Conanan’s love letter to the metro is expressed through garments that are inspired by the megacity
There are two things that Marvin Conanan is passionate about: café culture and the inner workings of the city.
He has written before that he considers the café as “a communal space of different relationships, ideas, and intentions” and “a place for inspiration and reinvigoration.” Conanan has translated this passion into Convenience Coffee Shop, a quaint café in Bangkal, Makati.
On the other hand, the creative urbanite in Conanan gave rise to two things: PURVEYR and Chief, which were both conceptualized in the early 2010s.
PURVEYR, described as “a multi-dimensional media concept that humanizes creativity through creative Filipinos around the world,” still exists in print and digital forms today, with Conanan as editor-in-chief.
On the other hand, vintage and heritage-inspired menswear brand Chief—another one of Conanan’s passions—had to take a backseat in 2015 when he had to focus on his growing media brand.
What didn’t disappear, however, was Conanan’s deep desire to work with clothes.
So, when the lockdowns happened in 2020 and he had the time to revisit his passions and creative desires, the editor-in-chief developed a new clothing brand: Café City Club.
A Love Letter to the Metro
Described as “a love letter to the metro,” Café City Club expresses Conanan’s passion not only for Metro Manila, but also for café culture. Asked about the brand’s catchy name, he says: “Café City Club had a nice flow to it. It’s easy to say, and it has a polished sound.”
“For someone who always looks for meaning in things, Café City Club was actually just based on a feeling. Like many people during 2020 at the height of lockdowns, I wanted to explore and express my inner creative desires as a designer. I ran a couple of fashion concepts before focusing my energy on PURVEYR in 2014, so with more time due to the pandemic, I decided to create a new project where I can explore that interest again,” he shares.
With the exception of the first collection, Café City Club anchors itself on a specific aspect of the city that Conanan is interested in.
“I didn’t have Metro Manila culture in mind when I designed the first collection. My headspace was at the first form of Café City Club at the time, which was to create something out of the collection of images, experiences, and stories I have,” he admits.
“Highway Curfew” is based on the imagery that Conanan usually sees while he’s stuck in traffic, especially within the South Luzon Expressway. “I zoned in on the type designs of the LTFRB hotlines I saw on trucks and brought other elements of that to the designs.”
The latest release, ‘Shop Uniform’ is a straightforward nod to the numerous small business uniforms that the designer has seen around the metro.
Café City Club has also explored collaborations with various brands and groups in Metro Manila, including The Curator Coffee and Cocktails and Brutalist Pilipinas.
“In examining my past works, I think I’m at a stage of discovery with Café City Club — constantly looking for design and cultural cues around the city that interest me and documenting them through our releases,” he says.
Conanan sees Café City Club as “a more mature and perceptive expression of [his] beliefs, inspirations, and interests through garments, objects, and images.” This comparison alludes to his past self as a designer from 2012 to 2014, when he handled concept brands like Chief.
“There’s a sense of growth that I wanted to celebrate, but ultimately, I just wanted to express my evolved creative eye, honed through collecting and curating — I don’t create things from nothing, I collect and combine things, concepts, and interests to be able to form new ones,” he notes.
Initially intended to express only what Conanan was simply interested in—the type of architecture and interior design he was into, the clothes and objects that inspire him, the brands that intrigue him, and designs that move him—Café City Club had a shift in creative direction when the designer got inspired by brands that pay homage to iconic urban locations.
“Sometime in 2020, I realized that there are a lot of brands that celebrate the great cities of the world: New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Tokyo, among others. However, there seems to be only a few who explicitly represent Metro Manila in the same manner, so this sparked the shift of Café City Club. I suddenly recognized that I can refine the vision of the brand by making Metro Manila the lens through which my creative eye can look into,” he says.
“Essentially, it may still be a personal project, but I think what Café City Club offers is a perspective of our city that I (and maybe even you) may not have yet explored before.”
Proceeding with Passion
There is something to be said about building a creative concept and business amid the pandemic. Conanan shares that his deep intrigue for Café City Club’s potential and his perspective toward the brand keep him motivated to maintain the brand at a leisurely pace.
“I found a concept that really intrigues me, an idea that keeps me excited to explore. Café City Club is a great endeavor that allows me to practice and examine my creative skills and vision. [Moreover,] I’ve built Café City Club as an expression rather than a full-fledged business, so there isn’t any pressure yet.”
While Conanan is unsure how far he will go with the brand, he is enjoying the creative process, citing how refreshing it is to take things slow and let his mind wander.
“Other than pushing myself to create more, I think it’s equally stimulating to learn about Metro Manila culture a bit more through Café City Club. There’s so much more to explore, examine and learn from our city. So while I don’t have any upcoming new releases in the works, what I can promise is that Café City Club will continue to hone a distinct point of view of Metropolitan Manila.”