The Filipino fashion community and Manila’s high society mourn the loss of an industry pillar today, Sept. 22, 2021, with the death of fashion designer Criselda Lontok. News about her demise was shared on social media as fellow designers and the women who wore her pieces post tribute messages remembering her influence and celebrating her legacy. She was 81.
A former beauty queen and model who hailed from Batangas, Criselda shifted to the retail industry in 1974 with the help of Gliceria Tantoco, the grand matriarch of high-end store Rustan’s. “I never really intended to be a designer, I finished Foreign Service. It was Mrs. Gliceria Tantoco who started it all,” she confessed in an interview with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle in 2019. “She designed some blouses and she said to me, ‘I want you to continue it,’ and then it soared.”
Since 1983, Criselda’s namesake remained one of the top sellers of Rustan’s Ladies Private Label. For 37 years, she led the brand to its success with her signature finesse and thoughtful taste for structure, function, and form. Much like the women, she dressed, the designer’s style is spirited, beautiful, and timeless.
Looking back, from when she was a model to being a merchandise manager at Rustan’s and as a noted fashion designer, Criselda’s journey was like a flower blooming every season, with petals falling in autumn and renewing themselves during springtime. “You need to have the passion and enjoy what you’re doing,” she said. “Because if you’re not enjoying it, you will never succeed.”
Rest in peace, Criselda.