Why Walmart heiress Alice Walton and other power women are loyal to Criselda Lontok | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Criselda Lontok marks the 35th anniversary of her eponymous clothing brand at Rustan’s. —PHOTOS BY NELSON MATAWARAN
Criselda Lontok marks the 35th anniversary of her eponymous clothing brand at Rustan’s. —PHOTOS BY NELSON MATAWARAN

The rainy weather did not stop customers from visiting the eponymous fashion boutique, Criselda Lontok, at Rustan’s Makati.

One afternoon, a client came with a long, bronze silk chiffon skirt from her daughter. The client tried on an asymmetrical, metallic lamé top and got the nod for the fit from Lontok herself. The client then asked the appropriate shoes for her outfit.

Lontok’s rapport with her clients is just one of the reasons for her longevity in a saturated market. She has kept her partnership with Rustan’s for the past 44 years.

On Aug. 2, at 6 p.m., Lontok will hold her fashion show, “Criselda: A Rustan’s Classic Reborn,” at the Rigodon Ballroom of the Peninsula Manila.


“I’m a Leo,” she said, referring to her zodiac sign’s qualities of drive, determination and loyalty.

She was the discovery of Rustan’s founder, the late Gliceria “Glecy” Tantoco, who noted that Lontok, who was then Rustan’s merchandise manager, not only had a flair for fashion but could also appreciate her boss’ “tough love.”

One day, Tantoco told her to start a line of loose tops for women. On the private label Mode International, the collection became an instant hit.

Since taking charge came naturally, Lontok told Tantoco that she wanted to fire the supplier who cheated the store with the sizing.

When Lontok added separates and dresses, sales soared.


Eventually, the Rustan’s matriarch said that it was time to introduce Lontok to the public as a designer. Her label was launched in 1983, when the country was suffering from economic turmoil and political instability.

Nonetheless, sales surpassed expectations since it tapped a still underserved market—women of a certain age with figure problems.

Lontok offered dress convenience to women from sizes 8 to 18. Instead of going to a dressmaker, they could now pick up something stylish and affordable off the rack.

She underscored that the label was one of Tantoco’s legacies.

Top seller

In the past 35 years, Criselda Lontok has been a consistent top seller among Rustan’s’ private labels. Lately, her label has been competing with the French luxury brand Longchamp in sales.

In some months, Criselda Lontok is No. 1 and sometimes, she’s next to Longchamp.

She pointed out that the price points are different. Her clothing ranges from P995 for a pair of slacks, to P12,500 for an evening gown.

“Customers find the prices reasonable. I go by volume.”

From Tuesday to Friday, Lontok is in her 100-square-meter boutique at Rustan’s Makati, effortlessly chic in
her signature bright-colored clothes and chunky necklaces and bracelets.

Customers are charmed by her suave demeanor and smooth persuasion.

Lontok maintained that women buy her clothes because they hide figure flaws. Kaftan tops, sheaths and dust coats are signature looks, as with variations of angel and bell sleeves.

She favors jacquard and brocade for their rich textures.

Lontok recalled that, for so long, she worked as a buyer for luxury brands. The frequent trips to Paris exposed her to designer collections, from which she got ideas for her own designs.

Among her prominent clients are former Makati Mayor Elenita Binay, Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos and Edna Lhuillier, wife of the Ambassador to Spain, Philippe Lhuillier.

Lontok maintains that women buy her clothes—like the two looks above—because they hide figure flaws.

Investment banker Joanne de Asis Benitez not only shops for herself but also for Walmart heiress Alice Walton. This American billionaire has repeat orders.

Tourists can also be repeat customers. A shopper from Brunei said that on every Manila trip, the Criselda Lontok boutique is in her must-go list.

Clad in French designer fashion, a Singaporean lady visited Rustan’s to show the designer a Criselda Lontok lacy gown which she wore to her daughter’s wedding.

A well-dressed, well-traveled German complimented Lontok for her tasteful designs and picked up a few dust coats.

Then there are the simple, unassuming customers from far-flung places who would buy P80,000 worth of clothing in cash. Customer service remains Glecy Tantoco’s legacy.

Socially visible women would ask if their friends had bought the same style of dress or blouse. Not wanting to be seen in a party wearing the exact look, they would call up each other to arrange when and where they would wear the clothes.

Some women come to her for advice on wearing a Criselda and winning back their philandering husbands.

Once, there were two women, both terminally ill, who requested that they be buried in their Criselda Lontok.

In sum, Lontok’s constant striving and personal touch have enabled her brand to withstand the fickleness of fashion. —CONTRIBUTED

Tips for age-appropriate dressing

Wear bright colors to lift your mood. Neutrals or grays can be dreary. If you wear bland colors, make a statement with bright accessories for contrast.
Ruffles on the chest call attention to a large bosom.

Don’t try to compete with younger women by wearing spaghetti straps, shorts, plunging necklines and clingy knits. Sheaths streamline the heavy silhouette.

Don’t slump into drab, nondescript fashion. Know your best features and highlight them.

Keep hemlines below the knee.

Embrace your style with elegance.

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