June 21st, 2011
Frederick Peralta talks to us about his fascination for designing
Photography by Joseph Benavidez
Written by Cathy Quioge
Like any young woman who wanted a dream wedding, a young Bicolana excitedly cut pictures of wedding gowns from magazines. Having seen a tribute to Frederick Peralta on TV, she promised herself that he would design her wedding gown and no one else. Meeting him in Manila for the first time was an overwhelming experience; he gave her the same special treatment he gave to all his clients. Peralta himself was just as overwhelmed. This unassuming young lady had worked so hard to get the budget for her dream Peralta gown, he promised he would give it his all. On her wedding day, he had one more surprise: going up to the choir, he requested a chance to sing for the bride. It’s a story worth telling over and over.
She’s not the first nor will she be the last bride to dream of being dressed by Frederick Peralta on her wedding day. Why are many women making a beeline for Peralta’s door? The answer lies in the combination of the man himself, his work, and his accomplishments. He has a knack for putting himself in the shoes of his client, understanding what she wants, and working with her budget. He sees his work as a service, “I always make sure that I listen to clients to help them come out with the best interpretation of their idea.”
Peralta knows that a woman wants to look and feel good inside and outside in any outfit she wears. But he also understands that “a wedding gown is a conversation piece on her wedding day” as he puts it. Everybody is excited to see the bride transformed into a lady and a star, and Peralta makes sure he delivers a product of exquisite artistry and romanticism that he has become known for.
Peralta’s signature look is glamorous elegance embellished with intricate beadwork that brings to mind the opulence of a glittering bygone era, but updated to a modern style. It’s a style that has been embraced by a loyal clientele and one that has attracted him new clients as well. Even those who are initially intimidated by the thought of all that beadwork become converts after they see his work. He smilingly explains, “They say they only want something simple but once they see my work, they themselves request, ‘Is there more?’ or ‘Can you put in more?’”
But Peralta never forgets to remind his client that when she dresses up, she needs to project a certain attitude in order to carry her outfits well, especially a wedding gown. “A bride must remember that she has a character to play, a role to play in her wedding; everyone has a role to play in a wedding, that’s why they have titles like bride, groom, maid of honor, bridesmaids, etc. Even if you are the shy type, you have to set that aside because you will be facing a lot of people,” he elaborates.
For his part, Frederick has been playing several roles in the 25 years he has been in business. He doesn’t hide the fact that he came from a poor family and worked as a houseboy, a newspaper boy, and even sold fish before going to school. But he used these experiences as motivation to work hard and find his place under the sun. He strongly believed that he was destined for bigger things and this self-belief stood him well as he achieved success after success, first as a designer for a jeans’ company and then as an apprentice for Greg Centeno while juggling his scholastic and extra-curricular activities in Lyceum of the Philippines.
“It may just be a piece of cloth but it can make a lot of difference in people’s lives,”
In 1990, he won the ASEAN Young Designers Competition in Singapore. In 1994 came his most memorable moment as a fashion designer when he carried the Philippine flag as the representative to the 1994 Grand Prix at the Concours International Des Jeunes Creaturs De Mode Paris, France, where he also emerged as the winner. He became the first Filipino to win both awards and the first Filipino to win two international awards in fashion designing competitions. During these years he was also a two-time Parangal Awardee in the professional category.
After becoming an established fashion designer, he was featured in two books, namely the Haute Couture Designers of the World by Dina Hajje in Paris, France; and Volume 5 of the Best of the Philippines, a showcase for the best designers in the Philippines. He has staged numerous fashion gala shows here and abroad and has served as Vice-President of the Fashion Designers Association of the Philippines (FDAP) and as a Board of Director of the Fashion and Design Council of the Philippines (FDCP). Among his other hats have been a fashion editor, lifestyle columnist, radio host, designer of wedding cakes, couture beddings, and signature box designs for Softee Tissue, where he donates part of the proceeds to the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Philippines.
As proud as he is of his considerable achievements, he is also happiest in his role as a father to his 16-year old son; as an employer to his 45 workers to whom he has given stable jobs; and not the least, as a creator of beautiful outfits and wedding gowns who touches people’s lives through his magnificent creations. “It may just be a piece of cloth but it can make a lot of difference in people’s lives,” he states.
“For someone who dreams of a wedding gown from me, the two of us need to work on it. You need to prepare your own wedding plan ahead of time so you can relay it easily to me so when I interpret your ideas, we can work together,” advises Peralta. She needs to book at least eight months in advance because sometimes, the bride may be pregnant, which will necessitate changes in production time. Because he makes sure that he finishes her gown a month ahead, he needs to motivate her to keep her body weight down. If she gains weight, she has to repair her gown herself, he jokes.
Peralta’s advice can extend from the color of her gown—the current trend is for champagne-colored gowns—to her choice of jewelry to go with a simple gown, to the right fabric for the type and location of the wedding, although he admits partiality to Mikado Silk and Duchess Satin for his formal evening weddings. He will also suggest some embellishments to enhance the color or the cut of the gown. Being a good designer, says Peralta, also means being able to communicate to his client his observations and recommendations, which may include his honest assessment of what won’t work for her. Furthermore, he is not one to hesitate to refer her to a colleague if he feels he is not the right designer for her.
Reflecting on his work, Peralta muses how personal it has become—a bride will often rely on him not just for his invaluable advice but also for his reassuring presence during her wedding. Often, he notes, “I am the last person she talks to and the last person to hold her hand before she walks down the aisle. I become a part of her life.” The joy of the moment never gets old. The same goes for his encounters with people who completely entrust themselves to him.
He recalls a teacher who saved every centavo and dreamt of having a wedding gown made by him (and having her makeup done by Fanny Serrano after seeing the two of them on TV.) “She approached me and told me that I can do anything for her. I said this is the only thing I can do for with your budget but I can still make something beautiful.” She had her memorable wedding and became the bride she had always wanted to be.
“Life is a never-ending challenge. I never stop learning. Until now, I’m still studying. I’m just taking it one at a time. I know I’ll still be in this business for as long as the client believes in me,” Peralta remarks with a smile. Excusing himself to attend to another client, one can readily see that, indeed, he will be around for many more years to come.
1960 Leon Guinto Street, Malate, Manila
Telephone: 536 9264 | Telefax: 521 3463
308-B Tomas Morato Street, Quezon City
Telefax: 426 5154