At a time when even Filipino grooms are beginning to be more style-conscious, bridal designer Francis Libiran has learned to be astute and observant with wedding trends in order to serve his clients better.
When Libiran wed his American partner Christian Mark Jacobs last March, the fashion designer was swamped with compliments that went beyond his audacity to hold a wedding ceremony in his conservative and predominantly Catholic country. Many wanted to take style cues from his Instagram-worthy Boracay wedding.
“We pay attention, and we’re flexible,” says the designer, who runs both a ready-to-wear bridal boutique as well as a couture bridal business. “The wedding market is so big, even if there are many of us in this business. We innovate. The difference is service. That’s what clients will remember. Filipinos are very spoiled, so our service is very personal.”
Libiran is marking his 20th year in the business in December. The licensed architect, with the help of business partner Arsi Baltazar, has grown his brand into one of the most profitable, having licensed the Francis Libiran name into bridal jewelry and watches, a thriving corporate uniform business, and, most recently, a collaboration with homegrown apparel brand Bayo.
Baltazar says they’re in the planning stage of expanding the wedding RTW to include apparel for grooms, as well as an RTW boutique for everyday fashions. (In the early years, Libiran designed RTW for his now-defunct Nyork brand.)
Almost a year ago, Libiran opened his bridal RTW boutique in Greenbelt 5 to cater to clients who can’t afford his asking price for bridal couture, which starts at P250,000. Off-the-rack prices start at P88,000 to a high of P188,000, about the same rates as the European RTW bridal shops here. Add-ons cost extra.
Libiran is holding a series of trunk shows in Cebu (just concluded ) and Davao (sometime in September) where clients down south can personally consult with him— “the closest you can get to a couture service,” Baltazar points out. He’s also holding one with a solo bridal show in Crimson Alabang (Aug. 22), and on Aug. 27 in Singapore. He has done the same in Dubai in the past.
“I think what makes us different from the imported brands is that we know local customs. We know local tastes, so we’re more open to tweaking what’s on the floor,” the designer says. “If they want a different sleeve, more beadwork, we’re okay with that.”
Artistic-wise, Libiran says it’s harder to design bridal RTW since he’s making for no specific bride. “It’s harder if you don’t know who’s going to wear it.”
His current collection at the Greenbelt outpost—the bridal RTW division is run by Jacobs—consists of French-inspired styles, distinctly romantic and classic.
Even as his profile continues to rise, Libiran can hardly be seen doing the rounds of Manila socials. It’s not his thing, he says. “I would rather dress up people who go to the socials.”
Adds Baltazar, “We choose [which ones to go to]. It’s strategic also. This guy (Libiran) is very grounded. Hindi lumalaki ang ulo. We haven’t realized we’ve made it. We have goals. Wala pa kami dun.”
They’re constructing the company’s building in Quezon City.
“Francis has so many ideas,” Baltazar says with a laugh. “That’s why we’re here, to rein him in because he tends to get carried away. His ideas can be quite expensive!”
They are ideas, however, that seem to be paying off.