Founded by Mike Nakayama and his highschool friends back in ’08, WIP CAPS is an entity that is now a decade strong and counting. Based in the heart of Makati at Hererra Tower on Rufino st, Unit 1214 is found in a discreet corner on the 12th floor with a large, round ‘W’ sign hanging by the door. Though the whole floor is filled with seemingly mundane law firms and accounting offices, what lies behind that door is place full of meaningful dreams, goals and relationships that began with a small group of friends—and is incrementally, extending out to the rest of the world: and that’s a lot to smile about.
I began my work for WIP as Mike’s assistant at the start of 2013. Mike has been designing for WIP since the very beginning, from the logos, product designs, to the promotional material—he’s the universal designer, if you will. Now a solid yet small-scale group of 12, we’ve come a long way since WIP’s founding days, with more people to help us out with our expansion and growing projects while retaining our loyal staff throughout the years.
Having gotten to know everyone, I have a feeling that none of them would be where they are now if they weren’t in it with and for each other. I’ve learned to see WIP as not just a brand or a company, but as a means for all of us, with similar dreams, to regularly get together, hang out, drive each other to be better and support each other while doing what we all love to do. These guys were in it not just for the business, but for the friendship, connection and expression. It’s truly amazing for me to be observing and participating in their growth as friends and peers running a brand that attracts and inspires all sorts of individuals from all walks of life.
The first time I ever showed up and met everyone, I was met with warmth, enthusiasm and a lot of laughter. Since starting my work as the youngest girl in the team, I learned why these guys loved working together: it was a fun and different way to live out your purpose in life. I felt more freedom in WIP HQ than I did in any other place I’d ever worked at. The vibes were definitely good from the very beginning.
Starting out with only a few limited runs, WIP has gradually built its own community over the years, shaping the brand to keep churning out more variety, quantity & quality. Inspired by diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, while united by similar childhood influences growing up, they wanted to put up a brand that represented more local flavors fused with global taste. Because of every design’s limited supply, the demand for its collectibility has been steadily increasing—even spawning fakes all around the country simply to meet the growing demand.
Like a meme of sorts, WIP began popping up everywhere as their unique and iconic designs made their way to the hands of different people: artists, musicians, dancers, athletes, the occasional celebrity–from your 9-5ers and your graveyard-shifters, to your entrepreneurs and self-made hustlers. Nowadays, if you’re in Manila (or in the Philippines, even), the stuff you’re rocking has gotta be filled with pride in where you come from. It’s a way to promote and cultivate homegrown creativity and expression, embodying the essence of what the historical Filipino was and what the modern Filipino still is: local and indigenous, but touched by many parts of the world, in many ways.
10 years in the game and WIP has become the local hook-up for anything headwear. We’ve been steadily collaborating with independent labels and shops, bands and rap groups, musicians, dancers and skaters to name a few. Mike’s even tied up his own personal circle of friends into the WIP community, whose involvement in the local music scene is massive and truly influential: places like B-side: home to Fliptop Battle League, Irie Sunday and countless gigs filled with music-makers and music-lovers of every kind—the blood and veins of our true original Pinoy music. We’re also linked up with Black Market, the house of Bass where we hold launches and parties like PUM PUM TUN UP to promote the Dancehall movement in Manila, along with 20:20/XX:XX and Gold Digger Records. We have high hopes of establishing foundations within the USA, Japan and possibly UAE. With our growing roster of international stockists and partner stores, we hope to extend our reach to anyone who is into what we do as a lifestyle brand, to further not just our own aspirations, but theirs as well. We love being given the opportunity to give back in ways that support productive and creative channels for everyone to express themselves and their personal identities.
Having been working with the WIP team for over 5 years now, I realize that the potentials are boundless. With the help of the WIPheads community, our friends and our amazingly-talented partners and influencers, slowly but surely, we’ve been promoting certain themes, ideas and messages out for the rest of the world to pick up on, in order to change things in our own way–whether it be through a t-shirt, a cap, a design, a video or an article. Our in-house marketing & media team creates original video content that we feel are even more impactful than the products themselves—allowing us to visually expound on what inspires us to continue creating art that you can wear. We have an ongoing web series called ‘Weed In Progress’ that features Filipinos advocating for the use of Cannabis in the Philippines while we also do intimate pieces on local brands, artists and WIPheads.
Sometimes, I take a step back and realize how huge this thing has become, and the most endearing part about it is that the guys themselves don’t seem to realize it fully. If I’m certain about anything, the last thing they’ll do is let all the success get to their heads. The minds behind WIP are ingenious, humorous and humble at the same time: they know what they’ve done, but they always look forward to the next thing. They never get stuck in one place. I’ve been learning a lot from these cats (who are, strangely enough, much older than I am), and seeing that the playfulness never ends as we get older. The opportunities for play only keep getting better and better.
There is nothing more rewarding than seeing people relating enough to your thoughts to want to wear them. They carry a part of your soul with them while they showcase their talents and their passions: skating across Ayala, biking through EDSA, rocking an underground show, DJing at music events, or performing on stage with a massive crowd–painting a wall or a canvas, scoring goals in a street soccer or basketball game, dancing their hearts out in the club. It’s inspiring to find that at the end of the day, WIP is all about the people who wear it. They breathe life into our products, and that is the most important thing.
WIP is World-class, Incredible & Proud–but ultimately, we’re also always a Work In Progress, just like everybody else, molding and shaping the world around us the best way we know how: through art, words and design. And for that, I’m extremely psyched for what has taken place and for whatever will come our way. I have great confidence and trust in these guys and I’m glad I’m in it for the long run.
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