How Robert Blancaflor created the floral arbor for Isabelle Duterte
The country’s optimistic economic outlook echoed in the gleaming décor at the Jan. 19 coming-out party of debutante Isabelle Duterte, granddaughter of President Duterte.
Award-winning entrepreneur and events/styling consultant Robert Blancaflor decked the Peninsula Manila ballroom with this year’s style trend: contemporary luxe.
This look is characterized by ubiquitous transparent furniture, decorative elements and sparkly details. Guests get to savor the view amid clear glass table plans, acrylic chairs, glass candelabras and vases everywhere, and complemented with lavish greenery and flowers.
Blancaflor also chose blush, this year’s banner color for events, to blend with the beaded crystal chandelier lighting design.
Isabelle, an excited debutante, wanted drama, which was rendered via a sophisticated color scheme of black and white, with subdued accents of blush and pastels.
The piece de resistance was an arbor (a vertical structure in gardens that provides shade and accent) with fresh floral walls, and a ceiling and a transparent walkway that was filled with liliums, roses and hydrangeas. As guests walked in, they felt as if they were floating on a bed of flowers and fairy lights.
A landmark design in the local scene, the floral arbor is a blend of contemporary luxe and romance.
In the dining area, Ecuadorian roses, hydrangeas, tulips, hyacinths and feathered tulips were clustered in several levels—under glass tabletops, topiaries in glass containers on the tables, and suspended from the ceiling.
Still, fresh flora weren’t the only eye-grabbers. Transparent objects—glass vases, crystal glasses, candleholders and candelabras—made for a dazzling mix.
Blancaflor provided the mirror and glass tables and crystal beaded chandeliers.
“We never use regular tables with a mantel. We laid out beaded glass plates with glass table numbers. Everything was refined,” he said.
Often asked about his décor style, Blancaflor gives the standard description: “restrained elegance.”
“I know when to stop,” he said. Other stylists tend to over-decorate with over-the-top floral arrangements that block views, or put in too many colors or too many elements.
Blancaflor goes for low flower arrangements so that guests can talk across the table or watch the show without obstruction.
“In the end, it’s my client’s event, not mine,” he stressed.
Blancaflor’s knack for proportion and harmony is deeply rooted. His cultured taste was cultivated, curiously enough, when he was an investment banker in New York. It proved to be an enriching exposure. (He was tasked to help start Merrill Lynch in the Philippines.)
He moved to Citibank and, at age 26, became its youngest vice president in the Philippines. Still, he felt he needed a creative outlet.
In 1997, he styled the wedding of his brother, who would turn out to be his first client. Guests were impressed, even awed, by the sophistication of the setup, with its unique colors and the prudent use of décor.
In time, he put up an events firm, Robert Blancaflor Group Inc. (RBGI), and the clients came knocking on its door.
He has accumulated a desirable trove of furniture and furnishings, which other stylists rent.
On its 20th year, RBGI became the only events company to be one of four finalists in the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards.
“You’ve got to be financially sound and contribute to the community,” said Blancaflor. “The award validated our company. People can look up to what we do.”
He also holds the record for styling three dozen celebrity weddings, which included the Kho-Belo reception at the Paris Opera House, and private events for visiting celebrities from Hollywood.
His individual and corporate clientele portfolio covers 10 countries.
This year, Blancaflor is reaching what he calls “the right age,” and he looks forward to more challenges.
“We want to do things that others can’t do,” he quipped. —CONTRIBUTED
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