When friends invite me to go out, my first instinct is to think of an excuse. The idea of loud crowds and the meeting and greeting of people you’ll add in Facebook but will probably never talk to again in real life does not appeal to me. True to the stereotype of quiet girls, I’d rather stay home and read— unless the party’s at Cubao X, that is. Because as everyone else rushes to the stage to dance with their beer bottles in hand, I slink away into one of the shops around the quaint little art den to discover that there is more to the place than just wild, wild partying.
From hipsters to hobbyists
There is something in Cubao X for everybody and every hobby. Avid graphic novel fans know that Sputnik is the place for comics, and the movie buffs and film critics meet at Mogwai for weekly screenings of cult classics.
Those into Japanese animation have a home in Genshiken, the specialty anime store that sells everything from toys, manga, collectible figurines, and that occasional quirky headpiece to complete one’s cosplay outfit.
For collectors of trinkets, antiques, and other anachronistic things, Cubao X has a splendid strip of stores that sell nostalgia in various packages. The Vinyl Dump has an excellent collection of refurbished LP players and vinyl records sold in good condition. During one of my previous visits to the store, I was able to bag an old bootleg of a rare Rolling Stones recording and a wall clock with a young Paul McCartney’s face on it. Other shops have shelves full of portable typewriters, vintage purses, old magazines, and literally just about everything from the past’s decadent decades.
If you’re into beadwork and accessories, The Beadlady is for you. This craft cafe and art studio sells an assortment of clay pendants, lockets, charms, and everything you need for DIY. The store also sells lovely hand-painted bangles and canvas flats that have designs that take inspiration from Pinoy pop culture. I liked the pair that had a sweet pattern made of Chocnut wrapper painted on them.
Angeli Sobrepena, the creative cafe owner, hosts craft classes on pendant-making and other crafting techniques during the weekends. And most of all, my favorite part about The Beadlady is that it is also a coffee shop where I can read while sipping a cup of home-brewed Batangas coffee.
For enthusiasts of lomo and film photography, interior design shop Heima offers a range of film and instant cameras to fulfill your shutter-happy fancies. And fret not— they also sell the film.
Heima is primarily a store that sells creative interior design pieces like patchwork couches and benches. They also have printed wall monograms and patterns of popular cultural references, and sometimes, of things plain and pretty. Heima is at the forefront of turning homes into more personalized spaces. When a room comes alive with individual character and young, modern culture, it becomes more than just a place. It becomes a state of mind and a way of living.
Just a few steps away from Heima is KARMA, a store that sells furniture with a vintage touch. Mike Gutierrez, manager of KARMA, shares that the brand name is an acronym that stands for Kaufman Auction Retro Modern Antiques. The store owner, David Kaufman, is a renowned designer of vintage chandeliers, and he decided to set-up shop in Cubao X, where all things vintage are seen in revered light.
KARMA also sells various furniture and fashion pieces collected from travels around the world. The store is a repository of modern panache and hip multiculturalism.
Cubao X is a microcosm of SoHo in New York with its budding art scene that represents culture in our city. Aside from the back-to-back art exhibits held in its resident galleries such as the PABLO Gallery, Cubao X is also the home of today’s hippest homegrown fashion. Factory outlets for popular shoe brands like Rusty Lopez and Janylin can be found here, along with custom leather shoe shops that make everything from brogues to boots. Cubao X used to be the world-renowned Marikina Shoe Expo after all.
Moreover, local brands like STOiC, I Love You and THE Clothing make Cubao X the unsung hero of destination shopping.
The story behind STOiC is Jonah Guzman and Ieth Inolino’s passion for fashion and shopping. As they scour more than a hundred boutiques and stalls in Hong Kong and Bangkok, they go through the painstaking process of handpicking clothes that are trendy but wearable, which is the pervading philosophy behind their brand. STOiC is a one-stop shop for all seasons and occasions. If you are looking for a nice short number for a party, a gown for a formal event, or a corporate dress made for office power dressing, STOiC is sure to have something for you.
STOiC also carries the consigned brand Big Girls Don’t Cry for plus-sized clothing.
“We look for standout pieces,” shares Jonah and Ieth. “We want to sell clothes that you can’t see anywhere else. And we never pick more than one item of the same design or color. Our clothes are exclusive.”
True enough, as I scanned the store’s selection of dresses, tunics, skirts and its complete array of shoes, bags and accessories, I saw the value of carefully handpicking each item before they hit the store hangers. Everything was stylishly stunning. I walked out of the store having bought two dresses because I just wasn’t able to help myself.
Fashion brand I Love You is a favorite of today’s local best dressed list. I Love You’s team of talented Filipino designers pushes edginess in fashion with their heavily customized designs. Composed of fused vintage and avant-garde elements, their store selection offers wildly individual but wearable clothes that are perfect for mixing and matching. I Love You tells us to go ahead and dare to be more stylish. After all, true to their slogan, maybe one day fashion will save the world.
THE Clothing is the brand for street wear and urban apparel. THE prides itself in the collaborations they make with designers and graffiti artists whose artwork appear on their T-shirts, jackets and more. “It is our way of helping the artists promote their art,” says Auggie Fontanilla, co-owner of THE.
Most of the clothes sold by THE are pre-ordered over the Internet. The artists submit their designs and these are uploaded in the store website, where customers then place orders of their desired designs. “We also make it a point to release limited copies of each piece of clothing,” adds Auggie. This ensures the lessened probability of two people having identical T-shirts.
THE is also more than just a clothing brand. Although unspoken, there is an agreement between people who like the designs and buy them. They are kindred spirits of an active and alternative lifestyle that is reflected by the artwork, and here we come full circle. Whether you skate or bike, or if you live according to the music you like, you acknowledge that what you wear is never just what you wear because it is art, and something in art is always larger than life.
Eclectic, not eccentric
So don’t let the wild parties with the wild hipsters scare you. All the stereotypes come here for a reason. The party girls, skater boys, musicians, culture vultures, artists and academics— and yes, even the quiet girls like me— flock to Cubao X because we have one thing in common: we seek pleasure from the extraordinary.
The Vinyl Dump
The Beadlady Craft Cafe