The outlier and his Univers go public

Published December 4, 2021, 9:40 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng

If Greenbelt 3 is the new retail mecca for this holiday season, Mark “Jappy” Gonzalez is one of the high priests. His Greenbelt 3 section comprised of Univers 3.0, Officine Universelle Buly, and Off-White is, without doubt, now the cool, hip wing of Greenbelt. While traditional luxury retail brands form the roster of the other wings of Greenbelt 3, Jappy, with his three retail establishments, has put his indelible stamp on “owning” the younger, fashion-forward market.

Some writers will feature these three new stores, and go into full detail about what they’re all about. But having been given the tour by Jappy himself, I prefer to just offer broad strokes, and leave you the sublime pleasure of discovery. Jappy has always been a retail outlier, and these three stores prove there’s an ever-evolving, constantly changing, aspect to his maverick approach to retail. 

You question my referring to Jappy as the Outlier King of Retail? Just consider the multi-brand Univers 3.0 – it’s not just a curated collection of the most hip names in fashion, but also a repository of art installations. And as if that wasn’t enough, a section of the Univers floor area is devoted to Assouline – a collection of coffee table books that have to be seen to be believed. You’ll find The Impossible List books here, true-blue collectibles that retail for more than P50,000 per book.

Now I ask you, how many fashion retail stores will sell books, much less assign precious square meters for the sole display of these books? Univers is also where you’ll find the Thom Browne shop-within-a-shop. There’s so much happening within this Univers, you’ll be forgiven for forgetting you’re in a fashion store.

Officine Universelle Buly is an olfactory/personal care/lifestyle “story” and I won’t be overstating it to say you’ve seen nothing like this here in the Philippines. It is literally the first of its kind here – the interiors reminding me of a grand château’s boudoir. The products here all cost a pretty penny, but they are so unique and of such high quality, that I won’t be surprised if all the guest bathrooms of the well-appointed homes here will be pressured to be loaded with Buly products. 

I loved the subtlety of their soaps, how the dental paste were housed in these retro tubes, and ask about the stickers one can attach to your face masks – they help make your masks feel fresh again, via a mint-infused scent. 

As for Off White, we’re all aware of the untimely demise of designer Virgil Abloh on Nov. 28, 2021. This is the Milan-based fashion house he founded in 2012, where he first married streetwear with luxury clothing. 
Jappy was proud to show me how this new store carries Off-White Home, and Off-White Children – and even prouder, to point out the rack of Off-White Philippines apparel that Virgil himself designed.

Listening to Jappy, he astutely observed that while their Rockwell establishments were relatively “off the beaten path,” catering to the niche Rockwell crowd; his Greenbelt stores were akin to his brands going “public.” It speaks of his confidence in the market, and how it’s maturing, that he was extremely bullish about the Greenbelt stores – and how, since they opened on December 1, they’ve been doing very well.