Globetrotting with Filipino-French entrepreneur’s lifestyle brand Oneculture

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TWO years ago Anthony Alvarez left a plum investment banking job in London to follow his childhood dream of starting his own clothing company. 

An avid traveler — coupled with his passions for extreme sports, art, and music — he realized that fashion was a universal language that could lessen barriers and divisiveness.  

With that mission came the founding of Oneculture, a lifestyle menswear brand that incorporates global influences each season. 

“I really wanted to convey that message through the clothes, promoting culture and diversity and promoting travel without any cultural barriers,” the 25-year-old Filipino-French entrepreneur said in an interview with the Asian Journal. “This was also during a time when a lot of people were focusing on barriers, such as Brexit or Donald Trump being elected president of the United States. That’s the political side to it. So that’s how I got the name Oneculture.”

This September marks one year since Oneculture released its inaugural collection inspired by Manila and opened a boutique in Paris’ iconic Le Marais district. The brand’s pieces have already garnered features in publications like Vogue Paris, Le Monde (France’s leading newspaper) and GQ.  

Oneculture opened its boutique in September 2017 in the Le Marais neighborhood of Paris. (Photo courtesy of Anthony Alvarez/Oneculture)

Born in New Jersey, Alvarez was raised in a multicultural and multilingual household with his father being Filipino and French on his mother’s side. He moved to Paris at the age of 8 and lived there until he attended Cornell University, studying business and entrepreneurship.

After college, he spent a year in New York working in investment banking, focusing on mergers and acquisitions, before moving to London where he was with another bank for two years.

“I learned a lot through those experiences. It was a lot of hours of work because…I was working seven days a week, did not get much downtime, but I think when you’re young, you conform to work as much as you can as long as you are learning,” he recounted. 

But by the summer of 2016, Alvarez knew it was time to leave the finance world and take another direction. 

“I wanted to continue my training and education and make sure I had a solid business background before launching my clothing brand, which was always a target dream for me,” he said. 

He traveled for a few weeks to dive into “creative thinking,” as he was shifting into an industry different from what he was exposed to professionally. 

“When I was thinking about the name and message I wanted to deliver and things that really affected my life — when I was at Cornell, when it was through my high school friends or family — I’ve always enjoyed meeting people from different backgrounds, ethnicities and religions so I thought that’s what brought the best conversations, when everybody around the table has something different to offer,” Alvarez said. 

He recounted his annual trips when he and his best friends from various parts of the world would converge and meet in one place to go surfing and connect with locals. Oneculture’s eventual logo was derived from sailors’ symbols and flags, creating its own language.  

Alvarez wears a T-shirt with Oneculture’s mission to transcend cultural barriers and tell a universal story. Using experiences from various trips, his collections so far have been inspired by Manila, Philippines, Fez, Morocco, and Tokyo, Japan. (Photo courtesy of Anthony Alvarez/Oneculture)

Given that Paris is a fashion capital, it was a natural decision for Alvarez to move back and have Oneculture headquartered there.

“Eighty percent of our collection is manufactured in France so we’re really betting on ‘Made in France’ to help the economy and the manufacturers,” he said. 

Though Alvarez did not receive formal design training, styling clothes has constantly been an interest. Attention to detail and recruiting the right talent on board, from a creative director to designers, were further integral steps in building the company — both considerations he carried over from his banking background. 

The design process commences with a “mood board,” a collage of images and notes from his travels that guide that particular season. 

When traveling, he endeavors to see the place “with the eyes of a local,” through strolling by foot, shopping at street markets or eating at hole-in-the-wall restaurants. He also tries to catch a sports game or play in one himself, like basketball or baseball.  

He then decides what kinds of items will be included, such as T-shirts, hoodies, or jackets, and relays that vision to a team of designers to “make sure the end product reflects what I had in mind,” he said. Fabrics and materials are predominantly sourced from France and Italy and from trade shows that Alvarez attends at the beginning of each season. 

Alvarez visits one of Oneculture’s manufacturers. Eighty percent of the brand’s collections are made in France. (Photos courtesy of Anthony Alvarez/Oneculture)

“I design pieces that I really would like to wear, that I wish I had in my wardrobe, or what I think I’m missing in my wardrobe. I would never approve a piece that I, or my friends, would not wear. Usually I’m the first test then I send it to a couple of my best friends and ask, ‘Would you wear this?’ If it’s totally a ‘yes,’ then it’s a green light,” he continued.

In introducing the maiden collection, Alvarez paid homage to his paternal grandparents who were born in the Philippines and immigrated to the United States as young adults. 

“I grew up in a household that was very Filipino,” he said. “It is a very important part of my identity so I [started] the journey of Oneculture in Manila.”

He played upon the “energy and busyness” of the city that struck him from his many trips there. 

“Whether it was the high rises or the streets, there was a sense of chaos in the architecture that I wanted to translate through the clothes,” he said, describing the scotch tape techniques to express that movement. 

One of the statement pieces was a rendition of the men’s barong (a formal shirt made from piña considered the national costume of the Philippines) in the color black and using a more comfortable, sporty fabric. He incorporated the eucalyptus tree that is found in the Philippines and put that print in the inside layer of the clothes.

Model Willy Cartier is dressed in Oneculture’s take on the traditional Filipino barong for its debut Fall/Winter 2017 collection inspired by Manila. (Photo by Graig Labranche)

In succeeding collections, comfort and functionality of the pieces are at the forefront, but the high-quality structuring and intricate detail never go unnoticed — seamlessly fusing streetwear, sportswear and high fashion. 

Though having his own company is a fresh experience, his family of businesspeople and entrepreneurs has been an accessible sounding board for Alvarez.