Martine Cajucom is the brilliant creative behind the most popular sunnies brand in the Philippines.
If you don’t know about Sunnies Studios, you’ve probably been living under a rock. If the billboard along EDSA with Georgina Wilson (also Marketing Director and part-owner of the brand) isn’t enough, you’ve surely spotted their mint green kiosks in almost every major mall. I’ll admit it, I’m one of their 224K followers on Instagram (you probably are, too!). Since opening their first store in 2013, the brand has earned a massive cult following with their identity of chill vibes and California palm trees. One of the geniuses behind this phenomenon is Martine Cajucom, whom we visited at the Sunnies Studios HQ, their warehouse-turned-cool-creative-factory, on a Monday morning.
When I strolled in, Martine was still finishing up her makeup. But she cheerily let me into her office and started chatting me up as she resumed putting on some falsies while seated in her vintage leather armchair. I somehow didn’t expect such a sweet-measured voice coming from this striking beauty! And it’s not just her face you’ll remember, but her smarts and talent as well (she was a finalist for the 2015 EY Entrepreneur of the Year award, an amazing accomplishment for someone under 30!). The creative vision of this #GirlBoss definitely matches the impact of her pouty lips.
From the Sunnies R&D room with walls filled with assorted styles, to their storeroom with stocks all labeled and categorized, it was such a treat to take a tour and get to know the business more with the playful, down-to-earth Martine as our guide.
Tell us a little bit about your background. What were you doing before you came back to the Philippines to take on the creative reins at Sunnies Studios?
I worked as a creative head for American Apparel when I was living in Los Angeles. I styled, photographed, and managed marketing campaigns. I also did product design and development.
It must be fun getting to work with family (Georgina is your cousin!) and friends (Bea Soriano and Eric Dee Jr.). What are each of your roles? And what’s the best part about working together?
Briefly, these are our respective roles at Sunnies Studios: Georgina is our marketing director and she keeps our brand relevant and maximizes the impact of our visibility and awareness. Bea is our operations director, she manages our supply chain and liaises with our suppliers. Eric is our finance director and he’s in charge of growing our business. As the creative director, I take care of the look and feel of Sunnies, directing the vision of the brand from imagery to ads, etc.
Before we started Sunnies, so many people warned us about getting into business with friends. But we have so much respect for each other and such varied strengths that our friendship hasn’t been affected at all. In fact, working together has only strengthened our bond. Eric likes to joke that he has three girlfriends now!
As the creative director, what are you responsible for?
I manage the creative team at Sunnies Studios, who are all individually super brilliant and talented! Our tasks include creating graphics, ads, dreaming up new styles, visual merchandising (planning and designing kiosks and displays), and taking care of the entire retail and online visual experience.
Take us through a day in your life. What time do you wake up, what do you have for breakfast? How do you unwind at night?
I have two medium boiled eggs for breakfast and green tea, almost every day. It’s almost a joke how many eggs I eat daily. I hate alarms in the morning, I try to be in sync with my body’s circadium rhythm and wake up early. Then it’s off to work. At night I unwind with a documentary, a massage, and a bit of online shopping.
What’s the most interesting or fulfilling part of your job? Which part of the process is your favorite?
When the new samples arrive! Or seeing a render come to life. Also, meeting and collaborating with other creatives who I respect so much.
You guys now have 40 stores under your belt! What’s the most challenging thing about your job at Sunnies these days?
Getting sleep. Haha. No, but really. Sleep! And managing my personal life alongside the job.
After taking control of the sunglasses category, you guys have set your eyes on specs as well! Tell us a little bit about Sunnies Specs and why it’s a game changer. (Each store/kiosk will have its own eye test machine, right?)
So many customers would use their Sunnies and swap the lens out for perscription ones, so we listened and created a brand that would service their needs. We wanted to simplify the process of getting your perscription eyewear and offer it to everyone at one affordable price with styles you actually want to wear.
Our whole office had their eyes checked and there were so many of us (myself included) that didn’t even realize we needed glasses! I thought squinting was normal so my life also has kinda changed! I also didn’t realize how damaging computer and phone screens can be for healthy eyes, so we also created non-grade lenses that have a special coating to protect your eyes from those rays.
After eyewear, you’re also launching your first Sunnies Café! What’s the inspiration behind this? What should we expect from the Sunnies Café experience?
We all enjoy travel and food so much, and we wanted to create a restaurant that would bring back all the ideas and dishes we’ve picked up from our years of indulging. Sunnies Café is going to be that one magic place where all that stuff comes together.
You are always off on some new adventure! We’re always envious of your travels. What’s next on your travel bucket list?
Marrakech, Morocco is happening this year. I’m still on a mission to see the Northern Lights but I’d also love to visit Iran and Uzbekistan.
What are your top 3 favorite destinations?
I love Istanbul because the people are so kind and the sights are incredible. Palm Springs is great just to admire the mid-century architecture and cool down at a pool party. My other favorite is Mexico City—stylish, cool, has yummy food, and is so, so underrated.
How about your personal style, how would you describe it? What are the staples in your wardrobe?
Perfect denim cut offs and comfortable sandals. And small minimal shoulder bags. And sunglasses, obviously.
What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?
Do something that excites you because you’ll put your heart into it. Not everyone is going to be an entrepreneur or even successful for that matter. So keep it real. Keep it honest and create work that brings you personal fulfillment.