The bold and the fearless hold sway if you step into the world of streetwear. What makes this kind of fashion an antithesis of the mainstream is that it embraces the unconventional.
It’s the same way when you enter the realm of an apparel shop called Deadways; it continues to break free from the ordinary and caters to a subculture that doesn’t just follow fashion trends but makes them. This independent shop is a neighborhood Nirvana that’s been listening to the pulse of Cebu’s streets for almost a decade now.
Before Deadways became a hidden gem in Cebu’s urban fashion, it started as a humble seed of creativity, nurtured in the confines of an apartment by the brand’s visionary founder, Franz Deadways.
“Back in 2009, I started a brand called Product of Uranus. The design elements of that brand revolved around toilet humor. We’d put out graphics with toilet paper on it. After four years with that brand, although it was a successful brand back then, I got bored or burnt out creatively. So I started Deadways as a creative outlet. No themes; I could design whatever I want,” said Franz.
Toilet paper may seem like an unlikely source of fashion inspiration, but for Franz, anything can be transformed into a work of art. And while toilet paper may have been the starting point, the artist’s vision soon expanded beyond this humble motif.
“Deadways started with t-shirts, but throughout the years we added new products. We now have caps, bags, motorcycle gears, shorts and accessories. Our best selling shirt is called the ‘Relic.’ We only release this shirt every December. Every time we release it, it gets sold out right away. And this year will be the last run of that shirt. After this year’s release, we won’t produce it again,” he said.
In a world where fast fashion dominates, Deadways stands apart, leaving behind a sense of exclusivity as it moves forward towards quality and innovation.
“Deadways is basically the reflection of my lifestyle and the lifestyle of the people I hang out with the most. I like tattoos, punk music, I ride motorcycles, bikes, and I love camping. My friends, they skate, ride BMX, and some are into hip hop. And it will continue to evolve as the year progresses. Everyone is welcome to hang out at our store as long as they treat everyone with respect,” said Franz.
Before he created a haven of all things cool, he was just like any of the self-starters out there. Franz has also faced his fair share of challenges along the way from navigating the complex world of fashion production to dealing with the financial pressures of running a business.
“My memory isn’t always the best, but I think it was around 2017. It was one of those ‘just jump and learn how to fly on your way down’ moments. I found the perfect spot. It’s not on a main road so it’s not that busy, I never wanted a prime location anyway. I barely had the money to renovate the place. All I could afford back then was the deposit. But if you really love something and you focus your mind on it, the opportunities will follow and somehow I did it. It’s basically a shorter way of saying it but, that whole store build made me a stronger person,” recalled Franz.
Through his willingness to take risks, Franz was able to bring Deadways to the forefront of the urban fashion scene. He understood that to make an impact in the industry, he had to stay true to the brand’s values and never compromise on quality or creativity.
“The challenge was mostly financial — when you’re just starting out and all you have are ideas and drive and no money. Also finding the right suppliers. I’m obsessed with quality. Now all our shirts are made from scratch, even the fabric. I spent the last two years developing our fabric. Most people don’t realize how difficult it is to make a good quality fabric. If it’s too stiff and you want to make it softer, it will take around two months to get a sample. That’s why I don’t give out my contacts if someone asks me, ‘where did you have this made or can you link me to your supplier?’ I don’t think it’s being selfish. It’s part of your journey, man. Figure it out, you’ll learn a lot along the way,” explained Franz.
Franz also shared his secret recipe for the success of Deadways’ marketing plan. He knows that in the world of streetwear, it’s not just about creating great designs — it’s about creating a lifestyle that people want to be a part of.
“Quality over quantity. We rarely release new products, but when we do, I 100 percent stand behind that product. I’m a fan of my own brand. Having a good design is not enough. You have to make your target market feel special,” said Franz.
It’s a testament that Deadways was never just about the clothes — because for Franz, it was about creating a space where people could come together, express themselves, and celebrate their individuality. Perhaps, Deadways is a subculture that’s not everyones’ preference, but for those who understand its allure, it’s a way of life.
Deadways is located on 271A Rahmann Extension, Gorordo Ave., Cebu City. It is open Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.