T R AV E L I S S U E
ADDITIONAL PHOTOS BY JORGEN AXELVALL
Traditional Filipino jusi piña was incorporated into Jman’s spring/summer 2014 collection, inspired by cycling jerseys.
How he went from being plain old Johann Manas to finding and founding the identity of Jman is a sort of fairytale for the millennial generation. During what feels like a lifetime ago, Johann was a pre-med student in Manila with a quarter-life crisis. Becoming a doctor was everything he had dreamt of as a child, but an internship at a hospital showed him a reality that was difficult to swallow: coming in at 5 a.m. to a building with no windows, and being greeted by the dark of the night at the end of his shift. Though he already knew that he didn’t want to enter med school anymore, making that decision wasn’t so clear-cut. In a last-ditch effort perhaps to change his own mind, he took a breather to study photography at the School of Visual Arts in New York—a deviant, sort of last hurrah before donning the white coat. When he returned, however, he was still at a loss for what to do. “My 20s were tough because I had issues, like, ‘okay, fine I’m not a doctor. Now how do I let go of this dream?’” And so he bounced around and tried on other coats that didn’t quite fit. He went corporate for SM, joined the family business, even opened a food cart venture. During that time, he didn’t want for anything—he had a car, an active social
The shoe collection makes use of a wicker/basketprint canvas and is lined with calf leather. All Jman shoes are handmade in the Philippines.
Some pieces from Jman’s spring/ summer 2013 collection featuring Philippine handembroidered aizome (traditional Japanese indigo dyeing technique) prints combined with indigo denim from Japan’s famous “Denim Town,” Okayama Prefecture.
English teaching gig. When he failed at that, he tried something new: he went for something he actually wanted. “Before Japan, I was doing these graphic tees and shoes, and then it was a perfect merge: Tokyo is such a creative place and I thought, maybe this is my chance to study fashion or design.” In 2011, he applied for the Vantan Design Institute’s International X-SEED program, a one-year masters program for outstanding fashion students around the world, and the most advanced course for fashion design students. He was one of eight students—and the first Filipino—to be accepted. With that, he sold his car to pay for his tuition fee, and left Manila. Since graduating, he’s launched his label at Mercedes-Benz Tokyo Fashion Week, worked on four men’s collections (his autumn/winter 2014 collection can be viewed on his official website, jman.ph), and has stockists in Tokyo. With everything that’s going right for him, the years he spent lost in his 20s don’t appear to be such a waste as they led him on this path, but the anxiety and the restlessness of that period aren’t experiences he’d be eager to repeat. “This quick 180-degree change, I cannot imagine doing again. It was 10 years of bouncing around, and not everyone can afford that, whether in terms of time or resources. Everything I went through made me appreciate what I have now. When you’re young, you feel like you can do anything, but I started this late and I’m still getting this opportunity, even though there are so many designers now who are way younger than I am. It’s different now; it’s easier for kids to be themselves. I think they’re lucky because the world and society are more accepting of creative people. Before leaving for Japan, I was really uncomfortable calling myself a ‘fashion designer.’” With his capsule collection for Human set to be released in time for the holidays, though, every Filipino with access to a mall will be familiar with his work as a fashion designer. “I have a fascination with toy soldiers and repeating patterns, it’s always a source of inspiration for me,” he says of the collaboration. “So I thought of the Paratroopers: ‘Out of nowhere, I’m being dropped off in Manila!’”
“Tokyo offered me a clean slate, a fresh start to be myself and do whatever I want to do."
life, a comfortable income that allowed him to travel frequently. “I’d always be out of Manila. I was a weekend warrior. Every weekend, I’d be out to do sports. Any beach or trip abroad. After World Youth Day in Germany, I had a chance to go backpacking around Europe for a month. It really allowed me to see what else is out there.” Then he hit Japan. “I did the Tokyo Marathon in 2009 or 2010. All of a sudden, that was the time when I felt, I want to live here. The other cities, it was transient, it never crossed my mind that I wanted to end up or live there. Tokyo was, like, ‘Oh my God. This is something. Is there a chance for me to live here?’” The Johann who always wanted to leave, always wanted to get away, now wanted to stay rooted to one place. “Coming from a big family, I was always in the shadow of my siblings and all of them are successful, so it was always difficult. I have a very supportive, loving family, but there was self-imposed pressure on my end like, What do I do? What am I supposed to do? Tokyo offered me a clean slate, a fresh start to be myself and do whatever I want to do.” What he was going to do there, though, didn’t exactly make itself clear at first. To get a visa, he tried applying for The JET Programme, a Japanese
Scout Magazine | scoutmag.ph | 9
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9/22/2014 12:00:55 PM
Published on Sep 1, 2014
Published on Sep 1, 2014
Scrappy. Creative. Curious. These are the words that describe Scout, the only free publication designed for millennials that focuses on the...