Jackson Tailors - tailors suit makati
90s styled shop with classical furniture and located along pasay road was the last HK Jackson tailoring shop until we reopened it in Mile Long Building.
Old authentic wools on wood carved display cabinets. Innumerable prototype samples of suits trousers and polo shirts for rtw presentations. That's how I came into the Jackson Web.
HK Jackson tailoring the formal menswear supplier.
SM under Tonichi Nocom and SM Department store in-house products; Landmark under their own brand Jack owned by my sister in law the eldest of the four siblings; Rustans under Black Label and other brands that my husband Jeffrey Chu supplied for given to him by their other sister.
That was the HK Jackson Tailoring I knew.
Second Generation Tailoring Family Business. The number one formal menswear supplier in Metro Manila.
Little did I know the vast history behind it, their well loved Mother, widowed so young and the father who left behind a legacy so preponderant that we will be tackling it in three series.
Who was Hong Kong Jackson? Who is the man behind the name?
He was the famous Shanghai Bespoke Master Cutter from Hong Kong that Filipinos and Chinese men during the 60's and 70's lined up for just to own a Jackson Chu handiwork. Beloved by his tailors, the budding first gen Fil-Chi Community, his Filipino family and his lovely young wife Rosario.
Borne in the little garment district of Ningbo, China. Jackson Chu learned tailoring from his secondary schooling. Ningbo or Ningpo, is a northeastern Zhejiang shen Province just outside Shanghai, it means Calm Waves. Its tepid waters was the reason it became a popular Merchant Overseas Trading Port.
With its infamy came foreign interests and attacks. But peaceful trade became possible when the Portuguese assisted in keeping the ports safe enough for British Traders to come in along with British Bespoke tailoring.
That even after Ningbo's economic decline to Shanghai in the 1800s, British Bespoke Tailoring was still taught in their high schools. Ningbo in turn became the Garment City to which they are still well known for in Today's China.
Jackson Chu was the best in his craft. He was able to rise above his peers and land him a good job in metropolitan Shanghai. The young tailor's handiwork was so exemplary that most Chinese Communist Party leaders favored him. A skilled tailor with enough wit and charm to enable him to rise above from any situation and cement his network of high officials in the Chinese Communist Party.
And when the right time came, those high officials were his key to realizing his dream.
Young Jackson Chu was admired in Shanghai but he was not happy.
He wanted more than what Shanghai was offering. With his powerful connections he secured passage to Hong Kong.
He went home to Ningbo to say his goodbyes to his family. He did not know when he will see them again, if they would see each other again. But he braved it and ventured into the unknown. It would take another 15 years before he risked going back to Ningbo, with him his Filipina wife, the lovely Rosario Chu.
What would it have been like to cross the 2400 km Pearl River back then? What was he thinking as he saw the pearl colored shells that lay at the bottom of the riverbed? Did he cross to Lantau Island? Or was it in Heishawan? Known then as Canton river, this was the estuary you cross from China to Hong Kong.
We will never know what he was thinking but we do know it was so monumental that Jackson Chu incorporated it to his emblem.
Aboard a Chinese Junk Ship, he would always say, I crossed to Hong Kong aboard a Chinese Junk ship.
Til the end that Chinese junk ship is still embroidered on the patches of his suits. On the logo of HK Jackson Tailoring designs. On the Insgnia that illuminated Arnaiz Avenue at night in the 80's and 90's where his Jackson Building stands to this day.
Hong Kong was the hippest country to go to, back then. The new Shanghai. Trendy to a tilt. The Singapore of their time. This vogue atmosphere was teeming with fashion forward people, already a very cut throat industry with many local tailors using British style tailoring. Amongst one of the budding tailors was fellow Ningbo countryman (kababayan) Ascot Chang. He was making waves as a shirt maker in Kimberly road. For a FOB Shanghai Tailor it must have been very intimidating, foreboding. But Jackson Chu had the style and charm that gave him the competitive edge. Although it was not as easy as Shanghai, he nevertheless managed to become a Master Cutter in Hong Kong.
The already middle aged Jackson's fate changed drastically when a Filipino Sartorial enthusiast and Politician lured him to work in his country. The Philippines. A nascent country, the pearl of the Orient, a novel adventure that would seal his destiny because this is where he would meet his beloved wife Rosario.
He moved to Manila and worked for a Tailoring shop along Taft. He was the favorite cutter of a famous Fashion store. His reputation as famous Shanghai tailor with impeccable hands brought in a lot of customers. And as providence allowed, Jackson Chu fell in love with the young Filipina merchandiser Rosario Ganac. Equally competitive as he was, Rosario proved to be the best partner for Jackson. She was business savvy and had a good head on her shoulders that when they married, it was a whirlwind of events that led up to the most influential Tailoring shop in the Philippines.
Together the couple built up HK Jackson Tailoring along Taft avenue. Rosario's networking skills and Jackson's impeccable craftsmanship launched this small tailoring shop into the most sought after store in Manila.
But what really cemented their name in this industry was the Cashmere Wool that they were able to bring in Metro Manila. With the help of his Political contacts both here and in China, Jackson and Rosario were able to supply Manila tailors the finest of Chinese Cashmere before the ports of China were even open.
Cashmere was introduced to the US by Bernhard Altman only 10 years before the Chus brought it in Manila from China. It was just a Kashmir shawl that was used as suiting fabrics by the Europeans and brought to the US by the Germans.
The Chus would risk getting detained in China just to export these Chinese wools. China still closed to foreign trade gave 48 hour passes (visas) to visitors. Using his charm and connections once again, Jackson Chu this time with his new wife Rosario would journey to Shanghai ride a small boat to Ningbo buy the wools cross back to Shanghai and unto a Passenger ship back to Manila. Well we can just surmise that the risk also involved visiting time with his family who were still living in Ningbo, but it nevertheless led the prevalence of these fabrics in Metro Manila.
The tailoring shops were scrambling to purchase from Jackson Chu.
The Shanghai Master Cutter had finally turned Entrepreneur. They were fast becoming the most proactive tailoring business in the Industry. The risks the couple took paid off and their business had become well known as the Hong Kong Tailoring Shop with the Shanghai Master Cutter who was selling Authentic Cashmere wools from Shanghai.
In his late 50's Jackson took on another first. His most ambitious project yet, but it was not in the tailoring industry.
Jackson Chu has moved up from being Master Cutter to Entrepreneur and together with his equally Impresario wife Rosario they began constructing the Jackson building.
It was one of the first commercial building along Pasay road and the biggest of their time. Quite impressive because Pasay road was still a residential area then. Jackson always had the foresight and Rosario the arm to see it through.
Jackson Building behind New World Hotel is still one of the most stylish building in Makati. Bauhaus Designed four stories high, Pasay road’s first elevator building. It is still the most impressive forethought in Makati along with Ayala’s dream of a Business District.
This may be just one of his legacies; one he shares with his children his beloved wife and the city of Makati, but it wasn’t his greatest.
His childhood background in Ningbo is what remained with his family and friends. His handiwork, his craftsmanship in menswear design, his tailoring style that has already passed on to innumerable tailors in Manila. Shanghai, British. Studying authentic British Bespoke tailoring in Slim’s Makati, I am already finding out that it didn’t really diverged so much,
His love for Bespoke tailoring created this web of life that even his brother whom he was able to bring to Manila in the late 70s from Communist China will never forget.
This is what tailoring is to most who understand it.
The love for beauty and art can transform you and the people around you. Amazingly I, who came from a Real Estate background found myself caught up in his web. His wife’s love for her Shanghai Tailor gave her the strength to carry on his legacy even after being widowed so young. His Filipino family from marriage always had fond memories of him. His daughters became well known in the garment industry in Manila. His first son keeps on redesigning high fashion and became one of the first Menswear ramp models.
And his last heir, my husband, Jeffrey Chu who has the underlying eye for Menswear design. Although he won’t admit it, Jeff has already innovated the first Tuxedo Barong and the first open Jacket tuxedo that of course has now proliferated to the markets of Divisoria.
Jackson and Rosario’s visionary spirit passed on to their children to excel and innovate Philippine Fashion Industry.
But that is another story.
Jackson Chu was beloved by the Filipino tailors who worked under him. Shanghai tailoring proliferated in Manila due to his love of teaching his craft. His tailors would tell us stories of how Jackson Chu trained them, molded them, mentored them in Bespoke tailoring. One of his tailors passed this on to other tailors and the cycle is simply astounding.
The butterfly effect of the Portuguese saving the ports of Ningbo that has influenced Asian British Tailoring, from Ascot Chang of Hong Kong to Jackson Chu in Metro Manila. The Kashmir fabric that came from Mongolia as shawls and in turn became Cashmere suiting fabrics for the Europeans. Traded in America by a German spearheading a global product that launched the affluence of Jackson Chu in Metro Manila Tailoring Industry. Astounding.