JC Buendia hardly needs an introduction—he’s spent over 30 years designing wedding gowns and couture, and his work has long been immortalized on the runway and in the glossy pages of fashion magazines throughout the years. (Fun fact: His design first appeared on Preview in 1997!)
His designs are sought-after with good reason: His clothes are timeless, tailored, and elegant with a touch of romanticism. Each piece, whether it’s a modern take on a Filipiniana terno or a beautiful bespoke dress, exudes a regal and womanly sensuality that drapes perfectly on the figure, no matter the body type. These qualities are what make JC the go-to designer of local socialites, heads of state and celebrities, including Kris Aquino, Heart Evangelista, Agot Isidro, Vice President Leni Robredo, and Tourism Secretary Berns Romulo-Puyat.
A stunning bridal gown featuring a capelet encrusted in pearls.
JC Buendia undeniably holds a certain distinction as one of the most prominent local designers and is usually recognized for his work with A-list personalities. Still, the designer remains a sweet and humble character—as attested by his friends in and outside the industry. Aside from his refined designs, his friendly and gentle demeanor is what keeps clients returning, and what eventually turns them into lifelong friends.
“My first wedding gown design was for my classmate. It was the year we graduated in college, which was 1986,” the designer recalls. “That was my first wedding gown. [Years later], I’ve already done the wedding gown for her daughter, when she got married.”
In the three-decade span of his career in bridal couture, he can confidently say that he remembers all of the wedding gowns he’s designed. “You know, if I see my brides, I bump into them in the mall, I remember how their gowns look like,” JC shares. “Sometimes I don’t immediately recognize them because [years have gone by], they’ve gained weight or they have their kids [with them], but when they greet me and say, ‘I was your bride 15 years ago,’ and then I’d remember, of course.”
A quick scroll through his Instagram and you can see glimpses of the designer’s life, quotes from his favorite books, and portraits of icons such as Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, and Hubert de Givenchy—pictures that point towards his sophisticated inclinations. Despite his penchant for the timeless, the designer typically does not shy away from playing with the style trend du jour, be it a certain fabric or a pattern. JC’s classic-meets-contemporary aesthetic makes perfect sense, considering that one of his biggest style influences is royalty. “I am more of a royal watcher than a beauty pageant addict,” he laughs when asked about his inspiration for his wedding gown designs. “My all-time favorite is the gown of Princess Grace of Monaco.”
Ready to look like a modern-day princess-to-be at your wedding? Read more about JC Buendia’s classic, sophisticated, and royalty-inspired wedding gowns.
What are the elements that make up a JC Buendia gown?
"I’d like to describe the style of my designs as modern classics. They are inspired a lot by royalty and films, but I have a way of simplifying them. I like adapting it for today because now, women go more for comfort. That’s my experience. My brides usually request for gowns they can move in, as compared to gowns, say in the ‘80s where they could hardly walk because of the layers and petticoat."
What would you say is the most important thing to you while designing a wedding dress? What do you pay attention to?
"The most important thing, of course, is the bride. I take her build into consideration. Most of the time, the princess cut works for most body types. Most of the problem areas are the tummy or the arms, so the princess cut flatters most figures. Throughout the time, since you started, has your design process or aesthetic changed? I don’t think it has changed, but I could say it has evolved. There’s still that touch of romanticism, I’m very particular with how the train falls from behind. Even if it’s all covered, there’s a certain sensuality with how the back curves."
Are there certain materials you tend to favor?
"The materials kind of change with time. Like, during the ‘80s, I would use a lot of moiré, which isn’t available much now. And then in the ‘90s, there was a lot of piña wedding gowns. I guess it goes with the times as well. Now, I use a lot of silk gazar—it’s very crisp, and the weight is very ideal for the princess cut. It goes very well with my architectural shapes. It has structure."
How does the collaboration normally go with clients?
"I guess when they come to me, they already have an idea of what I offer. They won’t come for me for a very elaborate gown, because brides now, especially, they most likely know who to go to for certain things in the age of social media.
"Usually, they come to me a year before the wedding. From the time we meet to talk initially about the theme, then you get to know the bride more as you exchange messages on Viber. Because it helps when you know the character of the bride. And then you’re also pressured when the bride is very nice—although pressure is good—and you want to do the best for her. I’m lucky that I’ve only encountered a bridezilla once."
Are there non-negotiables when it comes to your designs?
"Well, maybe a couple of times I had some brides who are requesting for gowns that look like Michael Cinco’s gowns. And Michael Cinco has a very unique style that’s his own, and he has a team based in Dubai and they can work wonders with their petticoats with beadwork, and I don’t think I can replicate that. So, I would be very honest with the bride and say, "I cannot do that. This is my capability, this is my aesthetic.'"
Where do you usually get your inspiration when designing bridal gowns?
"I would say, royal weddings. I am more of a royal watcher than a beauty pageant addict. My all-time favorite is the gown of Princess Grace of Monaco. It’s very timeless, and I think most of my gowns have been sort of lifted from that look. I love Princess Diana, but [her dress looked] like crumpled tissue paper. Although at the time it really wowed the world."
What’s an ideal process when it comes to having a gown designed?
"Well, one year is ideal. You spend the first six months—I mean the bride would request for her measurements to be taken six months before the wedding at least she can lose weight, go the gym… but during those six months, we usually have a series of exchanging link to this article and that, and from that I also… you know, you learn a few things and you learn about the bride’s family, the groom’s family… like I’m doing a bride this August. And you know, you get to the intricacies of the relationships with the mother, and the in-laws, and I found lace that—instead of the usual flower patterns—has patterns of the oak leaves. And so that’s what I’m gonna use, and I told her, I think it fits you because the oak tree symbolizes strength. And she was so happy that there’s meaning into what she’s wearing."
How many fittings do you usually have?
"Usually, I require a dummy fitting. That’s when you fit the katsa (muslin). This is so you don’t waste precious fabric. When you fit the muslin (dummy dress), you see more or less the form, how you look in that neckline… if we think that the neckline isn’t flattering for you, we can change it. After that, we’ll fit the actual gown, and then another fitting with the adjustments. For revisions, usually it’s how deep the neckline is, or just the skirt length, or does it need a little more petticoat at the back. Those little details."
Do you feel like the process has sort of changed throughout the years?
"Sometimes we have a Pinterest board that’s just exclusive to us, and also, unlike before, today’s brides are more hands on. Because before, it’s usually the moms who are orchestrating everything because they’re the ones paying. But now, the bride and the groom typically have saved up for it, and the weddings now are less extravagant. Although now there are over the top weddings compared to before, but generally I would say they are less extravagant because the brides know what they want—they will go for a quaint chapel on the hill rather than a cathedral, or they’ll go for a destination wedding more than a big city wedding."
What are the usual starting price points for your bridal gown?
"Normally, a bridal gown (done in) my style would average P180,000-P200,000."
Are there any other processes that have changed throughout your years as a designer?
"Before kasi, it was the bride and the whole entourage. But I think, now brides are more [practical]; they know how to budget their wedding. So usually they ask for a package of a bride, the mom, and the groom… usually it’s just one mom and then the groom, the bride, and the maid of honor, and then I would just guide them on the style for the bridesmaids and the flower girls. Sometimes they bring it to a modista, and that’s okay with me."
Consultation is by appointment; E-mail JC Buendia at email@example.com for inquiries. Check out his Facebook page here.