STYLE

COS approaches a new age in Philippine retail

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In this transitional era, the London-based retail brand is standing out for more than a few reasons. Photo by JL JAVIER

COS, the London-based retail brand, has finally set foot in the Philippines. The brand — an abbreviation of “Collection of Style”—has been known for modern-day minimalism and pieces meant to bode well beyond a season. Its first branch in the Philippines, located at SM Aura, Taguig, remains committed in informing new audiences of its aversion to excess, as consumers become ever more conscious of sustainable fashion. Found on the racks of the 380 square-meter store are 100% cotton, A-lines, and monochrome looks from the SS21 collection.

COS’s first branch in the country features an up-to-date SS21 collection, with median prices of ₱3000 to ₱5000. Photo by JL JAVIER

The COS Summer 2021 collection "embraces warmer weather, while remaining versatile and timeless." Photo by JL JAVIER

Being in the portfolio of fast fashion giant H&M, COS does not immediately fit into the contours of small-scale brands that champion producing just enough, honoring knitters, sewers and makers. But according to the brand, 86% of its materials are already sustainably sourced, as they employ organic textiles and inject an idea of timelessness into their work.

In an email interview, CNN Philippines Life conversed with COS Head of Sustainability and Brand Strategy Francesca Lilley whose job is to nudge COS towards their long-term sustainability goals. “I am personally motivated in my role to really empower all parts of our business and our customers and community to have the opportunity to be a part of this work, and to find ways to accelerate the impact we can make.”

The main facade of the COS Manila store. Courtesy of COS

The COS fitting room, while placed at the back, welcomes sunlight, something that is amiss in most retail stores. Photo by JL JAVIER

According to Liley, the goal is to have all product materials to either be recycled or sourced sustainably by 2030. “We are continuing to increase our share of recycled materials and scale-up our ‘repurposed’ material initiatives, creating new fibers for products using fabric waste within our own supply-chain… Our goal is to become a climate positive brand, with 100% sustainably sourced or recycled materials.”

In the country, sustainability is often a cause undertaken by SMEs; homegrown brands that subsist mainly on e-commerce and online platforms. And the introduction of an outsider that employs traditional retail models with physical stores in upscale malls is an anomaly in the local circular retail arena.

But this is where COS plays its hand. Inside its physical store, it explores the use of overstock fabrics. The counter’s staggered wall uses what they call the “Really” board, a rigid material made from upcycled textiles like cotton and wool.

The counter’s staggered wall uses what they call the “Really” board, a rigid material made from upcycled textiles like cotton and wool. Photo courtesy of COS

Among its neighbors at the mall, its radical simplicity stands out and it is something you can almost hear when recalling its memorable three-letter name. The off-white interiors radiate and its fitting room, while placed at the back, welcomes sunlight, something that is amiss in most retail stores. The mannequins, clad in signature silhouettes, prompt passersby to sneak a peek. Lounge chairs are also integrated into the area, giving the store a polished but still inviting feel.

Found on the racks of the 380 square-meter store are 100% cotton, A-lines, and monochrome looks from the SS21 collection. Photo by JL JAVIER

A peek at the menswear selection of COS Manila. Photo by JL JAVIER

As of this writing, the Philippines has administered over 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccinations with NCR seeing more flexible restrictions in light of the implemented GCQ status. Malls have since reopened and people have been feeling a semblance, albeit minute, of normalcy. But amid these slow adjusting times, COS’s entrance into the Philippine retail market shows just how distinct it is among the rest — bold and straightforward, with a purpose. It’s the unfitting piece of the puzzle. But perhaps it’s setting off the new age of retail behavior in the country.

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COS is at the G/F of SM Aura Premier, Taguig City.