Yukon hipsters rejoice — Whitehorse is set to get a vintage clothing store.
Daniel Gaje and Alexander Calantes are hard at work at their Second Avenue location putting the shop together. In the rented commercial space in the Quality Inn, the two are busy building clothing racks, hanging decor and painting walls. Once complete, the boutique will serve as the home of Gaje’s classic clothing company Isolated Garments and Calantes’ custom rug business Manila Verse Rugs.
Gaje started Isolated Garments during the pandemic as an Instagram store. COVID-19 lockdowns inspired the name.
“I was driving to Riverdale one day and it just popped in my brain. I was just thinking about being in isolation,” said the 29-year-old Filipino immigrant. He says the name also connects to old clothes that have been isolated and forgotten by years gone by.
Isolated Garments specializes in vintage vibes and streetwear aesthetics. College sweaters from the 90s, second hand Supreme and aged Adidas can all be found there. Gaje even has the sneakerheads covered with Air Jordans, Converse and more.
“Every piece is unique. Every piece has a story. That’s what gets me excited,” said Gaje.
Gaje has been interested in fashion since he was a kid. His sense of style is inspired by his home as well as western culture.
“As a kid growing up in the Philippines, we got influenced by Americans,” he said. “Most of the Filipinos, especially the guys, they’re always dressed up.”
‘It’s just the excitement of earning money’
Gaje says back home, fake designer and bootleg brand name clothing is common. The real deal is hard to come by. Since moving to Canada in 2012, he’s upped his fashion game. He’s also had more opportunities. According to him, entry level jobs are difficult to get in the Philippines because employers demand experience and degrees.
“I have three jobs at the same time here,” Gaje said. “It’s just the excitement of earning money and buying everything you want. You could never have that at home.”
Calantes, 23, also immigrated from the Philippines. When he got to Whitehorse in 2013, he found himself in the same social circle as Gaje. He feels the move was a bit of a culture shock coming from the capital city of Manila — population almost two million.
“We would always go to malls but when I got here, there’s no malls. It’s just mountains and snow. For the first year, it was hard to adapt but eventually I got to love it here,” he said. “I’m seeing a lot more new buildings and stuff. It’s starting to be like a big city.”
In 2020, when Calantes started making rugs, Gaje immediately took notice.
“I had to hit him up,” said Gaje.
After a meeting over coffee, Gaje convinced Calantes to create an Instagram account and sell his work.
“He’s a shy type of person. I’m making him get out of that shell,” said Gaje.
“He keeps motivating me and I get inspired,” said Calantes. “This is how you reach people and maybe inspire them too.”
Physical store set to open
After the Manila Verse Rugs online store was launched, Gaje expressed interest to Calantes about teaming up to open a physical shop.
“At first, I was hesitant because really, it’s going to be a big step. Just thinking of the bills and stuff. It really came down to, I can’t lose this opportunity,” said Calantes. “This risk is going to be worth it at the end of the line.”
When a friend who works at the Quality Inn informed the two about the commercial space in the hotel, they didn’t take long to make a decision.
“We thought about it just for, like, a day. We didn’t want to lose it. It’s a pretty sweet deal,” said Gaje.
Now, the place needs to be decorated and stocked. As well, dividers to section off different areas of the store are being built. On one wall, Calents has painted a mural of a giant robot from the anime franchise Gundam. He plans to also use the space to make his rugs. There is some more work ahead of the pair, but with the help of friends they hope to have the shop open in the coming weeks.
For the latest updates on the endeavor, follow @manilaverserugs and @isolatedgarments on Instagram.
Dylan MacNeil is a freelance writer based in Whitehorse.