A year after donning the cap and gown, Roxanne Montealegre still wears her Ateneo de Manila school spirit on her sleeve as the proprietor of A-List, a collegiate apparel start-up established July 2011, while balancing a budding career in entertainment.
The entrepreneur's first brush with business was in 2008, when she ran a Japanese food stall at her school's Student Enterprise Center. Last year, she also had a six-month corporate stint as the Philippine chief marketing officer of online travel network Wimdu.
Ms. Montealegre's career in front of a camera, on the other hand, began much earlier. Her face has featured in advertisements since she was 16, and many recognize her from these appearances, including a Coca-Cola print ad, a Jollibee TV commercial, and an Avon catalogue. Ms. Montealegre is also signed with the GMA Artist Center and has appeared in local soap operas.
Between ad shoots, TV tapings, event hosting, running A-List, and keeping her day job at the time, too many sleepless nights started to take their toll on the entrepreneur's health. Soon enough, Ms. Montealegre knew time management was a must.
"A 24-hour schedule is a non-negotiable," she said in an interview. "I learned that everything [is] a trade-off. [But] I believe that when you love [what] you do, it will never be stressful for you."
These days, she's a master at multitasking: during breaks at tapings, Ms. Montealegre drafts marketing plans or hones her Photoshop skills. Likewise, while she tends her stores, she has a script with her to practice lines.
Now 22, the management graduate is a globetrotter who owes her keen fashion sense partly to time spent Japan, the US, and over 40 European countries. "Traveling to other countries was walking through a world closet," she said. "I saw how casual wear could be luxurious, how simplicity means elegance, and how big brands came from small beginnings."
In the early days of A-List, Ms. Montealegre had to stick it out alone with little technical knowhow, but she pulled through with plenty of self-study. "I realized that as long as you get your message across to the production and you have a sense of style, the outcome should be amazing," she said.
The entrepreneur also said that the business helped bring out her inner designer, and she gives the final word on the look of A-List's pieces. For menswear, however, she taps the design talents of A-List's business developer, Jose Angelo Cunanan.
Ms. Montealegre also cited William Mallari, coordinator for student entrepreneurial initiatives and director of Ateneo's on-campus Loyola Schools (LS) Bookstore, as one of her inspirations in establishing A-List. The brand made its debut at the store and sold the cardigans out barely a month after launch.
"You should get people whom [you trust] to help you," Ms. Montealegre advised. "You don't have to be an expert. Always remember that you can dream big and start small."
Beyond the usual T-shirt fare, A-List's line of cardigans, letterman jackets, and hoodies offer a sleek fit that's tapered for women and slim for men. Students and alumni can look forward to three upcoming collections, starting with the launch of "Fly in Fashion" early this school year.
A-List's subtle aesthetic allows Ateneans to wear their school colors proudly not only at basketball games, but also as they go about everyday activities. The price for such comfort, however, is a bit competitive: P399-P499 for T-shirts, P799 for raglan shirts, P999 for hoodies, and P1,199-P1,299 for cardigans.
Ms. Montealegre said, "My [pricing is] relatively higher than my competitors because I don't compromise [on] quality." A-List prides itself on utilizing materials such as cotton, Lycra, and fleece. It also uses discharge printing instead of the more common and less expensive silk screen printing. Designs also come in limited-run batches to guarantee exclusivity.
Besides its flagship outlet at the LS Bookstore, A-List recently opened at Fully Booked in Bonifacio High Street. Shirts are also available for sale at University Athletics Association of the Philippines games, but Ms. Montealegre has long-term plans of branching out, catering to other Ateneo schools, and reaching both older graduates and the next generation.- V.T. Vizcarra
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