While finishing his advertising degree in the College of Architecture and Fine Arts of the University of Santo Tomas sometime in the latter part of the 1990s, Clint Gonzales Catalan started W.O.R.M.S. (Wearing One Really Makes Sense), a line of hand sewn/hand painted bags with its trademark “spikes” for guys and girls of the punk rock generation.
“It started out as a hobby for me, then friends got interested, and soon enough, I was participating in school fashion shows and trade bazaars,” Catalan recalls. “It came naturally for me as a visual artist, to create artworks, but since I’m inclined more into fashion, I combined both to create functional / wearable art. I would stylize (by painting and embellishing) my own stuff, and people would notice them and would like to have one for themselves. I found a demand for it, so I pursued this kind of business, and which I enjoyed doing at the same time.”
Initially based at home in the province of Laguna, Catalan eventually moved W.O.R.M.S. to Pasig City, with consignments all over Metro Manila, e.g. The Cubicle ( Pasig City ), FaRT (Kamuning, Quezon City), and I Love You Store and Pablo Gallery (both in Cubao Expo, also in Quezon City); and then in Haftig (Tacloban City). He also joined expos/bazaars/et cetera
Looking back, Catalan says it’s now hard to ascertain how much he just spent when he started, considering that “I made my stuff from discarded items and scraps of cloth – call it recycling, if you will, but I rarely bought raw materials except when clients wanted a specific fabric to go with a specific design,” he says. With the growth of the business, though, Catalan can recall putting in “around P10,000” to further push the business forward, especially since “I’m now pursuing the ready to wear (RTW) and couture line in a smaller scale.”
Designing is second nature to Catalan, actually. This nominee for best production design for the Luna Awards, Gawad Urian, and Golden Screen Awards, already held numerous art exhibitions, including Boxed in Big Sky Mind (E. Rodriguez, Quezon City); Comfort Zone in Club Government (Makati City); Shoe Show sa Shaw in the Store for All seasons (Mandaluying City); and Thorns Among the Roses in The Cubicle Art Gallery (Pasig City).
Among others, he served as a production designer of Gaby’s Extra-Ordinary Files (ABS-CBN 2), Ka Pete Na! – Totally Outrageous Behavior (ABS-CBN 2), Gee-gee at Waterina (Big Apple Productions), Ikaw Lamang (Giant Sponge Productions), 22nd Star Awards for Philippine Movies (ARG Productions), Pinoy Out of the Box (Mandata Corporation), Rock da Vote (ABS-CBN), and MONA: Singapore Escort (Bandit Productions).
Catalan also served as wardrobe consultant of Room 213 (Viva Films and Kino Art Productions); art director for Tambolista (Cinema One Originals); associate art director of MEMO Magazine; and contributing stylist of MetroHim.
Interestingly, even though Catalan says return on his investments came after only approximately six months, things weren’t always easy. At first, “I had to do everything by myself – cutting, sewing, painting, marketing, selling – the works,” he says. But now, even if he still has the final say on the designs, he is now “able to have people to do a bit of (the tasks for me).”
A large part of his success he credits to his being gay.
“No, it hasn’t been hard (for me, as a gay guy, to) start a business. People trust designers especially when they’re gay because they can tell that ‘us’ people are creative and ingenious,” he says, adding that being gay has even entered his designs, with the use of gay lingo in some of his prints.
The “dash of gay-ness” is but part of what makes W.O.R.M.S. unique, though, as Catalan also draws inspiration from music, as he did when he just started (“What I listen to at the moment maybe always translated into my designs,” he says); and by graffiti, which “I currently incorporate in my shirt designs with (that) dash of gay-ness.”
Drawing on being gay is easier now, says Catalan, largely because “at least now, gays are not typecasted as weak and sissy-like (as we used to be, and are now seen as) strong and serious people too, and we mean business,” he says. “We now have a voice, and we can say what we want.”
This is why gay entrepreneurs should “keep on dreaming and doing what it takes to get it, and I mean, you REALLY have to want ‘IT’ while being fabulous,” Catalan says.
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*FIRST PUBLISHED IN OUTRAGE MAGAZINE