Francis Libiran and Christian Mark Jacobs: Forever begins

Remember the Hello Kitty Couture Collection featured on America’s Next Top Model British Invasion?

How about “Twilight” actress Nikki Reed’s fully-embroidered semi-serpentina gown at the 24th Annual Elton John’s OscarParty?

Pauleen Luna’s wedding gown when she wed Vic Sotto— does it ring a bell? Well, they all have one thing, or rather one man, in common.

They’re creations of internationally acclaimed Filipino fashion designer, Francis Libiran who has had exhibits in Toronto, Canada; Tokyo, Japan; and Portland, Oregon.

Francis Libiran may be relatively small in physique, but he doesn’t fall short of famous personalities identified
with his brand.

To name a few of our own there’s Miss International 2016 Kylie Verzosa, Miss World 2013 Megan Young, and Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzback.

Francis, on his first trip to tour Europe, would hop on from one church to another in prayer for a life-long partner. Little did he know the mysterious workings of the universe on a fine day at a cafein Paris.

The Play! pool sat with the Francis Libiran himself, who was joined by the subject of those prayers, now his partner, Christian Mark Jacobs.

During their recent visit at the Marco Polo Plaza Cebu for their upcoming Affaire de Coeur Bridal Trunk Show on
July 20 and 21, Christian, the dashing American businessman and President of Francis Libiran Bridal discussed the details of
the project.

And he’s also a good cook.

Cool, calm and collected, the newly-wedded couple then revealed details of their love, Paris, marriage, their new home, little girls with ribbons and tutu skirts. You get the drill.

How would you describe the Francis Libiran brand?

Francis: My aesthetics as a designer are more of lines since I’m an architecture graduate.

Basically, my inspiration is drawn from lines.

It starts with lines then art deco, anything related to architecture, I’m drawn to that one.

Like for example, I would go to Europe and I’d just admire a pattern of a window and I will convert it to a pattern on my dress through laser cutting, embroidery and beading.

The form is very important for me. I start with that one because it’s just easy to put whichever pattern you want as an inspiration.

Is there a collection you are most proud of?

Francis: You know, it’s so hard to pinpoint a particular collection because every design that I made is very dear to me.

Did you always want to be a fashion designer?

Francis: Yes, since I was eight years old, I already started designing.

What sorts of designs?

Francis: I would draw at the back of my notebook and I would hide it under my bed because my dad would kill me. (Laughs). That’s how I started. At an early age,I already knew what I really want and I was very certain of it.

Is that why you took up architecture?

Francis: Architecture because it’s still designing. My parents influenced me. They’re business

First, they wanted me to be in the medical field, but I told them thatI can’t see myself in white. (Laughs).

And how did it go eventually?

Francis: At first it was a challenge because, of course, they wanted me to be in the medical field.

It was a struggle when I was starting because I didn’t get the support of my dad and my mom, but when they saw how I much I enjoyed it, they started to show support.

Going through that, it makes you admire more of what you’re doing because of the struggle that you experienced during the process.

Nikki Reed wore your gown to the Oscars.

Francis: We didn’t know that she was going to wear it, not until she walked down the red carpet!

We have a rack full of Francis Libiran gowns in Los Angeles. The stylists would recommend it to them.

How do you want women to feel when they wear your gown?

Francis: The best formula is having a one-on-one conversation with the bride.

Talking about all her insecurities, like I need to cover this, or this is my best feature, can you do something about it…. It’s all about making the bride feel good.

That’s what’s important.

Christian: This is one of the benefits of having Francis there for the trunk show. If you come to our store in Manila, the Francis Libiran Bridal has styling consultants, but Francis himself is not there, so that’s also part of what makes this special.

The things that we’re really emphasizing with this collection is being able to consult with the brides, like what would suit their body types,
because this is a very common question that a lot of brides have when they come in.

Francis: This is our very first trunk show for Bridal. We saw the need for our brides in Cebu.

We get a lot of inquiries from Cebu and they would go to Manila to see me and have me design something for them.

So we decided to just go to Cebu for two days for our brides. It’s new for the bridal industry.

You know, Filipinos are known for custom-made gowns.

It’s something for brides that they could try it on.

It’s an experience for them.

Christian: A lot of brides end up getting their gowns from bridal fairs.

As you know, that’s very popular in the Philippines, but one of the things that we noticed is that a lot of brides feel pressured to book on the spot so they can avail of those promos.

At our trunk show, the bride can really fit the gown. We’re allowing brides to fit three to five gowns rather than having to travel to Manila to a big bridal fair.

We’re coming to the bride to make it much more convenient.

What can they expect in this trunk show?

Francis: We chose Marco Polo Plaza Cebu for our trunk show.

We had a suite here so brides could walk in and we allow about an hour for them to try it on, and tell them what looks good on them.

So it’s not your typical bridal fair that’s crowded.

We want the experience for the brides… the moment they walk in, it’s like a salon wherein we sit down and let’s say, Francis, I want to show off my shoulders, or can the back be lower?

I want to accentuate my small waistline, how can I do that?

So it’s an experience for the bride.

That’s what we’re aiming for.

Christian: The experience starts actually the moment they walk in, so we’re going to display some gowns at the lobby of Marco Polo Plaza
Cebu, and when the brides come in, they can have a seat and they can have some tea and enjoy some desserts.

So it’s going to be a very intimate to ease the nerves. (Laughs).

Also, one of the things that we want to do with the bride is to give them a makeover so we’re partnering with HD Studios, and after they fit the gown, they’ll be able to get their hair and make-up done.

Francis: Trunk shows are more on the experience for the bride. She gets to try on a dress in front of a mirror. Me, being there to explain the collection to them; the special feature of that wedding gown as opposed to surfing an online store.

This is more personal.

A wedding gown is very special for a bride.

Once she tries it on, it’s like magic for her. That’s what we’re trying to give to the brides at this trunk show.

It’s a very relaxed setting for the brides.

Christian: We call this Affaire de Coeur Trunk Show by Francis Libiran Bridal.

It means “a love affair” in French.

So it’s going to be on July 21 and 22 here in Cebu. We will also be doing one in Davao, and another in Manila as well, but those dates are still pending.

We have an online store already but like what Francis said, if you ask most brides to recount the day they found the gown, they could tell you that story of that day. What we’re aiming to do is to make this experience even more special.

Francis: We made sure that it’s affordable for the brides. Our prices start at P88,000 and the most expensive is just P188,000.

Also for the trunk show, we’re bringing Forever Francis Libiran Wedding Bands and rings, and Francis Libiran Watches for them to see.

We’ll also bring in our intimate wears.

Christian: Yes, honeymoon lingerie. (Laughs).

Francis: The decent ones! (Laughs). The bride can wear it during the preparation.

The lace robes for the brides; the silk pajamas for the grooms.

They could put their initials on it.

Christian: For the clients that attend the trunk show, we’ll be offering a special promotion.

As well as, if they purchase on the same day that they’ll do the fitting, they’ll get a headpiece.

Francis has a headpiece line called Always Francis Libiran.

A headpiece will be inclusive as well as a veil which is usually sold separately but that’s included in the package.

How many can you accommodate?

Christian: We try to make it very exclusive for each bride.

They can contact us at [email protected] or they can make an inquiry through our website as well.

There’s no cut-off but we might reach a capacity and so at that point we have to schedule for the next trunk show.

How did you decide on this?

Christian: About three years ago, Francis had an interest in starting Francis Libiran Bridal because he had a lot of clients that are coming to him who were interested in buying his gowns, but they were just a bit out of reach. And so the goal is to get Francis’ gowns
to a much wider audience.

We started up last August at Greenbelt 5, and price points of the gowns started from 88,000 to 188,000.

The concept is pretty unique.

The gowns could be purchased ready-to-wear but they can also be made-to-measure.

Do you want to tell them what a made-to-measure gown is?

He kind of coined this term. (Laughs)

Francis: I designed a collection for the bridal boutique. Brides could pick up and try on the gowns. For example, if one bride wants to add on sleeves, we could do that.

Add more beadings; add more sparkles, so it’s more of a to-go-to shop for the brides so that they could try on different types of styles that will match them.

Christian: All of the gowns are predesigned by Francis but they’re also hanging on the racks so if a bride comes in and just wants to take it off the rack as is, she can do that. It can be ready to wear, or we’ll take the bride’s measurements and then she can add on embellishments or alter the gown in small ways as well. We’re very flexible in that regard.

What’s the inspiration behind this collection?

Francis: The new collection is inspired by Paris, the city of love.

That’s where we met.

That’s where we got engaged.

Paris for me is very special so the designs are based on the architecture of Paris; very romantic, very feminine, very classic.

These designs will be in the trunk show.

On a personal level, how did you guys meet?

Christian: Actually, meeting each other was very serendipitous and unexpected.

I was vacationing with my mom through Europe—Italy and France, and on the last night, I went to the wrong airport so I missed my flight and my mom flew back to America the next day.

I decided to just buy another ticket and use this opportunity to see Paris for a few more days.

So I stayed for three or four more days and on my very last night, I was sitting in a café.

This guy was sitting over across from me, and we started chatting.

He told me that he lived in the Philippines, and I said, well, I live in Singapore!

That’s really close to the Philippines! One week later, I came to visit him in Manila.

Ever since we’ve seen each other at least every two weeks since we were dating, flying back and forth from Singapore and Manila.

After we got married, I moved to Manila.

Now we lived together.

Francis: That night I met Christian in the café, that was my last night in Paris. It was my first time to tour Europe with my friends.

We went to Spain, London, Paris, Italy. Every church and cathedral that I go to in Europe, I pray for a
particular guy.

Tall, with blue or green eyes… I was praying for a particular person.

My friends would always tease me, “O, another church na naman! Ano ba ‘yung pinagdadasal mo?”

Sabi ko, I’m praying for a particular partner.

That night I met Christian, and to think he went to the wrong airport! (Laughs).

How are things working as a married couple?

Francis: After the wedding… March 17 was the date of the wedding. You know what, right after the wedding, we had
to work!

No honeymoon up to this day. (Laughs).

We try to find a scheduled time with each other.

That’s the most important part.

When he used to visit me in the Philippines, he would always say to me ,

“Francis, since I’m here on a regular basis now, I want to cook dinner for you. You need to be here at a certain time.“

So I had to adjust my time to be there at home at a particular time so we could have our time together. That’s the most challenging part now—finding time.

Tell us a bit of your new home.

Christian: We enjoy decorating our house looking through furniture.

We moved to a four-storey townhouse in Makati and I don’t think that we really realized how big of a job it was going to be to furnish it. (Laughs).

Francis: We’re still used to small spaces, that’s why. It was so hard for us to decorate it.

Christian: I cook a lot so my main priority is the kitchen and the dining room so that’s kind of my area and Francis, he loves art so he’s decorating the other spaces.

Francis: The living room and the bedroom. So we have to like compromise.

Christian: Compromise! That’s the word! (Laughs).

Francis: He has a different aesthetics when it comes to decorating.

He likes wood, rustic, industrial, and I like clean lines, modern—the hotel type.

It’s funny how we get to learn about each other every time we pick a particular chair, table.

It’s challenging and at the same time fun.

It’s like every time we get a purchase for the house, it’s something that we both want. It takes a longer time but it’s a process! (Laughs).

Every time we look at one piece of furniture, it’s like we did the right decision.

Where do you see your brand 5 or 10 years from now?

Francis: We’re at a stage wherein the brand is really growing and it’s becoming to be a lifestyle wherein we want to do a lot of things.

It could be sheets, furniture, eye wear, anything that concerns about designing, I’ll do it.

And this guy would always tell me to try to slow it down a bit. (Laughs).

Christian: He has a lot of people checking the website, from Russia, Middle East, America.

Yeah, but like he said, he wants it to be a lifestyle brand and international.

We’re really looking into expanding beyond the Philippines and making the Philippines proud with his designs.

Francis: Recently, we went to Dubai and we saw the potential there. That’s why we’re talking about it for a long time.

Right now, in the couture business, we get a lot of Middle Eastern brides.

You’re married now. What’s next for you both?

Francis: We’re planning to adopt a baby girl. (Laughs)

Why a baby girl?

Francis: Because I like to dress her up. Ribbons and ballet shoes and a tutu skirt.

TAGS: and, begins, Christian, forever, Francis, mark
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