Signet: A place for the stylish Filipino gentleman
What does a gentleman need? The right basics with the right fit, found at the right place.
Photos by Sonny Espiritu
“The suit is the modern gentleman’s armour.”
— Harry Hart played by Colin Firth, Kingsman (2014)
I had a phase where I was enthralled by all things mod — the style, the attitude, the class, the fashion. Look up “Quadrophenia” on Google and you will see men in suits and parkas on Lambretta scooters, and you’d wish you could ride with them.
“Mod” as an adjective is short for modern. “Mod” as a British noun is a person belonging to a subculture characterized by the wearing of stylish clothes, the riding of scooters, and the liking for soul.
Being mod is uncontrived. It is not forced. It is a way of life.
Kelly See, Edie Lim, and Jason Qua embody this way of life through their men’s specialty store along Legazpi Street, Makati, called Signet.
LIFE at The Standard visited them last September 5 on the last day of the trunk show by Japanese shoe designer and maker Koji Suzuki, for his brand Spigola.
“We curate brands and we work with artisans whom we feel have the aesthetic we’re looking for and have that quality craftsmanship,” Kevin Yapjoco of Signet told LIFE at The Standard. “We see that there is a demand for better fitting footwear for a lot of our clients. Ready to wear and made to order don’t really meet their needs.”
Signet — whose façade and over-all feel would remind one of the 2014 Colin Firth film Kingsman — is for everybody. “Guys in their late twenties and early thirties come. They upgrade their wardrobe and get a lot of ready to wear shoes and jackets,” said Yapjoco. “The older clientele — forties and up — go for our suits, tailoring services, and made to measure and bespoke shoes.”
To be “made to measure” means it is specially made to fit a particular person, designed to fulfill particular requirements. To be “bespoke” means it is made to order.
Koji Suzuki and Spigola
Kelly See, one of the men behind Signet, has been a client of Suzuki long before the store came to be.
“Spigola is from Kobe, Japan. Koji Suzuki is based in Japan,” See told us at the trunk show. “He went to Florence to train with [bespoke shoemaker] Roberto Ugolini and started making shoes in 2001 in Kobe. Koji-san offers made to measure and bespoke shoes.”
According to Suzuki, about 80 percent of Asian men are flat-footed. This can be corrected by made to measure or bespoke shoes.
“Koji-san has his own techniques to make the shoes very comfortable. With made to measure or bespoke, you can choose your leather, design, even the heel — if you want higher or lower,” See continued.
“I’ve tried a lot of shoemakers from UK, London, and Italy. The most comfortable shoes would still be Spigola by Koji Suzuki. They are the perfect fit. You can run with these shoes,” said See, who compared men’s lace-up dress shoes with heels for women. At the end of the day, men would complain about how their feet feel in those shoes.
But not if they wear Spigola.
“It’s because Koji-san is Asian, and he knows the problem of Asian feet,” said See. “If you go for made to measure or bespoke we can adjust everything. We can tweak everything.”
Spigola by Koji Suzuki is made from French calf, Italian leather, and European leather. Every pair is fully handmade.
The Signet story
Signet has been open for six months at Windsor Tower, Legazpi Street in Makati. In the pipeline is another store in Bonifacio Global City, at Shangri-La The Fort. But their trunk shows began two years ago in 2013, long before they found the perfect spot.
“The market is in Makati,” said See, who mainly started the store. He would fly out of the country at least eight times a year to see tailors and shoemakers. He decided to bring them to him instead, and let other people know them, too — and Signet was born.
“Our goal is to have a one-stop shop. It’s always classic. It’s always traditional clothing,” said See. “What you need is the basics and just play around with them. Guys shouldn’t go with trends.”
For See, “basic” means good-fitting shoes, suits, shirts, and denim. Signet features in-house brands sourced by the partners in Japan, Italy, UK, and France.
“Edie is really into denim, Japanese denim. He’s into rugged wear,” said See of partner Edie Lim. “Jason [Qua] is more into street wear.”
Among the fashion brands available in Signet are:
- Ring Jacket, a sport coat and suiting brand, around since 1954
- D’Avino, a Neapolitan shirt brand, parts of which are hand made
- Sunspel, a knitted shirt brand that started in the 1800s
- Barbour, an English outerwear brand that specializes in waxed jackets
- Fox Umbrellas, which has been around since 1868
- Saint James, unisex shirt brand which has been around since 1889
- Bretelle and Braces, Albert Thurston braces and suspenders
Their Japanese denim brands are The Flat Head, Momotaro Jeans, Studio D’Artisan, Samurai, Iron Heart, Full-count, and Resolute.
“What makes Japanese denim the best is they reproduce very close to vintage fabrics from the 1940s to 1960s,” said Yapjoco. “No stretch at all. It’s all 100 percent cotton.”
Japanese sneakers Shoes Like Pottery and artisanal bag and accessory brand Superior Labor (each piece made by one artisan, upon order) are also available in Signet.
The leather goods — while understated — also stand out. Frank Clegg Leatherworks are made in Massachusetts by a father and son team with a staff of about five people. They create bags made upon order based on standard, available designs.
“You can choose the leather, the options you want inside, the monogramming,” said Lim. “They’re done really nice.”
Footwear brands available are Farfalla (“Ballet flats for guys,” said Yapjoco) and Carmina (Spanish shoemaker since 1860s). They can be done made to order for both men and women, and the process would take three to four months.
The well-dressed man is not the one wearing the most expensive stuff. The well-dressed man is the one dressed for the occasion he is intending to go to. Signet is a place that makes sure it can provide a man’s style needs. In fact, every third Sunday of the month, there are also barber sessions, every slot booked by appointment.
This October 27, Signet is hosting shoemaker Stefano Bemer. For inquiries, call 894-3934 or email email@example.com.