Kingsmen had always fixed its commitment on the traditional purpose of tailoring, which was invented to serve practical reasons. Tailors pioneered the industry patching together pieces of linen used as padding to protect medieval knights from chafing under their heavy armor in battle. Today, made-to-measure tailoring has evolved to compose of infinite techniques, styles, designs, and purposes. However, it has never veered from its oldest roots, which differentiates it from fad and fashion that eventually fade. Bespoke tailoring is immortal; although it comes in different forms and silhouettes, there is always a demand for it. Precise patternmaking also made a lot less waste compared to draping fabric over the body and cutting off excess. Mass production may mimic it physically, but can never clone the quality.
This technical and complex way of making clothing meant that it had to be learned tediously, and it made the role of master cutters much more relevant. The skills and eye for detail were passed down to apprentices in the next generation because tailors could only really master the craft through practice. Because tailoring is like creating a painting, it takes more time from all the thought and precision being put into a garment. It requires planning, remarkable spatial thinking, and flawless execution. Another crucial moment in crafting bespoke garments is the first fitting of the client. It is to make sure production is on the right track and it determines the direction of the rest of construction. But even with decades of expertise, some of the best of the master cutters will sometimes need to make some adjustment during the fitting, especially in challenging cases of very different body types.
Moments like this do not only bring to life the chalk sketches of maestro, but also realize the vision of the wearer. The two persons work out their differences and come to an understanding of the final ensemble. Tailoring has always been a group effort in the process. The gold mine of the client’s experience lies in the input of his personal touch. The actual product is not only durable and timeless, but also teeming with sentiment. And these are remembrances worth preserving and maintaining.
The beginnings of a modest tailoring service shop took place at a small commercial building around the corner of España and Cataluña, set in Manila 1968. As soon as entrepreneurs, Des and Lina Racho, put up Kingsmen Tailors, they tied the knot, said their “I do’s” and promised each other their forevers. They both dropped their steady and secure work as Certified Public Accountants, and were loaned some money to start a very promising plan. The timing of the startup was perfect in the ‘60s and ‘70s, when the Philippines was one of the largest exporters of manufactured commodities such as garments. Kingsmen was able to tap into the export industry and supply good reliable labor for international menswear brands. Therefore, business grew exponentially not only for the mass manufacturing business, but it seemed everyone needed a well-tailored barong or suit, and as Kingsmen did it first, they had also done it best.
It was not until the ‘80s that the country’s
economy flopped to one-tenth of its
Southeast Asian neighbors. Reviewing the
timeline beginning in the ‘80s, most, if not all,
businesses went through some very tough
challenges. shifts, drastically minimize
expenses, and eventually,
The notorious era of corruption and cronyism
forced families to work double shifts,
drastically minimize expenses, and eventually,
leave the country for greater income
opportunities. “For better or for worse” it was
indeed for the Rachos. Aside from internal
conflicts within the company, Kingsmen’s
hands were tied by the crisis. But with
persistence, purpose, and brilliant skill in
crunching numbers, they were able to pull
through. They had to—they had a beautiful
family to raise, as did many locals at the time.
That was just the first time the company had
to face agonizing external and internal
Although the trials would have pushed the
Rachos to the brink of abandoning ship, they
did not quit. Old Kingsmen stands today, all
the wiser, serving its same purpose as the day
it started and more. The company’s
persistence and stubbornness is a stalk of
palay, swaying and waving boldly—resilient in
ebb and flow of strong wind and flood. It is
exactly the kind of attitude that Kingsmen
gentlemen exude, because they do not just
wear the clothes, they also wear the story.