The veteran is and will likely always be remembered as both a muse and maker.
Filipino fashion design icon Criselda Lontok has passed away.
In a statement, her youngest son, John, confirmed the news.
“It truly breaks my heart to announce the passing of my mama. God can be so full of surprises that sometimes I wonder, ‘Why Mama?’” he writes in a Facebook post. “But I have humbly learned to accept His will and respect the greater purpose of this very, very sad moment in our family’s lives.”
John also thanked his mom, who he refers to as “the very first queen in my life.”
“Thank you mama for the best that you have always given us through your unconditional love,” he adds. “I love you and I will miss you terribly.” The Lipa-born and Manila-bred Criselda was a beauty titleholder, who won Miss Batangas in her youth.
She was also a sought-after model who graced runways and magazine covers, and has modeled for almost every top name in the 50s and 60s: Ben Farrales, Pitoy Moerno, Salvacion Lim-Higgins, Aureo Alonzo, Casimiro Abad, Arturo Cruz, Bert Hernandez, Karlos Burgos, Tony Abeto, to name a few.
Though she obtained a degree in Foreign Service from St. Theresa’s Manila, she pursued a career in retail and began working under the tutelage of Rustan’s matriarch and co-founder Gliceria Rusta-Tantoco back in the 1970s as a merchandise manager, purchasing collections for the store’s selection of European labels.
She later began designing her own clothing through Criselda, her namesake in-house womenswear label at Rustan’s. Through the brand, she fused style and confidence via dresses, gowns, and separates in classic and elegant designs.
For almost 40 years, Criselda has been the top-selling homegrown brand in the luxury department store chain.
Criselda leaves behind not only John, but also her eldest son Carlo, daughter Carla, as well as her grandchildren Francis, Carlo, Adi, Sophia, Christian, Thomas, Isabella, and Alessandra.
Friends pay tribute
On social media, friends have begun paying tribute to the design icon.
In a post, Millet Martinez Mananquil describes Criselda as a “fashion maven, an iconic inspiration, and a beautiful friend.”
“I’ll be seeing you in my dreams,” she writes, along with a video of post-dinner singing with dear friends, Renato Enriquez and Tokie Tantoco Enriquez. “I treasure every memory of you over many long lunches, lingering on the comfy chair of your Rustan’s boutique, sharing stories—happy and sad—over the phone, and listening to you sing. Love you always, Crissy.”
Connie Araneta, in a separate post, shares her condolences to John and the rest of the Lontok family.
“I’m saddened to hear about your most gracious mom,” she writes. “Take solace that she is now resting in peace with our Creator. [Offering] my prayers to you for strength, John.”
A celebration of life
Given the the pandemic and rising COVID-19 cases, John says a limited number of friends and loved ones will be at the Capilla of Santuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park tomorrow at 5 PM onwards.
A Zoom link “to celebrate Criselda’s life,” as well as to broadcast the mass and novena will also be posted beginning tomorrow.
“Thank you,” John adds. “The family appreciates all your independent posts of comforting words for us. God bless your hearts.”