Complex Shop Presents Reconstruct: Deciphering Mentor en Route
Mentor en Route is on a quest to create something much bigger than a one-dimensional fashion experience. Founded in 2019 by Carlo Ybanez and Giovanni Farin, the sustainable, upcycling-based label is building a brand imbued with a textured narrative and focused purpose.
Even their chosen moniker “Mentor en Route” is laden with multiple meanings. On one level, it speaks to the continuous journey of the founders to be both masters and students of their individual passions. On a purely product basis, their name also refers to the new lives and personalities they give to the garments they upcycle. And on a deeper narrative level, the brand’s intrinsic ethos revolves around a figurative “roaming mentor” who’s permanently “en route” exploring new worlds and environments. As both founders explain, “We wanted to create a lot of brand equity for Mentor en Route from the very beginning. We are very intentional about wanting people to experience other things from us, not just the garments. For example, illustrations are a big visual tool for telling our story, so perhaps in the future, that could lead into us creating our own trading cards or even graphic novels and films.”
To date, Mentor en Route’s offerings have been delivered mostly in the form of esoteric, utilitarian upcycled apparel and accessories. This initial military inspiration is an homage to their San Diego hometown, which also happens to be a big military base city. The decision to base their brand on upcycling also rings true to the founders’ roots. “For me, tailoring and altering clothes came out of necessity,” Ybanez says. “I’m the son of Filipino immigrants, and upcycling and reusing is ingrained in us—we always reused things growing up. Whenever I wanted something as a kid and couldn’t afford it, my Dad would always tell me to ‘just improvise.’ That really stuck with me, and as a result, I’ve been tailoring and reworking my own clothes since middle school. I also like the feeling of knowing that my efforts are pushing down pollution and not contributing to it.”
For Mentor en Route’s capsule for “Complex Shop Presents Reconstruct,” they’re creating five distinctive pieces based on the story arc of their “roaming mentor” character. Ybanez explained in impressive detail what these products are: “We’re making an upcycled face mask with adjustable ear loops, and a neck strap, adorned with appliques and patches. Next there is a wide brim tulip hat made from upcycled corduroy and water-repellent nylon cordura, and it’s fully reversible. We made a canvas tote bag with a padded shoulder strap, cut from upcycled painter’s canvas and it features applique patchwork. And then we have rebuilt Levi’s denim pants, in different sizes, fits, and inseams, and it comes with a vintage rag and knee patches—perfect for an urban gardener. Lastly, there is a Noragi Jacket, perfect for layering, made from recycled military quilt, featuring an open-face silhouette and a pair of front pockets.”
As witnessed from the goods above, it’s evident the brand’s founders cut no corners with the level of detail and craftsmanship poured into each product. “We do everything in-house,” Farin says, “sourcing, cutting fabric, graphic design, screenprinting to keep it agile and nimble, and maintain a high quality level. Our product prices haven’t exceeded the $300 mark yet, but look at brands like Visvim and Kapital. Their prices are high, but justifiable for the product they make. So as we grow, there could be special pieces that end up reaching a certain price tier.”
As Mentor en Route continues to grow, both founders are keen on celebrating their diversity and shared Filipino heritage. “We’re both proud Filipinos and the sons of immigrants who came to the United States for a better life,” Ybanez proudly states. Farin chimes in, “As Filipino descendants, we certainly want to do our part and create more generational wealth for our people and our families. We’re really proud of our immigrant culture, we love our city, San Diego, and Mentor en Route is here to inspire, be a role model, and help others along our journey.”
Shop pieces from Mentor en Route on complexland.com now. The collection will only be available today, so don’t miss out.