Finney Santos tells us how he found success with Freedom Press Lab and NOBODY Clothing.
In 2006, there was no such term as ‘streetwear.’ There were only companies that printed shirts with funny taglines. That was the first thing Finney Santos told FreebieMNL when he sat down with us. Santos is a key member of the Freedom Press Lab printing shop and NOBODY Clothing.
As Santos tells it, his journey began when he took an interest in printing shirts. His mother helped him look for a workshop so he could learn more about the production process. When they found an ad for one, Santos signed up right away. Soon he was creating designs and learning about silkscreen printing.
“Nung mga panahon na yun, gusto mo lang gumawa ng t-shirt, eh. Yung tipong nakakatawa or relatable to you. Kasi walang available,” Santos reminisces. “Pero hindi ko pa alam paano gumalaw. Happy lang ako noon mag-produce ng t-shirts. ‘Di ko kinakausap kahit katabi namin noon sila Team Manila,” he adds.
Santos partnered with his friends Eldzs Mejia and Tsard Chua to put up Sea Foam Fashion. It was his first line, and its name came from the Incubus song “Are You In.” The brand made its debut when it joined a pop-up shop in the Cubao Expo gallery Pablo. Santos met The Twelfth House’s Mikki dela Rea through his work on Sea Foam Fashion.
But college life threw Santos off track. He joined the UP Los Banos school paper, where he befriended some activists. He developed a social conscience, which made him wonder, “Do I need to sell these shirts?” Santos soon stopped doing so and started printing shirts for charitable causes.
NOBODY Clothing and its people
Santos got back on track in 2010, when he met Enzo Ronquillo and Nikko Ramos. They bonded over their love of basketball. One time, while talking about the lack of merch in Manila, they decided to do something about it. They created EMPIRE, a basketball-themed brand. They sold their wares in stores like Toby’s and Urban Athletics.
Their collaboration became successful. They got commissions from fans of hot teams like the Ateneo Blue Eagles and the San Miguel Beermen. Unfortunately, the brand went poof in 2012. To this day, Santos doesn’t know what happened.
“It disappeared,” Santos shrugs.
He took a year off from making shirts, but jumped back into the scene when he met Zei Tacasa. The two of them decided to create a new line, but put their plans on hold until they met Kyle Salindong. When the three of them put their heads together, NOBODY Clothing was born.
Their first collaboration was with Laraine Gazmen. She later became a part of their team. Because of her, they saw their craft through a woman’s eyes, and they were able to come up with new ideas.
“Before, pinapakialaman pa namin siya,” he says of Gazmen. “Mas may chemistry na kami ngayon pagdating sa work. May ginagalaw kami sa work ng isa’t-isa na hindi na-a-outshine yung iba.”
After Gazmen, they brought a brand photographer named Roy Cabugao on board. But even if Gazmen remains the sole woman on their team, equality isn’t a problem for any of them. In NOBODY Clothing, everyone has a voice, regardless of gender.
Looking to the future
As of the moment, NOBODY Clothing works out of Cubao Expo. Freedom Press Lab continues to print shirts. They also work on merch for artists like Daniel Caesar, Eyehategod, and Rusty Machines. The latter is an indie rock band based in Manila. Their frontman Iggy San Pablo told FreebieMNL that working with Santos is a dream.
“The collaboration has always been solid and enjoyable. Art-wise, it was natural especially when it comes to the art direction. It’s easy to work with business owners who are creatives too. They know how to translate your vision into tangible objects like caps, shirts, and tote bags. Sometimes they even improve on your vision. That makes the collaboration more dynamic,” San Pablo says.
San Pablo isn’t the only one who loves the work done by Santos and his team. So do his band’s fans.
“Quality-wise, their prints are durable and long-lasting. We’ve never heard any complaints from people who bought our band’s merch. Rusty Machines has collaborated with them since 2017. We don’t see that collaboration ending anytime soon,” he adds.
For his part, Santos says his dream is for the NOBODY team to get better at communicating, at telling stories. Their goal is to translate even “the hard stuff” into relatable shirt designs. They want to get to a point where they can do that without diluting their message.
“Yes, I’m romanticizing branding, but that’s how we work,” he says.
Featured Image Daniella Sison