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July 21, 2010 / iselgarcia

Expat Style: Joie de Vivre!


Joie de Vivre! Living the Exu(belt)rant Life with Cintura

By Isel Kintanar Garcia

Vibrant. That is one word that completely describes Aira Franco. And if art is the ultimate expression of a person’s inner being, then Franco’s belt line Cintura has truly captured the contagious vitality of her personality. Scanning through the pictures she sent me of her most recent belt collection, I felt like I could skip around a field all day, wearing colorful scarves and gorgeous, unbelievably gorgeous belts.


In recent years, the fashion market has been bombarded with a lot of new brands and designs. What makes Cintura different from other belt brands? What is Cintura all about?

There are three things that make Cintura completely different from other brands: 1) the belts are locally made. I make sure that everyone knows that our belts are made in thePhilippines. It is my way of sharing the nationalistic spirit and in letting the world know that the Filipinos can actually make products that are beautiful and competitive to luxury brands; 2) all the designs are original. I make sure that none of the belt designs are a complete replica of other belts. The most I’d do is to get inspiration from certain belt designs; 3) all the belts are customized. Once an order has been made and the preferences of the customer have been confirmed, that’s the only time that we’d manufacture the belt. So, one can say that the Cintura belt is made just for her.

Before Cintura, you had no previous background in fashion design. What made you think of coming up with a belt business?

My background is actually in business economics, so that’s where a little of the “business” aspect came from. However, our family ever since has been in the belt industry. We have a 26- year old brand namedALEXANDRIA, which is available in all SM Department stores. After a couple of years of trying out different fields, God willed for me to begin helping out in the family business. Cintura came along because I was starting to get frustrated and lost in terms of designing belts for our SM brand. I guess, I also felt the need to have my “own” thing. Thus, I put up Cintura asAlexandria’s high fashion subsidiary. It was supposed to be just a side project but through God’s grace, the brand clicked and I’m now full time with this.

Describe to us your creative process. What inspires you?


My creative process is actually very simple. I just really make belts that I would be willing to wear. I usually just look at the current clothing trends and try to come up with belts that would match the trends. Sometimes, I go to my suppliers and check out the new materials & hardware. From there, I can come up with certain designs. But I always stick to my mantra: if I can’t wear it, then I won’t make it.

Your most memorable Cintura experience so far?

Oh gosh, so difficult to just pick one. Can I give 3? (Laughs)

1. When I was just about to launch Cintura’s site, I made a mental list of the top 5 celebrities I’d want to wear Cintura one day. After 2 years with the brand, all of those celebrities have purchased their Cintura belts. The last celebrity, and the most exciting by far, is Kris Aquino. Imagine the sheer bliss I felt when I received a message from her, ordering 40 pcs of assorted corset belts. I got more overwhelmed when I saw her wear them and people started asking if she’s wearing Cintura belts.

2. The Pinoy Chic: A Designer’s Fair [held at Mall of Asia last June] was one heck of an experience for me. It was my first time to join a bazaar because I’ve always been hesitant to join because I felt that selling “customized” belts was a difficult concept to market in a bazaar. Well, I was wrong. It was such a wonderful experience for me as I got to meet some online shoppers, random strangers who took on the customized belt concept, and all these other people who bought their Cintura belts. It made me realize that there is huge opportunity in bazaars and maybe, it’s time for me to put up a store for Cintura.

3. Getting to work with and for fashion designers such as Puey Quiñones & Rajo Laurel was probably the best experience ever. Getting contacted by them alone was almost surreal for me coz I’ve always wanted to work with them (they were my dream designers). It was very inspiring to work with them coz they do so well with what they do, and I am motivated to work better so I can keep them happy.

What are your goals for your business? Any future expansion plans?

Main goal for now is to be more aggressive in terms of branding and distribution. Cintura belts will be available by July in Archeology, Rockwell, and hopefully soon, I’ll be able to put a boutique where all the belts will be displayed and everyone can just visit and order from there.

I’m also working on completing the whole “accessory” line by coming up with a bag line and shoe brand. The shoe line, which will be called SINTA, will be launched in September, and a bag line will follow soon after.

Favorite belt out of your collection?

My favorite (and everyone’s favorite too) is the Carrie belt, which was inspired by the belt worn by Sarah Jessica Parker in the Sex & the City collection. I love it because it can be worn with just about anything! I can wear it if I want to do glam rock or even when I just want to be casual.

Fashion icons?

I absolutely love everything Sarah Jessica Parker & Nicole Richie wear. Their style can’t be defined by just one category. It’s like they’re so random and they can actually get away with anything.

(Blurb) Belt it In: Finding the Right Belt for Your Figure

Petite:                            Stay away from very thick belts as these would drown you

Tall:                              Those blessed with height can pretty much get away with anything. So, go knock yourself out with all the styles!

Slender:                         Like tall people, slender people can get away with almost anything too. However, be careful not to wear empress-style belts, unless you want to look like an ironing board. Stick with low-slung, thick belts that will accentuate your hips or thin but structured ones that will show off the smallness of your waist.

With a bit of tummy:      To tuck that muffin top in, try wearing corset or gartered belts as these would cover what needs to be covered. Plus, it would be a great way to bring out those curves.


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