New York-Based Designer Jerry Sibal To Conduct A Masterclass On Floral Design And Event Styling
Back in 2009, when New York-based event designer Jerry Sibal launched his first coffee table book, An Event to Remember, in Manila, the event styling scene in the Philippines was far different from how we know it today. Along with the technological advancements that primarily resulted to social media, Filipinos have also been introduced to the world of possibilities that can be explored when it comes to social events.
With eyes peeled and minds wide open, we stepped into the digital era and found ourselves seeking ways to build our online presence while improving connections in real life. And one way by which more meaningful relationships are established is through elevating the idea of a gathering to a level that's experiential and truly special. After all, we hold events to celebrate an occasion or a milestone—they're meant to mark a special moment in someone's life, and must therefore be executed extraordinarily.
Platforms like Instagram and Pinterest have given people that renewed sense of creativity, sparking interest in an area where imagination can run wild. "It's no longer about designing. It's about creating and blending with the modern technology, to make your event truly an experience for your clients and their guests," Jerry says. "No longer are they contented with flowers, drapings (drapings are passé!), or brown parquet flooring. You have to create an ambiance."
The event's venue is the canvas. The elements such as the flowers, vases, chandeliers, candelabras, dinnerware and the likes are "painted" onto the canvas with every masterful stroke. The event designer is the artist. The event itself is an art. This is what event styling has become today: an art form. It deserves to be appreciated, not merely glanced over. "Every time I do an event, the first thing [my clients] say when they step into the room is 'wow.' That’s the word I want to hear. It’s magical. If I don’t hear that, I didn’t do my job well," Jerry points out.
Now, about a decade later, Jerry Sibal is back in Manila for a masterclass in Dusit Thani Manila on March 20-23. He is very much hopeful about the progress of the local event styling scene, having seen how Filipino creatives have been catching up with the global trends and at the same time motivated by his passion to empower others who consider this career as a craft. He says, "I want to share my knowledge and wisdom and story." It is part of his corporate social responsibility to educate the new generation of young talents, symbolically passing the torch to them.
Jerry's upcoming masterclass includes a 1-day beginner's class on floral design and 3-day advanced class on event styling and creative business workshop. As a culmination event, there will be a Gala Night where students from the advanced class will be tasked to create vignettes that show a mix of floral art, technology, and entertainment. Part of the proceeds from the Gala Night will be for the benefit of Santuario de San Antonio Parish Outreach Program.
One of Jerry Sibal's masterpieces which will be recreated at his Benefit Gala on March 22 at Dusit Thani Manila
If there's anyone who is in the position to educate Filipinos about the ins, outs, and in-betweens of event styling, it's definitely Jerry. The founder of New York-based Jerry Sibal Design and, later, Design Fusion with lifetime partner Edwin Josue, Jerry, who's Filipino-Chinese-American, has been in the business of event design and floral artistry for more than 25 years now.
Prior to being a New York-based event designer, Jerry already had accomplishments as an architect, an artist who has taught traditional Chinese painting, and a dancer well versed in Philippine folk dance. He also prides himself on his backgrounds in interior design and theater.
In the 1990s, at the age of 32, Jerry left Manila for New York with only "$300 in my pocket and a suitcase of hope and faith." His chance encounter with well-renowned celebrity wedding planner Preston Bailey provided Jerry a springboard that helped him get closer to the purpose, meaning, and direction he was in search of. He served as the head floral designer for Preston until he set out to carve his own niche.
Jerry Sibal and partner Edwin Josue
A self-confessed workaholic, Jerry tirelessly created opportunities for himself, banking on not only his passion and drive to succeed but also his knowledge in the abovementioned fields that he managed to seamlessly and innovatively integrate in event designing.
After being exposed to the event scenes in different parts of the world, Jerry has built a clientele that includes Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, Celine Dion, Marilyn Horne, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani from Qatar, among others.
"Over-the-top but controlled" is how Jerry describes his signature aesthetic. The abundance of floral and other decorative elements is always offset by strategic placements that put thoughtful consideration on space planning. Jerry shares, "When I designed the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the curator came to me and congratulated me. He said, 'You‘re the only designer who is very sensitive to space.' That's because of my architecture background. And besides, when I create something, I want to maintain the integrity of the space and blend in with that—that’s the most important thing."
Jerry believes that in every event, clients or guests "start by looking, not eating." It is imperative that you whet their appetite with a visual feast so delightful they can almost taste it. Setting this beautiful ambiance gives them a great experience overall, ensuring this occasion truly ends up as what he has made his life mission to put together: an event to remember.
His command of floral arrangement techniques never fails to yield spectacular outputs. His foresight on how to manipulate flowers to sway along with the times in ways that are both classic and trendy is remarkable. While he doesn't have a favorite flower, Jerry is known for typically integrating orchids in his designs. For the cover image of his book, Vanda orchids took the spotlight. This preference for orchids goes beyond mere fascination as it is Jerry's dream for the Philippines to become a wholesaler of orchids. In Baguio, for example, there are plenty of beautiful flowers. His next mission is to help bring to the country necessary technology to grow better varieties of flowers.
Jerry says, "Flowers, it’s a multibillion dollar industry. Just imagine how it will create jobs and business opportunities and sustainability... I want to bring hope. I want to bring growth. I want to bring business. I want to professionalize the event industry and the floral industry."
A sample sketch by Jerry Sibal
Despite all his achievements, Jerry remains humble, his feet firmly planted on the ground. "I'm blessed," he can't help but say. But for whatever blessings he received, he also deserves credit for working hard to be worthy of such good things. Ultimately, it is his goal to create similar opportunities for his fellow Filipinos and hopefully be that kind of blessing to them. He says, "Once I've taught them the skills, it's up to them to go out and challenge themselves the way I did."
Hearing him talk about his journey to the top is inspiration enough to dream hard and work harder, never be afraid to take risks, be confident in what you are and what you can do, and never let anyone tell you you can't. As Jerry told someone who once belittled him, "I may be nobody now, but one day, I will be somebody."
As we chatted with Jerry Sibal, who also recently spearheaded the staging of "Noli Me Tangere, The Opera" at the CCP Main Theater alongside Edwin, we've learned more weapons for success that can arm anyone with courage to pull through and keep going while touching people's lives in the process.
For more information about the Masterclass and ticket and table selling for the Benefit Gala, visit www.jerrysibal.com.