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Francis Libiran Marks His 20 Years In Fashion With ‘Dare to Dream’

The celebrated designer talks about his upcoming musical gala and being in the industry for two decades.

Being in the fashion industry for two decades is no easy feat, but nothing’s impossible for designer extraordinaire Francis Libiran. The celebrated genius marks his 20 years of creating sartorial pieces that upstages pre-existing expectations in a musical gala happening on December 2 at the City of Dreams. Named Dare to Dream Gala, Francis aims to bridge the world of fashion and performing arts through a showcase of his 2020 collection, a 50-piece assemblage inspired by the natural wonders, culture and craftsmanship of the Philippines, with the country’s internationally-acclaimed artists performing on the same stage.


This milestone is also a time to give back for the designer, and he does it in two ways. First, Francis involved students from his alma mater, Fashion Institute of the Philippines, in the production of his 2020 collection. He personally mentored the young ones, striving to spark inspiration on working on their craft.


Second, he designed a limited edition collection of timepieces in partnership with Chronotron, Inc., where proceeds will benefit the education and welfare of 75 children from Sitio Kabuhuan in Rodriguez, Rizal in partnership with Operation Blessing Foundation Philippines, Inc. Every purchase also scores an exclusive free invite to the extravagant gala! 


With the upcoming show in a week’s time, Metro.Style got to sit down with Francis himself to talk more about Dare to Dream, his vision on the gala, his experience of being a designer, and his future plans. Read on! 


How did you come up with the concept of the show?

“Twenty years in the business is a milestone, so we want to do something that's different than a regular fashion show. We conceptualized it with fashion and music integrated into one. We also want to pick artists who represents us. The title of the show is Dare to Dream, with performers KZ Tandingan, Eric Santos, Inigo Pascual, and Rachelle Ann Go. All of these artists are very brilliant—they started with a dream to be an international artist. And that for me is something different.”


KZ Tandingan
Eric Santos

Why did you choose to incorporate music? How did you choose the artists who are performing?

“For me, music and fashion go well together, and it would be nice if there's somebody singing while the clothes are being paraded in the ramp —it’s more meaningful. We chose these artists kasi parang for me, they represent the philippines in the international arena. And hearing their stories, see myself in them. It’s not just picking who are relevant now, but the choices are close to my vision as an artist.”

Inigo Pascual
Rachelle Ann Go

And what is that vision?

“The vision is striving hard and daring to have that dream. To being recognized outside of our country and represent us in the international arena."


Have you always had this mindset since you’re young?

“I’ll go back to when I was 8 years old. I would remember sketching at the back of my notebook; I would picture a hollywood artist wearing me in the red carpet. I guess it’s in me, wherein I want the world to know how talented we are. Not just bragging about how talented we are when it comes to designing. We need a stage to represent our talent, and I’m so into that.”


How different are the clothes in this gala? What’s your inspiration?

“I’ve been known for designing for more of an art deco pattern and architectural lines. But for this collection, I concentrated and got inspiration from nature—from whatever the Philippines has to offer. We have nice beaches—one part of the collection are all waves. Another one is corals from under the sea, there’s also one that I used are tattoos as patterns for the dress. There’s a collection that I took inspiration from the Philippine orchid, in the magenta color with its lower parts representing petals.”


What’s the most challenging part of producing the collections for this show?

“The hardest part is conceptualizing it, to come out with something. The starting point is like a blank paper in front of you. Where will I begin?"


How did you choose the charity that you’ve partnered with?

“You know what, for the past 15 years, quietly, we’ve been doing this. Every December 8 which is my birthday, I would always try to go to an orphanage. I believe everything [discovering your talent] starts during that innocent age, and you have to really guide the children. I was fortunate to have good parents, and I feel bad about abandoned kids who don’t have that foundation. The foundation starts as a kid because they’ll remember it all throughout their years.”


Speaking of charity, you’ve designed timepieces where the proceeds will go to Bless A Child Project. What’s your inspiration on this?

“For me, time is very important. I designed timepieces which are very simple and direct. It’s not fancy, but it’s a piece of item that you would keep and will last for a long time. And also, working on this represents me giving time to these less fortunate. We won’t stop here, as we plan to do this on a yearly basis. We want it on a bigger scale.”


How does it feel to be in the business for 20 years?

“Number one, honestly, I feel old. (laughs) I’ve been doing this for 20 years! But I mean, deep inside, it doesn’t feel that long. It’s like it’s just yesterday when I opened shop and got my first clients. It happened so fast. It doesn’t feel like 20 years because everyday is a learning experience for me. Everyday, I discover things for myself, na wow, kaya ko palang gawin, or kaya ko palang i-achieve. And of course, as you grow, you mature. You tend to know and choose your battles. I’m in that stage wherein I’m very wise when it comes to doing things. I want to be sure in the direction I want to go.”


What, in your opinion, is your staying power?

“I think it’s in being consistent. The core values of our business is really serving our clients, and that’s the most important thing. It’s not just about being an artist—it is a collaboration."


What’s the most memorable piece you’ve done?

“The Opulence collection from last year. Being in one stage with international designers like Michael Cinco, Furne Amato, Cary Santiago, and Ezra Santos, there’s so much pressure. It is such a privilege, but to be with them is something. You have to put your A-game. I mean, it’s not a competition, but how can you put in your own aesthetic on that stage? How can you differentiate your style? How can you, somehow, stand out and let people know that when the gown walks on the stage, it’s a Francis Libiran? That, alone, is so hard to achieve. I went through months of sleepless nights conceptualizing that one. At the end of the show, I was so exhausted.” (laughs)


What’s the biggest lesson you’ve gotten in your 20 years?

“I guess the learning experience is how to deal with different personalities, how to keep your cool when everything is in chaos, and how to say something or when to be quiet."


What are your future plans?

“I guess, I’ll be doing this until I die. It’s in my blood; it’s in my system. If I don’t design, it’s not me. I’m very passionate about it. But for the next 25 years, I’ll be doing a lot of things. Not necessarily clothes, but anything related to designing. It could be anything as long as it’s designing.”


What’s your advice to up-and-coming designers?

“I want them to ask themselves: what’s their purpose? Is it to be popular or just to design? Because there’s a big difference. For me, if you do it because you enjoy doing it, popularity will come next. But if you’re doing it for popularity, I think you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. I would always advise to be very passionate with what they’re doing and to make a mark. Nowadays, it’s so easy to copy, but try to squeeze your brain and think of your own aesthetic. You also need to be very masipag—what we’re doing is not easy. It’s never convenient. You need to be innovative. I appreciate younger designers who think that way—they would last in the business. Because they’re very hungry all the time, to invent and create, and that’s our core.”


For updates on Francis Libiran's Dare To Dream Gala, following him on Instagram @francislibiran.