Telling the Tale of the 'Tee' (August 5, 1990, Manila Bulletin)
by Ivy Lisa F. Mendoza

   

T-shirts, while still the apparel of choice among street-sweepers and other blue-collar workers, have now reached the height of sophistication.  They now provide a fashionable complement to anything - from ripped jeans to linen suits to stylish skirts.

    But t-shirts represent so many things to so many people.  Comfort to connoiseurs of casual wear; or saying to those with meager fashion budgets.

    For 26-year old artist-designer Robert Alejandro, however, t-shirts serve as a canvas to satisfy his graphic mind.  His Papemelroti line of tees expresses at least three of the things this guy personally believes in - the conservation of the environment, in being a practicing Christian and in the beauty of the Philippines.

    "It's my passion," Robert briefly describes how he feels about his creations. 

    It occurred to Robert that the Philippines has no "signature" shirt to be proud of.   "When you go to Hongkong, you can get a nice Hongkong shirt.  In Australia, you can get a nice Australian shirt.  But here, there are really none," he notes.

    On these "canvases" are graphics which say, among other things - "Save Our Forests", "Don't Bungle the Jungle"; "I am God's Workd of Art"; or depict a local postage stamp and the famous Philippine Jeepney.  All these are meticulously done in eye-catching hues on white 100% cotton apparels.  To date, Robert has completed at least 50 limited edition designs.

    "And I am so excited with the prospects of more designs.  I haven't given my all yet!"  Robert enthuses.

    Foreign tourists are usually the first one to appreciate the Filipiniana styles.  But the local juniors market has now learned to like voguish creations.  "In fact, they write to us, suggesting this and that.  And I write back, " he quips.

    Robert's design are also seen on Papemelroti's duffle bags, cards and postcards, frames and other bric-a-bracs.

    To finally go full time into this the garments venture took a lot from Robert.  He had to leave a promising job as an art director at McCann-Erickson.  He admits he misses the job and the fun that goes with it but he feels its high time to give a part of himself to the family business.

    But first things first.  The family enterprise Korben Corporation, which owns the Papemelroti shops, tops his priority list at this point.  Plus there is his teaching job at the UP College of Fine Arts.  When they open their latest branch at the Robinson's Galleria, it will all be Robert's.  "And I have already ideas on how to design the store."

    No, Papemelroti is not a mouthful Italian expression.  Robert has already checked with the Italian embassy on that.  Papemelroti stands for the first syllables of the names of the five children of Corit and Benny Alejandro - Patsy, Peggy, Meldy, Robert and Tina.   All of them are involved in the business.  Robert in fact, was the last one to join the family affair.

    The matriarch, Mrs. Alejandro, in 1969, began sewing stuffed toys and marketed them among her husband's officemates.  Later, their small gift shop opened, with more items added, among them, figurines, framed prints and decoupages.

    "We were her first workers," Robert laughingly recalls.  He says he was paid one cent for every item he "antiqued".  His sisters, on the other hand, manned the stores and were just so thrilled and scared when customers would come in.  But things eventually were put in order.  And Robert, and his family for that matter, credits all these to one being.

    "We always see God's hand in all of these.  It's Him who directs and manages the business," Robert stresses.

 

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