As curators and purveyors of vintage menswear dry goods, JP Centeno and Alec Delos Angeles understand the value of heritage and earnest storytelling
Vittore Vintage Arsenal calls their private showroom “The Bunker.” It is a cozy residential unit at Bonifacio Global City where brand co-founders JP Centeno and Alec Delos Angeles meet clients and display a curated selection of menswear dry goods (their “arsenal,” as they affectionately call them). They never begin a meeting with a sales pitch; instead, they will chat with clients about life. If it’s daytime, they’ll serve a freshly brewed cup of coffee; at night, they’ll take out the whisky.
Once the atmosphere becomes jovial, JP and Alec will encourage their clients to try on a few pairs of shoes or carry a couple of leather bags. Some buyers head straight toward the items that catch their eye, while others ask for recommendations. In the latter case, JP and Alec will ask their clients about their personal style, design preferences, or overall lifestyle. Based on these details, they’ll present an assortment of goods tailor-fit to their customer’s profile.
As the clients peruse their selections, the two gentlemen will start telling interesting tales about the items. “The great thing with the heritage goods we carry is that they come with rich narratives, either from the brand’s decorated history or personal anecdotes as told by previous owners. Once our clients become immersed in these stories, we can get into detail with the piece’s technical details, the intricate designs, and maintenance methods,” shares Alec.
JP swears by this casual and conversational approach. “Some people get intimidated by premium or luxury goods. I say, there’s a wonderful world of menswear and vintage out there, and we’re just humans who are passionate about it. We want to share these items with our clients, and we want them to own one because they deserve it. No need to be shy with us—let’s enjoy talking about beautiful things!”
Dressing the Part
JP and Alec’s interest in menswear and vintage goods began around seven years ago at De La Salle University, where the two studied Advertising Management. “JL Liongson, one of our professors in our home department, made us watch ‘Mad Men’ for class. When we saw how Donald Draper dressed and carried himself, Alec and I wanted to be like him. We liked that winning aura that he exuded,” JP recalls. (Speaking of which, it is worthy to note that the Italian name “vittore” means “to conquer” or “victory.”)
Other shows like “Suits” and “Peaky Blinders” also influenced how the co-founders of Vittore envisioned themselves. Alongside Donald Draper, characters like Harvey Specter and Thomas Shelby became their role models and eventual blueprint for the Vittore gentleman.
This newfound fascination for classic menswear coincided with JP and Alec’s desire to stand out and define their identities. It also signalled a shift in their aesthetic sensibilities and eye for value. “Like most of our peers in high school and early college, we were into streetwear before. Chuck Taylors, Stussy, Diamond Supply, Billionaire Boys’ Club—you name it, we had it,” they admit. “When we got exposed to classic menswear and understood how they possess good quality, a definite purpose, and rich history, our interest in hype gradually faded away. In hindsight, donning streetwear at that time made us look like everyone else. Also, it was getting expensive and unsustainable to always keep up with the latest releases.”
Hence, gone were the snapbacks, oversized shirts, swim shorts, joggers, and sneakers—enter slick hair, suits, oxford shirts, trousers, leather shoes, and briefcases. “People began noticing how well-put-together we were. Our professors and classmates started calling us ‘cemento boys’ because our pomaded hair never budged at all. Even the strong gusts of wind that usually pass through the ground floor of one of our school buildings (the Henry Sy Sr. Hall, or the iconic fingerprint building in DLSU) couldn’t dishevel our hair,” JP quips.
As they were experimenting with their personal style, the pair started educating themselves with the world of classic menswear. In JP’s case, his passion for learning and research got fueled further by a pair of loafers from his dad. “Back in the 70s, my mom gave my dad a leather belt and shoe set from Bruno Magli. My father eventually gave me the shoes—a pair of woven leather penny loafers—and he explained that while they look understated, they were expensive and of superb quality,” he recalls.
JP started looking into the brand to understand why the loafers fetched a hefty price tag. Aside from discovering that woven leather is intricate and labor-intensive, he learned more about the different varieties of leather (cowhide, calfskin, among others) and grain, or the composition and appearance of the hide. “All this information was new to me. As I got immersed in research, I realized—I could do this all day! Since then, I’ve always been curious about the origins and materials of pieces that I see, whether on my friends or through my own studies.”
Bitten by the menswear research bug as well, Alec amassed a wealth of information that he would often know more details about someone’s outfit or accessories than their respective owners. “I’ve had friends who would dismiss a valuable or storied watch or bag as a mere hand-me-down. It’s only after I or JP would tell them the interesting things about their possessions that they would realize, ‘Oh, man, I have something good!’”
Selling the Look
“We knew that vintage pieces are expensive, so we understood that it would take some time for us to achieve our dream looks and lifestyle. Besides, we were still college students with no income then, so we had to be frugal with our purchases,” JP and Alec share. They started acquiring goods from friends who sold second hand pieces. They also scoured their dad’s (and grandad’s) collections for more pre-loved items. Guiding them in their search were three distinct style sensibilities: sartorial or tailored clothing, Ivy League, and workwear.
As they were building their wardrobe, JP suddenly had the idea of selling some of his pieces. “I always found better shirts, pairs of shoes, or bags that I wanted to add to my growing collection. I realized that I could sell the items that my new acquisitions would replace. After all, these were valuable pieces that I diligently took care of,” he shares. JP would eventually pitch the idea to Alec (who also bought a few Ralph Lauren shirts from him), and they started offering vintage goods to their friends.
“Our friends would marvel at the quality and durability of the pieces that we would sell to them. We made them understand that not only are they buying a shirt or bag, but they were investing in functional and heritage pieces that could last for generations. And just like how we inherited classic menswear items from our fathers, our clients can pass on these goods to their children or grandchildren when the time comes,” they note.
Earning One’s Stripes
JP and Alec’s buy-and-sell ventures with their friends would eventually lay down the foundations for Vittore Vintage Arsenal, but the business didn’t come to life until a year after graduation—2019, to be exact. Prior to this, they faced several twists and turns in their professional careers.
First, there’s their first successful business, local shoe brand El Marikeño, which they began in 2017. Then, after university, the duo explored different career paths: independent JP dabbled in advertising before venturing into sales, marketing, and social media management for menswear. (He’d eventually abandon the corporate world to begin and manage Vittore full-time.) Alec, preferring a more traditional approach, first pursued brand strategy and advertising account management.
“Working in sales and marketing allowed me to develop my eye for recognizing what a client may potentially want. However, I’ve always wanted to be my own boss; I preferred doing my own thing. Instead of working in an office, I dreamed of starting my own business, even if I knew that it can be risky,” JP admits.
When his parents—coming from more traditional employment backgrounds—expressed their initial apprehension over his plans, JP got more fired up. “Here’s the thing: I like proving people wrong. If you hold me back, I’ll push even harder. That’s what fueled me to make Vittore a success. Besides, I knew I had Alec and my closest friends as my strongest support system, so that helped me dispel my doubts,” he affirms.
As JP managed the daily operations of Vittore, Alec balanced the occasional content planning, product shots, research, and client management with his day job. “Whatever JP was doing, I was taking on half of that,” he notes. Eventually, just three months ago, Alec joined the business full-time after three years in advertising. “I already filed my resignation and I was on the third stage of my job interview with another agency when JP called out of nowhere. He was telling me that there was a huge opportunity in Vittore, and that we should chart our own path,” he recounts.
“As someone who wanted clarity and security, I gave JP’s offer some thought. However, if there’s anything that I learned in branding, advertising, and PR, I know that you have to make something your own to become somebody. You won’t be able to do so if you’re just going to go wherever everyone else is headed. So, I took that leap of faith.”
Wearing a Legacy
More than their passion and knowledge for vintage menswear dry goods, it’s JP and Alec’s wealth of professional experience and balance of temperaments—that of free-spiritedness and penchant for certainty—that make Vittore more than just a style shop. Not only do their clients get to buy classic pieces, but they get to enjoy enriching tales about their acquisitions and interesting anecdotes from JP and Alec.
Sometimes, the storytelling happens the other way around. “We have some clients who know so much about specific brands that we carry, and we’re always happy to learn more from them. Some even share their memories—like how a certain bag was their grandfather’s favorite, for example—and we always enjoy hearing these stories,” says JP.
So, if you’re looking for well-loved classic goods with a piece of history, or you’re just in the mood for a hearty chat about vintage menswear and life as we know it, just get in touch with Vittore. JP and Alec will be waiting at The Bunker with a cup of coffee and a glass of whisky for you.
Vittore Vintage Arsenal is on Instagram at @vittorevintagearsenal and on Facebook as Vittore Vintage.
Gelo Dionora works with words for a living. He’s worked in education, media, PR, and advertising, and somehow he has found a way to do all four simultaneously. No wonder he always needs coffee. Reach out to him on IG at @angelodionora.