Joanna Preysler-Francisco dislikes the term “it.”
“Saying that something is an ‘it’ shirt, or an ‘it’ anything automatically dates it. It insinuates a timeframe of acceptability wherein there is a craze that everyone must have this item right now, but then it is fleeting,” she says. The designer and entrepreneur thinks that customers tend to move on to the next “it” thing right away. That’s why her team’s focus for the past 14 years has been building their customer base with loyal and trusting patrons.
Since teaming up with her husband Raul to open clothing brand Carbon (Ground Floor, Greenbelt 3, Ayala Center, Makati; 757-4140) back in 2002, Francisco says they have stayed away from anything too trendy or mainstream while still trying to be relevant. “Although we have had our share of items that customers go crazy about and try to reorder or ask us to bring back, the very essence of Carbon is having items in limited quantities. We try to be as close to bespoke as possible while building our brand. We like the feeling of exclusivity and anti-fast fashion. We like that when we bring something back, there is something slightly different about it, a tweak here and there.”
While her husband is creative director for their brands (which includes Tint and their newest store, Joanna Preysler Boutique), Francisco designs everything for the brand, and the pieces are produced locally. She says that her inspirations are based on “real life—urban people in an urban setting doing urban things. . . . Walking the streets of New York, or Tokyo, sitting in cafes in Paris or having tapas in Spain, catching the tube in London or checking out the high street vibe—all these snapshots of real life, of how people work within their setting and their cities, inspire our aesthetic,” she shares. “The world is one big mood board of inspiration—it’s just a matter of filtering it all, sifting through what is essential and non-essential for Carbon, what will enhance its DNA and build equity for the brand.” On that note, she adds that art plays a huge role in the couple’s lives and serves as fuel for their vision. “Raul and I have such a passion for art in all its forms, and such a great respect for all artists. Next to our children and our stores, art is what consumes us.”
In the their latest campaign, the label highlights different Carbon women, from Maricris and Natalia Zobel to Stephanie and Jessica Kienle—shot by a longtime collaborator: “Mark Nicdao did our first Carbon campaign back in 2003. The brand was new then, and we wanted some shots to get the word out there. We could not have chosen better. Even back then, Mark was our guy,” Francisco recalls. “After many years of honing our brand further, we have come full circle. It was a no-brainer for us to call on Mark once more.”
According to Francisco, Carbon has taken a lot of twists and turns in the last few years, but has remained true to its DNA of pared down, precise, and uncontrived style (They still stick to a neutral palette—black, white, navy, taupe, shades of gray—with seasonal injections of stripes, checks or denim). And she says that the women they chose present a clear reflection of the brand’s values through and through. “Apart from being confident, unique, beautiful, and stylish, these women have substance. They embody the purposeful, relevant, no-nonsense, and authentic characteristics of the Carbon woman. I admire all these women for different reasons. They all stand out in my eyes.” Apart from representing the brand’s newest collections, the photos from this campaign will be featured in an exhibit this month in Greenbelt.
A collaboration such as this is a testament to their belief that synergy with like-minded people can only yield a positive outcome, which will help fulfill their mantra of “local with a global feel.”
“Our brand is enhanced and the outcome will always put a better face on the Philippine retail scene,” Francisco says.