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The secret of Criselda Lontok-Fernandez (First of two parts)

She believed that her creations had to be the finest while remaining reasonably priced. That principle truly made ‘Criselda’ the top-selling brand in Rustans



Already, these ladies of high society are beautiful and sophisticated. Yet, wearing their  Criselda Lontok outfits somehow enhances their enchanting personalities. No wonder, they have kept going back to her boutique and outlets all these years.

FROM left: Audrey Zubiri, Criselda, Allana Montelibano and Stephanie Zubiri.

A few days after the demise of this enduring and best-selling Rustan’s designer,  I asked her friends who were also her loyal customers to share with us their pictures showing them in their Criseldas. Some of them are on this page now, and they do not only prove worthy of inclusion on the best-dressed lists. More, they are showing how to dress comfortably whether in a casual or formal mood.

Allana Montelibano: “Tita Criselda was always classy, elegant, colorful and romantic and that was what I admired about her. She was timeless.”


Yoli Ayson: “I have been wearing Criselda’s outfits for the longest time. My mother and I have always bought her clothes at Rustan’s Makati. I like her outfits because they fit me and I feel comfortable wearing them. Whether I want something formal or casual, Criselda is always top of my mind.”


Peching Gomez: “Criselda’s creations are classic and timeless, that’s why I have quite a number of them. I’ve been a Criselda patron for years because I believe in the exquisite taste of Criselda per se. Her fashion lines fuse style and sophistication. I have a special liking for the  separates and outers with a nice selection of colors, striking color combinations and beautiful exotic prints, some accented with beautiful intricate laces.
Criselda’s designs are always updated with the current fashion but incorporated with her own innovation. She employs  fashionable lines but they are not over trendy. Criselda’s clothes have so much flare and are comfortable to wear.  I always get complemented whenever I am in a Criselda outfit, that’s why I love wearing them.”


Linda Ley: “I called her ‘Idol Criselda’ as she was someone I truly adored. Criselda’s principle for her iconic, elegant brand was bonito y barato which meant ‘beautiful yet affordable.’ She believed that her creations had to be the finest while remaining reasonably priced. That principle truly made Criselda the top-selling brand in Rustans.”


Nina Halley: “Criselda had been very consistent in the quality of all her work: Very good fabric, always classic lines, conservative yet elegant, very well-cut and, in her store, one feels very special.”


Nene Leonor: “Criselda’s dresses are very stylish and comfortable. The total effect is chic, fashionable and up to date in style. As a bonus, her prices are very reasonable.” / PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF SUBJECTS

That, they believe, is the secret of charming and kind Criselda. She knew what women wanted and she made sure to create them in variation. One may occasionally bump into someone wearing the same Criselda, but one is not embarrassed because it shows that she and the other wearer have great taste.

For the longest time, I thought that Criselda’s were mostly flower prints, but it turns out she has “plain” clothes too, or almost, but with a little accent of a flower here or a geometric shape there, if only to put a little “drama” in a dress or gown.

From day one in the early 1980s, women have patronized Criselda’s boutiques perhaps because the brand itself evokes the image that one wants to have — very like Criselda’s, which means being relaxed, confident and pleasant. A  woman’s woman was what Criselda was in her life of accomplishment. What was palpable, though, was her clients’ and friends’ quiet realization that Criselda knew who she was, was confident of the person that she had become, and yet remaining sweet, friendly, polite and nonchalant about her success. She was, to everyone, the society girl next door, if there was one at all.

(To be continued on 9 October)