By JOHN LEGASPI
Roses perfume the air from elegant vases. Silverware sparkles on pastel linens. The lights of the crystal chandeliers bounce off the walls in a dance. Now think of everything being set up with just one click.
That’s the dream Robert Blancaflor, the country’s first event stylist, is bringing to the table.
He has been tagged with many firsts. Apart from pioneering the role of event stylist in the Philippines, he was also the first Filipino event stylist to represent the country in the World Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017 by Ernst and Young. What’s more, he’s the first event stylist to venture in LA. And now, he’s taking his passion of bringing life to a party by putting up the world’s first e-commerce website dedicated to creating an event to remember.
The former certified public accountant has just created 18th.ph, a website in which anybody could be empowered to create the event of their dreams, in which they could purchase whatever they need, rent specialty chairs and tables, design their own celebration.
Manila Bulletin Lifestyle sits down with Robert Blancaflor as he looks back on his 21-year journey that has taken him from the bank to the satin-draped and feathered world of event styling.
What ignited your interest in events styling?
I’d really wanted to do creative [stuff] ever since. It was at my brother’s wedding that I figured I could do events. In addition to that, what really triggered me to go entrepreneurial is that I didn’t want to be like my boss in the bank. I hated wearing barongs and suits all the time. I didn’t want to go to work at 9 a.m. and do the same thing all over again tomorrow. I had to break the routine. I wanted something relaxing, challenging, and fun at the same time, something that when I retired, I’d be happy doing.
How did you come up with the concept for the 18th.ph?
I was in Monaco for the World Entrepreneur of the Year event, with a group of some of the most successful businessmen in the world. You realize that you have to do something different. Coming from a marginalized industry, I just wanted something people would be proud of, something that is not seen globally. I have everything na at my company. So I used those resources and went digital. We were the first to introduce this kind of website in the world.
What is the advantage of putting up an event using 18th.ph?
It’s economical. 18th.ph is complete with all the elements you need for an event. Everything is fairly priced. At the same time, it gives the customer different payment options. Where else can you get something like that? You don’t have to go to Dangwa just to get your flowers or call different rental services for your event’s needs. It’s all in here and we’ll deliver it to your doorstep.
And you feature other artists on the website.
This is my way of giving back to them. They are also my clients and they also helped make my business grow. Although you will have to compete, especially in this age of social media, I never consider anyone as my competitor.
Does your accounting background play a role in your job as an event stylist?
Of course, you see a lot of creative people not succeeding because they just think about the creative side. They don’t have the financial background, which for me is very critical. In this industry, you have to be performance-driven but also finance-driven to sustain your passion.
What does it take to become a champion in a certain field?
Foresight, intelligence, and being a risk-taker. Without risk, you’ll never grow, but you need to have foresight. You need to think ahead. You should never be complacent or satisfied, unless it’s your time to resign na [laughs].
What advice would you give your younger self?
If you’re not happy, get out. That’s always my goal. Because if you’re not happy, everything that surrounds you in that world will always be irrelevant.
What you need to know about Robert Blancaflor’s newest styling venture—18th.ph:
- ph is derived from Robert’s birthday, which is on July 18.
- The website is the largest producer of Holland flowers in the country.
18th.ph imports Holland flowers on a regular basis. From peonies, daisies, and tulips to roses, carnations, and lilies of the valley (Robert’s personal favorite), these flowers are sold in wholesale and in retail with no minimum order required.
- Some of its featured pieces are named after different inspirations.
The website houses elegant furniture bearing names of royalty such as the Cleopatra bench and the King Louis stools. Others are named after iconic places like the Brooklyn round table and cushioned silver Washington seats. And to bring in Pinoy pride, locally-made products are also up for rental like the Reyna peacock chair and Anahaw high back chair.
- The website also provides custom styling and names it after clients.
Unique designs and never-been-done arrangements are named at the request of clients. These new designs are featured on the website as well for other customers to see.
- The website service assures delivery in at least four hours.
Customers can expect their ordered flowers and rented pieces to be at their doorstep hours after they pay.
- Allows its customers to pay in multiple ways.
ph is all about being cost-effective and time-efficient, which is why Robert built the website with a flexible payment transaction, from pay in full or in deposit to card transactions and cash on delivery options.
- ph also features other artist and stylists.
The website also has a page that links to other designers and event stylists. It also features artists you may need for your events such as photographers, musicians, and makeup artists.
- It allows returns.
For wholesale purchases, though they can be delivered, clients are encouraged to pick up the flowers from their warehouse. This is to ensure that the quality of the product they’ll be receiving is up to their standard.
- Specials of the week
Great deals and discounted, new arrivals, and themed items are displayed at the Specials of the Week page. It’s a quick go-around on what will fit the customer’s budget or if they’re looking for unique pieces for their events.