With the fashion industry spewing out trends left and right, it is essential to take a step back and reflect.
Fashion designer JV Librea has always understood the need for this, bringing understated, practical elegance to the table with the launch of his eponymous fashion brand Librea’s first collection, Release 1: The Uniform. Made up of 10 pieces that serve as the foundation to any wardrobe, it leaves room for play, encouraging one to explore the possibilities in different silhouettes, materials and colors.
You might already be familiar with Librea’s minimalist leather handbags, first launched a few years ago as an extension of JV’s thesis. The designer shares that it was only natural to move on to clothing, as it was an extension of telling the brand’s story.
“I’ve always felt the tactile limits of leather goods, which I’ve enjoyed experimenting with in the last few years. But I’ve never felt these boundaries with fabric and clothing. Today, the brand is an honest expression of the energy I constantly long for as a designer — that classic irreverence that only makes sense as a whole. Freedom is something the brand has always craved,” he shares.
The brand does not shy away from sharing its influences. Sprinkled all over their catalogue and Instagram page are photographs that make you wish, at least temporarily, that you were living in another era. There are images of Carolyn Bessette and JFK Jr. inside a cab, Bianca Jagger on Interview magazine’s January 1973 cover, and stills of Annie Lennox’s Money Can’t Buy It music video.
JV shares that more than just their outfits, it was their energy that he was trying to chase.
“I’ve always admired people with unapologetic style — from Lee Radziwill to Elsa Peretti to Carolyn Bessette. I’m interested in a type of beauty or freedom that existed in the past and has now evolved into something else. I can’t quite put my hands on it yet, but I’d even witness it on nights I used to frequent XX:XX, for example. I was surrounded by an energy so free, so palpable, that it was only inspiring,” he recalls.
JV was, of course, talking about the iconic Makati bar XX:XX, which captured the pure spirit of nightlife culture in Manila before it closed its doors in the middle of the pandemic.
Like practically every industry, fashion was not spared. While this initially frustrated the designer, he eventually saw an opportunity to edit The Uniform, which actually started out as a collection of 20 pieces in 2019.
“When the pandemic hit in 2020 and our sampling and production were halted, this was really the time I started to edit. I even posted a few teasers on Instagram to see how my friends would react, and started to take cues from there on how to better the pieces,” he shares.
By the time the first 10 pieces were finalized in 2021, JV invited a dear friend, fellow designer Rod Malanao, to create a look for The Uniform. “I asked him to create a piece that was the touch of fantasy I knew the collection needed,” he adds, referring to the Tuesday skirt, which features Malanao’s signature body-hugging knit.
From the elegant, multi-purpose Lee Wrap to the go-to LBD that is the Amber Dress, The Uniform is a versatile, well-thought-out collection that gently adjusts to the preferences of its wearer. Made with plush stretchable fabrics, Italian wool, and a few airy silks, the pieces are comfortable and familiar, but dare you to explore at the same time.
“For this collection, I really focused on using materials that made sense for the everyday. I wanted these to be pieces that you could throw on with no fuss or layer without feeling too much restriction,” shares JV, going back to the core of the brand: freedom.
There is only so much you can control — once you start to accept this, the more liberated you will feel. And it is this theme of freedom that seems to play an important role not just in the way The Uniform’s pieces make you feel, but in JV’s creative process.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, I was quite frustrated with the loss of control. But as soon as I surrendered to who I was and what the brand had to become, I felt that I had experienced just how pliable the creative mind is when it is met with surrender. And this is exactly what I did: I restarted, letting go of old images and silhouettes that meant so much to me but I felt no longer resonated with the brand. I found a new footing that felt more honest to who I was and am as a person and as a designer,” he shares.
“I find that since the pandemic, my favorite word now is ‘slow,’” JV muses, elaborating more on what he’s learned from his recent challenges as a creative. “With all that’s happening in the world, I now embrace time and pace more — time to edit, time to collaborate, time to further examine, and time to let the brand unfold as I unfold with the world, not against it in a quest for speed and a longing to be fully realized. As creatives, I think it’s important for us to take ownership of our narratives, and not let time pressure us into releasing things for the sake of being understood. Some stories really take time — and that’s something we must honor,” he says.
More energy, more freedom, and more kindness — these are the three things JV says we can expect next from the brand. “All underlined by a classic kind of irreverence,” the designer playfully adds.
Librea’s Release 1: The Uniform catalogue can be found on Instagram.