Diego Mapa used to work for me at Grocery, a hole-in-the-wall store I owned and ran from 1995-1998 after finishing my studies at Parsons New York.
This was the signage at the store, designed by my Parsons classmate Gerome Vizmanos. (Photo: RJ Galang)
I met Diego through his mother Tess, who was an editor at Daily Globe, where I worked in the Style section.
I remember Diego and his elder brother Joao coming to the newsroom after school and asking Tess for merienda money.
“Give me back the change!” Tess would yell out as the boys and ran off to the cafeteria downstairs.
I also liked going through the vintage rack, because they had really nice polyester shirts there. On the side, they had vintage Beatles pomade, pocket ashtrays, and Punky hair dye, which was really hard to get at the time. I was greeted by the manager — now fashion show director and stylist — Melvin Mojica, who my mom described as being like an alien with giant glasses. I didn’t get the alien part, but he did wear baby tees, colored vintage socks, jeans that ended just below the knees and Jackie O sunglasses when the sun was up. I had never seen anything like his fashion sense before.
At the end of that summer, I made it to La Salle, and on the first day of college I wore a baby tee Nora shirt. I was late for one class and accidentally entered in front, where everyone could see me, and I remember the whole class laughing at me, not because I was late, but because of my shirt. Deep inside, I felt brave and just shrugged it off. A year later, everybody was wearing baby tees to school.
Within a year, Grocery closed down and reopened in the mall as a new entity, called Defect, in Glorietta. I also trained to work for that store, but my school schedule made me quit before it opened. Defect was a massive success in that it brought Grocery’s culture to the kids much faster. Other Defect-like stores started to pop up, and it influenced established local brands to shift their style towards what was going on there.
Defect isn’t around anymore, either, but today, I still work with Melvin; I sometimes DJ for his events. I also DJed for Cecile’s recent birthday. Fashion-wise if there’s anything I learned from Grocery, it’s that if you have a good idea, turn it into a shirt, which is something I’ve applied when coming up with my band merchandise. But other than that, what Grocery really taught me was how to be stylish in an effortless way, and how to enjoy dressing up.
Diego Mapa, Judd Figueres and Melvin Mojica spinning at my birthday