Francis Sollano

06 december 2013 / editor’s picks / words adele chong
01-03 Trashion 1 “Beauty Unmasked”; 04 Trashion 2 “Unexpected Garbage”; 05 Francis Sollano.
Friday Q&A: Francis Sollano
An emerging name in the world of PR and brand design, Philippine-born Francis Sollano is also proving his worth as a designer as he sets about turning plastic waste into couture. 
Francis Sollano remembers taking to the walls with his Crayola markers as a child and exercising his right to self-expression early on. Today, the Cebu-born founder and director of his own namesake PR and brand design firm concerns himself with a different (though equally frenetic) kind of creative process: helping emerging Asian lifestyle and fashion brands come into their own through carefully defined strategies. A go-getter at heart, Sollano honed his communicative skills by cutting his teeth with notable creative firms within and beyond Asia, getting his big break at Kenneth Cobonpue’s furniture studio HIVE where the former showed promise as the company’s Head of Marketing Communications. 
Although working in PR often means being relegated to the wings while one’s clients take center stage, it doesn’t stop Sollano from stepping into a more hands-on creative role when it comes to a passionate cause. Collaborating with fellow designer Tim Mendez, he is currently getting his hands dirty with an eco-fashion project that promotes the upcycling of plastic waste. Derived from debris-choked areas in Cebu, sourced materials are subsequently processed and transformed into wearable art pieces that brim with texture, color and green awareness. Slated to be exhibited at Sollano and Mendez’s upcoming “Trashion” show in Manila come next February, the collection – a rallying call against Cebu’s garbage problems – showcases Sollano’s penchant for aesthetics while highlighting his capacity as a versatile “creative enthusiast” capable of shifting between mediums. 
Tell us about your practice.
The PR and branding design part started when I was living and working in Singapore. Most companies there specialize in creative marketing strategies that include PR and brand identity. Prior to launching my practice, I had discussions with design firms based in the Philippines. They were glad about the idea of promoting Filipino design, and ultimately Asian design. I'm now focusing on experimental fashion initiatives where we deal with different materials and produce avant-garde fashion pieces.
What does a typical day look like for you?
We normally send out PR and brand design pitches. When we work on experimental fashion projects, things are more unexpected. Sometimes we'll find ourselves cutting up garbage plastic bottles or cleaning out someone's garage (to find materials to work with).
You are known for your focus on eco-centric designs and brands. How did this come to be? 
If we start creating a culture of responsible and sustainable design, then hopefully we can create a future where arctic ice and polar bears are not only written about in history books. What a beautiful world it would be if we could live with products that speak the language of the earth and add value to holistic livability.
What makes a brand successful?
Many how-to books have been written about successful branding yet I would say that having a vision from the start means a lot. Every brand should always start with this, and everything else should follow suit.
What is it about your approach that attracts clients and potential collaborators?
Relationships. We treat our clients like friends. We always make sure that we are there for them. And just like any other circle, we surround ourselves with the right set of people. If we succeed, we celebrate. If we hurt them, we apologize and learn from the experience.
What is the best and worst thing about what you do?
The best thing [about working in PR] is that we are able to show the best in people and the worst part is that people will sometimes hate you if they don't understand what you advocate for.
What advice would you give to someone looking to make it in PR or brand design? 
In both PR and brand design, it is vital to understand your own vision and your clients. These should always be in sync. When dealing with brands, always understand their core values. 
What projects are you most proud of at the moment?
The experimental fashion projects are extremely gratifying. Working with garbage and turning waste into fashion allows me to explore the limitless possibilities of materials and techniques.
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