Some designers have a vision. CJ Borja had a doodle. “I scribble a lot, ” he says. While scribbling away in class, Borja had no idea that he was creating the blueprint for a Chicago-based fashion collection.
Obsessed with the image of the Filipino sun, about a year and a half ago CJ set out on a search for a t-shirt bearing that image. Finding none, he decided to take matters into his own hands. “I decided I would just make it myself,” he says.
Borja designed an entire collection, and with the help of a friend, got a Web site up and running. Dubbed “Ethnikroots,” Borja’s line features clothing with images and words significant to his native Filipino culture.
Take, for example, the brand’s best-selling trademark tee, bearing the Filipino sun. The sun, pictured with eight rays and three stars, is more than just an illustration. “[The shirt] explains what the eight rays mean—[they stand] for the eight Filipino provinces that fought in the Philippine and Spanish war,” Borja says. “The three stars represent the main islands.”
While the current collection focuses solely on the roots of its creator, Borja says the label is looking to branch out. “I started with Filipino culture [because I am] Filipino—that’s what I know best,” he explains. But the new line from Ethnikroots, due out in October, will explore different heritages. “The new line will be universal to all cultures,” Borja promises.
Borja’s creations have already garnered attention from the bigwigs at MTV, who have made the company the official sponsors of their Filipino branch, MYX. The brand however, has yet to find an official home. While the hype surrounding Ethnikroots has attracted the attention of boutiques like Akira, the stores want to see more diversity in the cultures the brand explores before stocking their shelves with Borja’s designs. With the launch of the October line and an updated Web site, Borja hopes to give them just that.
Until then, he plans to maintain his sales through his Web site, ethnikroots.com. (Nicole Briese)