A couture dream come true

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Though Isabella Romarate had studied journalism to enter law school, she pursued an altogether different goal of starting a business.

“It was in my final semester that I not only realized but also had the guts to go for what my mother and I had dreamed of. I was certain in pursuing journalism as a pre-law course. But times change, and naturally people do, too,” Ms. Romarate told BusinessWorld in an e-mail.

She is the co-founder and co-owner of Rafols Collection, a clothing store specializing in couture gowns. It also purveys ready-to-wear items, such as formal and casual dresses, skirts, suits, blazers and slacks for women.

“Venturing into this business is like finally having my eyeglasses fixed. In college, everything seemed vague. However, when my mother offered me to start this business with her, everything went clear. I had a vision. I was inspired [by our dream]. And it felt good to finally see the future through the right lens,” Ms. Romarate said.




“Rafols” is actually the maiden name of her mother, Sarah Romarate. “It was her idea, because it is also a longtime dream of hers [to have a garments business]. I definitely agreed with that because since I was a kid, I noticed that people always found my middle name quite odd,” Ms. Romarate said.

Being new in the business did not intimidate Ms. Romarate, who puts to good use the skills she learned in journalism school especially in creating marketing materials.

Ms. Romarate and her mother do the designing, and in their creation process, their top priorities are a client’s style and taste. However, in their ready-to-wear apparel, they showcase their own fashion tastes and preferences.

“The clients usually set an appointment online, but we also accept walk-ins. We draw their ideas right in front of them so they can visualize them. For our ready-to-wear garments, we only create a few to preserve uniqueness and a sense of giving the buyers a mind-set that they will only be among the very few to wear such clothes,” she explained.

Rafols Collection’s goal is to make its clients feel original. “At a time when ready-to-wear clothes are ‘in,’ people can’t escape from the probability that they’ll meet a person with the same clothes. The best thing about having designer clothes is never having to worry about such probability. We want them to feel the best they can while wearing the garment. We want them to be happy once they step out of our doors,” Ms. Romarate said.

In addition to expanding Rafols Collection’s reach, Ms. Romarate desires to help the less fortunate by creating and giving clothes to them. “Helping has been a part of our family values,” she said. For instance, part of the proceeds from her 18th birthday celebration went to an elementary school in Antique.