For JV Librea, luxury is measured not by quantity but through quality. And in the humble beginnings of the Librea bags, JV has made it a mission to bring understated luxury into the spotlight. It's no longer about riding the trends; it's about finding the perfect piece that can transcend time and fads. The Librea bags are a true testament to this, all laboriously done by local artisans' hands using the finest materials. Their bags are your new day-to-night companions—all poised to exude elegance and bring you timeless beauty to underline your personal aesthetic. Below, we talk to JV more about Librea—from its beginnings to its plans for the future.
What is the concept behind Librea? Where did the name come from?
"Librea is really a brand that revolves around classic pieces centered on craft and modern sensibilities. [They're] pieces you can wear forever and rework on the daily as your style evolves; pieces that your daughter, mom, brother, or grandma could use and pass on and share. Librea is about creating staples for your wardrobe and not trend-based products."
Robo bag (comes with two pairs of straps), P10,000
How did you start your business?
"Librea really started as a thesis in design school. I was doing plates one night and saw I had a slab of leather left and started trying to sew a bag raw, unskived with no hardware. It ended up being our classic bucket bag. It came out of a need for a bag that had easy access, was chic, simple, and easy to use, and most especially, made me feel good. From there, I started developing pattern after pattern on how to make the bag better and started working with a local artisan as a guide for everything I wanted. From adding lining–a calfskin or a lambskin depending on whether I wanted the bag to be slouchier or structured–to adding hardware, to finally [attaching a] shoulder strap to make it easier to carry the bag. It was riveting to see something evolve [before] my own eyes through my own mind."
Who designs your pieces? Please describe your overall aesthetic.
"I design and pattern all of our pieces then I have a local artisan make a sloper of the pattern and hand-make the bag. I love creating and designing products that can have many faces but are all rooted in classic silhouettes met with modern sensibilities. Pieces that transition perfectly from day to night with a change of a handle or with no help at all. I think now more than ever it’s important to have pieces that serve multiple purposes instead of having to purchase multiple things. And that is what we always try to offer with our products and designs."
Mini bucket flap bag, P8000; Medium bucket flap bag, P10,000
What kind of materials do you use in producing your items? Where and how do you manufacture the bags?
"We always use calfskin and lambskin in various exotic embossing or texture that is very hard to come by in big quantities locally. That’s a challenge we’ve had to face and have come to embrace today. Our customers know that when they get a bag in a specific color and type of leather, that they will be one of three or four people to have that color and leather type. And even then no two bags will ever be exactly the same because they are all handmade and the nature of the material will always vary. It’s all very personal. Our customers will always have a one of a kind product that is especially theirs. Our dustbag that is made of a canvas I used to use in design school has a leather tab attached to it from scrap leather that we’ve put a new life to by patching it as something you can write on or label–they are all hand ewn personally by me because I treasure that connection with my customers. I want to always be a part of their purchase."
Five-in-One Nila bag, P10,000
What made you decide to pursue these materials and production route?
"I’ve always been a fan of products that have personality; products that have life; products that age but stay durable and can be mended. So I knew entering my thesis that all my products had to be made with real leather and had to be handmade by an artisan here in the Philippines. My thesis really opened my eyes and led me to embrace our local artisans. We have such a beautiful and rich industry here that is filled with such talented people. To them, craft is as simple as breathing because it’s generation after generation of experience. It’s second nature to them. It’s such a beautiful thing to experience and challenge their expertise and push everything towards the future. Sadly these industries locally today are dying. So it’s so important for me and for everyone to really spotlight them and support them, work with them to create and to always compensate fairly."
Mini bucket bag, P8000
Who do you have in mind wearing your pieces? Describe the ideal Librea muse.
"Our ideal muse is really all of our customers. People who understand style and their personal style evolution. Someone who is always effortlessly chic and intelligent and values silent luxury centered on craftsmanship and design."
What are your brand's greatest strengths? What sets you apart from other stores?
"I think our greatest strength is our craftsmanship and our purpose. Our purpose isn’t to create and to create and feed the ever growing monster that is consumerism. We want to create something finite but infinite in what seems to be a never ending world of consumption. The finite being that our customers don’t have to keep purchasing and purchasing since our bags are classic and never trendy and the infinite being a product that will last. Our purpose is to create a bag for a person who will love and cherish the bag forever. We always say, 'If it breaks or if anything happens to your Librea bag, just send it back and we’ll fix it!' That is luxury for us. Timelessness in design and the ability to mend what’s broken. It takes two to four weeks to create a bag since they are all handmade."
What about its weaknesses? How are you able to overcome these?
"This echoes to just the sheer shortage of supply when it comes to materials, and how long it takes to create a single piece. Both of which I’ve come to use as an advantage for the brand. All these limits create a more meaningful connection between the customer, my craftsman, and myself–which in turn creates a product that feels more personal to everyone."
Medium bucket bag, P10,000
Where do you see your brand in the coming years? What should we expect from Librea in the future?
"It really all depends on what avenues will make sense for the brand in the future. I don’t like doing things hastily. As much as possible, I like to create with sense and purpose. But whatever avenue we explore next, our core will remain the same. It will always be timeless pieces met with modern sensibilities; always products that will last."