). Ang dami pa ring pwedeng matutunan. I would say it’s complex enough for worldwide audiences, but medyo malayo sa “world’s best” standard, but looking back to when we started, sobrang layo na yung narating. Sana makita ko rin yung anong kayang abutin ng fashion dito sa Philippines.

via Instagram

What makes MN+LA stand out?

For me, the community. Yun talaga yung pagkakaiba ng brand kasi I really focused on curating a community. I was very careful as to which audience I showed the brand to, sino yung mga tao na mag-paparticipate, sino yung mga susuot, and sino yung mga influencial people na mag-rerepresent. Nakabuo tayo ng isang very loyal community na I’m very grateful for them.

What did you offer that was different?

I offered consistency. For those who supported us since day one and know what we stood for, they know that our DNA hasn’t changed and we continue to stick to that until the brand stops operating. I think yun yung tumulong sa pag-build ng community kasi they were confident that what they experienced as a community will stay. We’ll adapt and bring more ideas to the table, but the DNA will stay the same. 

What’s one thing you would’ve done earlier/won’t do if placed in a similar situation?

Actually, naging problema saakin sa una ang pag-resource, so I would have focused on more niche products kasi noon, I was trying to find different materials to build a lot of different products. Kung babalikan ko, I would have specialized on less products and make it known sa market na ito yung mga flagship products namin, kaysa sa nag-invest ako ng time, energy, and effort para maghanap ng kung ano ano na hindi ko pala kailangan later on.

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via Instagram

Who are your business/fashion icons that motivated you to take this step?

Dalawa talaga: Amancio Ortega (Zara) at si Ralph Lauren. Tinignan ko sila bilang “The Best in the World” para sa akin kasi yung scale na narating nila is very hard to execute. Silang dalawa talaga ang mga major influences ko sa business-side.

When it comes to the creativity aspect, tinitignan ko sila Virgil (Abloh) at si Kanye West. Virgil paved the way for digital brands na possible na kahit digital nagsimula, pero yung ending, nasa tabi ka ng Prada, Gucci, or other influencial brick-and-mortar stores.

Si Kanye naman, ang galing niya mag-market. Kakaiba talaga ang way niya sa pag-mamarket ng products niya na masasabi na pwedeng simple yung itsura pero pinagisipan talaga kung paano niya i-develop. 

Any words to the struggling brand visionaries/those who would want to make a name for themselves in the clothing space?

The struggle is real, bro. The more struggles you face and the challenges you overcome, then the better you become. So, love the struggles and stay consistent. Set a clear path, goal, mission, vision, and consistency. Huwag mo tigilan hanggang hindi mo pa kinukuha yung goal mo. Good luck, yo!

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