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Francis Libiran: Shifting from Architecture to Fashion Design and Living His Truth

Francis Libiran

Manila-born fashion designer Francis Libiran first took up architecture at the University of Santo Tomas before he followed his heart and pursued fashion designing.


His father was against it at first. But there was no way Libiran could deny his passion. “Shifting from architecture to fashion design and coming out to my family are two pivotal events in my life that were debilitating from the onset but allowed me to live my truth, discover myself further and bring me to where I am today. I had to live by the choices that I made without the support of my relatives. Luckily, I found friends who supported me. We dream together about the wonderful things we all aspire for. Being able to represent Filipino talent and artistry is my greatest honor. Staying true to myself, my roots and my aesthetics are what I would credit for the confidence that I now have. Starting in the industry 23 years ago wasn’t as easy and lucrative as it is nowadays but fashion has always been and will always be my way of expressing my true self and my creativity.”


We interviewed Libiran by email. Below is our conversation.


How difficult was it for you to break into Hollywood as a fashion designer?


It took me and my core team more than a decade to better our craft and skills before I got my first Hollywood project.


I was already designing for some big names in the Philippines when I was commissioned in 2012 (and in 2015) by host Tyra Banks and the producers of America’s Next Top Model (ANTM) to be the featured designer for an episode where I created a special couture collection for the contestants.


Tyra then asked me to create several designs which she wore to big events. I would say that Tyra and the ANTM team allowed me to represent my country and opened doors for me.

You have dressed up a number of Hollywood celebrities. Please tell us something memorable about working with them.


Darren Criss: The first time I designed for Darren, I created a custom Barong Tagalog (native Filipino shirt for men) that he wore to his wedding in 2019 as his way of paying homage to his Filipino roots. I was so delighted because we were also featured in American Vogue for the first time! When Darren, his wife, and his management team visited the Philippines in April 2019, I was one of a handful of people who were invited to see him. My business partner Arsi Baltazar and I hosted dinners and parties for them. We spent a lot of time together. We have become good friends in the process. I also designed and created custom suits and jackets for Darren which he wore in different shows and events, including on his Christmas album cover art.

Darren CrissDarren Criss

Billy Porter: As a big fan of Pose, I was over the moon when Pray Tell himself expressed his interest to wear my designs on the red-carpet premiere of the show, and in many other events. Billy is such a nice, friendly and approachable person. It was so fun working with him. I incorporated my signature art deco details into the ensemble which Billy loved and made me design another piece for him!

Billy PorterBilly Porter

Tyra Banks: Having to design for Tyra Banks felt very surreal from the get-go. I was invited to create pieces for two separate episodes of America’s Next Top Model. That helped me launch my fashion career in Hollywood.

Tyra BanksTyra Banks

Mena Massoud: As a young boy who grew up watching Disney movies, being able to craft my signature art deco outfits for a live-action Disney prince is beyond magical. Mena was amazing in Aladdin and seeing him don my creation during the movie’s promotional tour and premiere was unforgettable.

Mena Massoud

Nikki Reed: She wore one of my designs at the 24th Elton John Annual AIDS Foundation Oscars viewing party. It was so thrilling.


Apl.de.ap: One of the musical artists I grew up listening to is none other than the Black Eyed Peas. I was inspired by how Apl.de.ap was able to break through the glass ceiling and live his dreams on the international scene. He is an inspiration to us. I am honored to have an icon wear one of my signature art deco Barong Tagalog which represented our heritage as proud Filipinos.


J. Rey Soul: I created a blazing red terno (the Philippines’ national dress with butterfly sleeves) for J. Rey Soul. She donned it as she sang our national anthem, Lupang Hinirang, for the Manny Pacquiao-Yordenis Ugas fight held in Las Vegas.

J. Rey Soul

Priyanka Chopra: She is exquisite. Having the opportunity to dress her in one of my creations was like walking on air.

Priyanka Chopra

Gwen Stefani: She has always captured my heart with her songs that speak about love and hope. Gwen chose to wear one of the white dresses I made for a runway fashion show when she performed in one of her U.S. concerts.


Mel B: Mel B or Scary Spice is an inspiration as a member of one of the biggest pop girl groups of all time. The moment I saw her donning an FL creation made me realize that I am living my dream.


Carson Kressley: Drag Race and Queer Eye will always have a special place in my heart, with Carson being one of the original Fab Five. The style superstar always has impeccable fashion taste. It was such a joy to see him wear my signature art deco designs on the main stage of RuPaul’s Drag Race and at the Miss Universe 2018 pageant.


Michaela Jaé Rodriguez: It gives me great pleasure to have another legendary actress from Pose incorporate my design into her look. Having Mj flaunt one of my pieces on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar made me happy. Dressing Mj is my love letter to trans women and having one of the most influential and incredible talents wearing my creation makes Mj such an inspiration.


Angela Bassett: I remember one night when my family and friends from the U.S. sent me messages and photos grabbed from an episode of American Horror Story: Hotel, which featured my favorite actress Angela Bassett wearing one of the best evening gowns I have created.


Her stylist informed me that Angela chose the gown from our showroom, from among gowns by other designers. It was amazing.

What would you advise aspiring fashion designers who would like to make it in the industry?


Having a vision is a key component in breaking into the international fashion scene. Completely trust that the designs you want the world to wear will be loved and accepted. Always incorporate your own design flair, coupled with faith, into everything that you do. Never stop striving to create what you think is best. Never settle for mediocrity. You have the power to create every superior version of your art. Opportunities are endless. Don’t waste them. Never surrender to the call of strong societal norms. You and your dreams are much more powerful.