His stunning gowns have graced red carpets and pageant long gown walks, catching the attention of celebrities such as Tyra Banks who proudly wore his creation to a highly-publicized ball and on “America’s Next Top Model” series. Francis Libiran is indeed known around these islands and beyond for his couture gowns that make debutantes and brides even more radiant on their special day.
His gowns dazzled at the latest Star Magic Ball, with his favorite celebrities parading in his beautiful, shimmery gowns. One of the stars was Kisses Delavin, who wore a deceptively simple and age appropriate long-sleeved dress. Arci Muñoz went more daring, with a sheer glam number dotted with Swarovski crystals. Bella Padilla went dark and art deco, in a pleated column that is a trademark Libiran classic.
Libiran, who is a dapper dresser himself, also created suits for some of the best-dressed males that night. Take a look at photographs of Elmo Magalona and Daniel Matsunaga who turned heads in their well-cut jackets.
Couture to off-the-rack
Libiran has also recently partnered with Bayo to create classic, everyday looks for the modern Filipina. With this partnership, stylish ladies can now wear a Francis Libiran creation to the workplace and beyond.
He talks about his first encounters with the brand in this interview: “Since they are celebrating their 25th year, I think I was in college that time. Yes, that kind of ages me,” he laughs. “I remember their beautiful billboards and my classmates in Architecture wearing their clothes.”
Libiran says that what he has with the brand today is perfect partnership since its style meshes with his own.
“The strength of the brand is its timelessness. That is the reason why they are still here now. They never really changed their DNA—offering something new, but with that classic elegance that they are known for. Even when I was starting out in the industry, I was very particular about creating a statement with art deco patterns. I love lines and I made it a point to incorporate that with what I created for this anniversary collection.”
When he was asked to design for the brand, Libiran did his research on what Bayo is really about, even going to the point of locking himself up in a hotel room to design. Then, he incorporated his signature looks in subtle ways.
“It is not about going into a different direction, it was meshing the two together,” he explains. The hallmarks of his designs are there—the art deco element can be found in the collars or on layered details on the sleeves, for example. The result is an artful line that is chic and wearable.
“Some of the things that I had to keep in mind are that the clothes are going to be worn by women of different sizes. Unlike with couture where the model is right in front of me and I can design according to her measurements or their requests to ‘cover this and that’, I had to keep the varied sizes and shapes of the Filipina in mind.”
He discloses there were some adjustments to designing for retail. “I had to put in some restraint. There were times when they had to rein me in, saying, ‘Francis, we think that is a little too much!’” he chuckles.
“I think Filipinas today are very fashion forward and are living in fast-paced lives. When I did my research on the brand, I realized that their main market is career-oriented and in the 25 and up age bracket. So I designed clothes for them that make them feel comfortable and yet confident.”
Another facet that he likes most about working with the label is that they used fabrics that fit the Filipino climate. “You cannot say that of the fast fashion brands that are imported. Sometimes, the thickness is not suited to our tropical weather and therefore not practical. They also print on their own fabric and it makes a difference because they get to play around with it.”
He calls himself honored to be invited to design for the Filipino brand. “Pushing Filipino is very important to me, if something is promoting the Philippines, I am up for it!” He loves the fact that the brand is made in the country, because it gives more jobs to Filipinos. “It supports livelihoods and therefore supports families.”
The designer knows all too well the impact of providing livelihood and employment opportunities. Libiran has been in the industry for 20 years, and has longtime employees.
“They come up to me and thank me because of how working for me has helped them improve their lives. These are the things you don’t get to think about when you are busy with your work. “One of my seamstresses, who has been with me since the very beginning, came up to me one Christmas and said that she was able to send her three children to school. They are now nurses. Another says that they were able to put up a house because of her work. Because of them being employed, you are able to better their lives.”
Libiran further finds value in giving back. Besides supporting an orphanage, where he celebrates his birthday with his adopted children instead of throwing a lavish party, he is looking into providing livelihood opportunities to the less fortunate in society.
“I am now talking to a parish where we can gather those who want to turn their backs on drugs and become productive again. I want to help them learn new livelihoods, even if it is something as simple as beading, to help them get back on track.”
Libiran, whose name is now often on the lips of international fashionistas, is a perfect example of the Filipino being world-class. He says that Filipinos are meant to excel in any field.
“It’s because of our attitude. Filipinos are willing to work hard and are happy workers. They will accept whatever task they have on hand and they are happy doing it. That is world-class for me.”
Maan D’Asis Pamaran