LIKE silk and concrete, fashion and architecture probably don’t mix.

But not for Francis Libiran, an architect-turned-fashion guru. Just eight years into the Philippine fashion scene, his signature style of “classic elegance with a twist” has turned him into a household name among Filipino fashionistas and local celebrities.

Passion for fashion

Two years after earning his architecture degree in UST, Libiran found himself seated in one of the rooms of the Fashion Institute of the Philippines where he took up a course in Pattern Making. The 38-year-old couturier knew that he had to take his lifelong fondness for fashion to the next level.

“The interest in fashion was there, but I needed [to learn] the technical side of it,” said Libiran, whose knowledge of design then covered largely architecture.

With a business partner, he first ventured into fashion with Njork, a clothing line that initially marketed formal wear for men. Soon he was left alone in the new business after his partner left for the United States.

Libiran later teamed up with Arsi Baltazar, a fellow UST alumnus. They recreated the existing clothing line, which now carried the designer’s name.

“Francis Libiran (the brand) was the start of something new. We made everything fresh. We made our office, showroom, logo, packaging, and service different,” Libiran said.

His cocktail dress, gown, and tailored suit designs cater to no particular age bracket, saying he didn’t want to limit himself to any age group. “As a designer, that is the challenge,” he added.

The natural desire to be different was manifested early in Libiran’s life. With siblings who went early into the medical arts, he was encouraged to take up physical therapy. But he knew he would be better off creating designs and his parents eventually let him be.

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“I guess they saw that even when I was a teenager, I was already interested in clothes and dressing up,” he said.

The career wasn’t at all surprising. Libiran’s late grandmother was a leather bag and furniture designer in the 70s. He plans to venture into furniture sooner or later.

Architectural advantage

One thing that sets Libiran apart from other designers is his solid background in architecture. His fashion embraces architectural designs as shown in his gowns and dresses.

“My interest is still in architecture. That is why most of my designs in clothes are more architectural in detail,” he said.

Libiran added: “One has to discipline himself in order to pull off good results.”

His training in architecture also comes in handy in visualizing fashion designs.

“Like in architecture, you need to do the floor plans first before you dwell on the structure,” he said. “Everything should start from your imagination.”

Personal touch

Libiran considers fashion design as an honest form of self-expression. His “personal touch” is evident in every dress or bridal gown he creates. Each design is a collaboration between him and the person who will wear it.

Before sketching, Libiran prefers to familiarize himself first with his client so that he could fuse the essential qualities of the person with the garment.

“The best thing about designing clothes is seeing the results,” he said.

Libiran also draws inspiration from his international travels. New environments are an opportunity to explore new techniques as well as fabrics.

“Every now and then, I try to create and combine fabrics and patterns. I try to work around everything because I easily get bored,” he said.

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Libiran’s road to recognition provides an inspiring template for aspiring designers. “The competition among good designers is continuously growing. By the use of your skills and good eyes, you can make a mark in the industry and uniquely identify yourself,” he said.

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