IT WAS not sheer luck that brought this local designer’s name to worldwide acclaim. It was passion sewed up with a patch of ambition.

Thomasians once again took pride in one of the University’s alumni as fashion guru Francis Libiran’s designs and creations were showcased in the American reality television show America’s Next Top Model (ANTM) last April 30.

With the help of ANTM’s Fil-Am producer Michael Carandang, Libiran’s ANTM stint has become another milestone in making Philippine fashion known all over the globe.

The former initially wanted Libiran to produce wrestling clothes inspired by the Union Jack and the American flag because the show has been themed as “British Invasion,” where a string of British girls compete against American counterparts.

Soon, Libiran received another call from Carandang, who said he was tasked to design “foxy” Hello Kitty-inspired garments for the show’s host, supermodel Tyra Banks.

“Hello Kitty was not really the first choice, but Tyra Banks chose it because it was her favorite,” Libiran said in an interview with the Varsitarian. “Wrestling outfits, dresses made of United States and United Kingdom flags were also in the choices.”

Libiran designed a total of 12 gowns with the help of his friend Architect Ditto Arcellana.

“I asked help from my friend Ditto Arcellana who is also an architect,” Libiran said. “I was hands-on with the design but I needed help to make the gown stand, like putting up building on a really good foundation underneath.”

“An architect will design something from ground level upwards, until it becomes stable,” Libiran said. “So we are creating a lifestyle, a mood for someone. That is why as a designer, I should manage rushing the work while maintaining the design’s elegance.”

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Photos of acclaimed celebrity Anne Curtis clad in Libiran’s elegant gowns were shown in the segment where he was tasked to design a collection of dresses using Hello Kitty products such as bags, lunchboxes, and even band-aid strips.

“My designs in ANTM were not that easy to conceptualize,” he said. “You are dealing with toys, lunchboxes, and others so I cannot just paste it anywhere I want. It must be worth showing on television.”

Days after Libiran’s worldwide break was publicly announced, a behind-the-scenes footage for the ANTM photo shoot became viral on the Internet.

“It was so overwhelming that almost everyone was happy with how it all looked like,” Libiran said. “Even the representative of Sanrio was amazed with how the Hello Kitty materials looked nice on a dress.”

The fruit of all his hard work paid off after the show was aired on television.

“In my heart, I’m just working,” he said. “I just wanted it to be the best, and for Tyra to be pleased and for the production to be satisfied. Being a Filipino of course really mattered to me.”

Previous feats

Prior to that, Libiran has already designed a ball gown for Banks. With Libiran’s creation, she was dubbed as one of the “best dressed” in the Fourth Annual Blossom Ball.

“I gave Tyra a gift not knowing she would wear it at some prestigious event,” he said. “She won as Best Dressed then it became a big buzz to everyone who kept wondering who made her dress for that event.”

Despite being one of the well-acclaimed Filipino designers in the country and abroad, Libiran remains humble and open to new learning for the perfection of his craft.

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“Never stop working on your craft because there is always a room for improvement,” he said. “Even if you are already an established designer, criticisms will always haunt you. Being positive toward everything will keep you standing at the end of the day.” Erika Denise L. Dizon and Margaret Rose B. Maranan

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