The Master Tailor
Napoleon’s Beginnings in Tailoring
Master Tailor Napoleon Arienza or often called “Mang Nap”, “Kuya”, “Sir Nap”, “Nap” or “Dad,” found his passion in tailoring during his teenage years. He left peaceful Surigao Del Sur to pursue a career in the concrete jungle of Metro Manila.
Following his elder brother, Napoleon landed a job at a tailoring shop called Toppers. Toppers was a company that made suits of Filipino matinee idols like Dolphy, Luis Gonzales, Fernando Poe Jr. a.k.a. “FPJ”, and former Philippine President Erap Estrada. Napoleon started out as an errands boy before becoming a salesperson. He recalled, “I was the one sweeping the floor, cleaning the shop, etc.”
A job in the tailoring shop in the 1960’s was more than enough to make a living. But while he’s earning, Napoleon still continued his studies and finished a degree in Bachelor in Science in Business Administration. Instead of looking for an employment after graduation, he still pursued his passion for tailoring.
Nap’s Flourishing Career in the Tailoring Industry
During the time of President Marcos, tailoring shops became demanding and would only hire experienced tailors who had their own sewing machine. “Tailoring shops cannot provide a sewing machine if they don’t have a vacant one for a newly hired tailor. I was only 18 years old back then, and the shops would only hire the more matured tailors. So to nail the job, I travelled from one tailoring shop to another while carrying my own sewing machine! During the interview, I would turn on my machine, work, and that’s how I proved to them that I am truly a tailor.”
Napoleon was appointed as the master cutter at a tailoring shop owned by an Italian designer and businessman, Giovanni Sanna where he worked there from 1978-1984. A Filipino-owned company, Fashionland Corporation, hired Giovanni to put up a tailoring shop. The style and cut of the suits would usually be led by Giovanni, but the master tailors from Pierre Cardin in Italy, whose orientation were Hongkong-English-British bespoke, primarily worked on the construction. The company was a collaboration of English/British construction with Italian design assistance from Giovanni. Napoleon learned more about tailoring from them and their suits are already full-canvassed. “Their house-cut was British, it was classic, loose, and not too much tapered,” he described.
After his fruitful years with Giovanni, he decided to resign before the store closed in 1995. “I went to different tailoring shops because I was seeking new methods in tailoring,” he recalled. He became the headmaster cutter at Rustan’s Monsieur Boutique in Makati City.
In 1997, he was hired by Brioni located at Shangri-la Mall along Shaw Boulevard. This famous tailoring house made suits for the iconic “James Bond” during the 1990’s. Its Roman-style emphasized a form-fitting suit, high-waisted pants, square shoulder and this was considered the “Power Look.” Brioni helped popularize this style, as shown in Federico Fellini’s 1960 film, “La Dolce Vita.” With Napoleon’s tailoring prowess, his skills enhanced further when he stayed for two months in Brioni at Penne, Italy. “I was told ‘be careful Senior Arienza, a part of the coat you are holding will be worn by James Bond’, I didn’t know that it was for Pierce Brosnan until I went home in the Philippines and heard of it on TV and Radio!”
Beginning of TIÑO
In the early 1990’s tailoring shops have taken its toll in the country. Many shops in Manila closed and mass production of clothes called Ready-To-Wear or RTW entered the market. Despite of this stage of tailoring in the country, Napoleon did not stop with the craft of bespoke tailoring.
In 2001, Napoleon’s daughter, Eilene supported the talents of her father. They want to relive the dying craft and culture of bespoke. And thus, TIÑO was born. The brand name came from a European term meaning, “sureness of touch” that they found it fit for its craft because bespoke tailoring is done by hand.
TIÑO aims to preserve the craft of bespoke tailoring in the Philippines and uplift the quality of life of its craftsmen. “Bespoke shows the importance of making a quality suit that is handmade. Bespoke is by hand and we want to achieve what the client wants for his suit. There are techniques in tailoring that it can be accomplished flawlessly by hand as supposed to using a sewing machine,” said Napoleon.
TIÑO: Today and Tomorrow
The family that makes up TIÑO lives with its vision, “To provide the products of the highest quality and deliver sincere service to achieve a sustainable life for the company, to all our stakeholders and to the Filipino community.”
Napoleon wants to teach aspiring Filipino tailors to learn bespoke. TIÑO’s tailors despite having to finish high school studies only, Napoleon gave them the opportunity to become impressively creative and professionally skilled tailors. “I want to teach the younger ones as well. They can learn easily and while they are growing up, it is easier to expand the craft.”
Napoleon also said, “We want to teach the craft so more tailors would learn how to do it. The way I look at it, in a few more years, I know that this business will expand. More and more clients are becoming familiar with the craft and their need to have their own customized suits. We’ll have more tailors, and I believe that TIÑO will have more stores to cater to more gentlemen.”