For someone who started off by making dresses for his mother, Dubai-based Filipino designer Furne One has come a long way indeed.
With a celebrity roster that includes supermodel Heidi Klum, legendary actress Joan Collins and, most recently, three of pop's current biggest names — Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Katy Perry — his is every designer's dream client list. But that's only if you consider dressing celebrities the ultimate career high. One (pronounced on-ay) has been making his dream-like couture dresses, all sequins, glitter and all, for highly-placed Arab clients and royals for the past 12 years.
The soft-spoken designer puts his current successful celebrity run down to a lot of hard work, and some luck.
"I have been working with Heidi for Germany's Next Top Model for about four seasons now, designing for the finalists," he tells tabloid!.
"Katy Perry performed last year on the show and saw the clothes and loved them. I was introduced to her later and the first word she said to me was ‘wow'.
"Then, two months later, her management called me and told me they'd like me to create about eight pieces for an upcoming tour for her and that's how it all began."
Perry's sold-out California Dreams Tour kicked off in February this year, covering Europe, Australia, Asia and multiple cities across the US. Visually rich, each of her show plays out like a major production, telling the story of a girl who lives in a colourless world and who dreams about visiting a vibrant candy land.
The perfect canvas, it seems, for One's creations to come alive on.
"After they gave me the brief and the sequence of the show, I sent them some sketches and they approved all of it. Then they kept adding more and I ended up making 12 dresses," he recalls.
One was then flown to Los Angeles in May last year to meet Perry and then travelled with her to her home in South Beach, Miami for fittings.
"She was really down to earth, really nice and she kept saying how much she loved the dresses."
At tabloid!'s request, Perry's management sent the following statement from her about the collaboration: "I love working with Furne One because his imagination with designing dresses and costumes for me is limitless.
"He doesn't play by the rules and that's what makes him a treasure. Every time a new costume by him and his team arrives, I am overwhelmed by the care and attention to detail they have invested into the piece. I'm very excited about our future collaborations with this up and coming, outta-the-box designer."
If being hand-picked by one of the hottest acts in pop today wasn't enough, One's got more up his sleeve: Lopez wore his dress at the Summertime Ball in London in June, and he was recently contacted by Lady Gaga's people about a dress.
"I have sent them a few dresses, but I can't say whether she will wear it."
‘It was crazy'
Born Fernando Barios in Cebu province of the Philippines, One says he adopted the name Furne because it was his nickname growing up.
"I just like the way One sounds. So I became Furne One," he says laughing.
Realising his creative streak early, One says he started off by making dresses for his mother in his early teens.
"After that, my grandmother wanted some made for her and then all my cousins. It was crazy, because I was still only in high school and making these dresses for so many people."
Upon graduating from high school, he enrolled for a fine arts course in college and majored in advertising. "There was no fashion design course then, so I thought I would take up the closest thing where I could use my creativity," he recalls.
It was during his college years that One participated in a Young Designers' Contest in the Philippines, which he went on to win. His prize: A trip to New York and Paris for a few months each of training and an apprenticeship with Josie Natori, founder of the Natori fashion label. That trip, he says, was what really got the ball rolling for him.
"I owe a lot to Josie. She was like my mentor and I learnt a lot from her."
After New York, One set his sights on Dubai, a city he would eventually call home. That was 12 years ago.
"It's all about couture here, which is what I love and which is the only thing I want to do. All the parties and weddings... Arabs love art... it [is] like Paris and I thought the place suited me perfectly," he says.
Brush with celebrity
Starting off by working in a shop, One set up Amato Couture with his business partner Rashid Ali in 2004.
And then the calls started coming. Word quickly spread, thanks to his well-heeled, well-travelled clients and One was taking his creations around the world: London Fashion Week, Miami Fashion Week, LA Fashion Week.
At Dubai Fashion Week, where he is a regular, One's show is usually the highlight of the entire event.
Four years ago, his first brush with celebrity happened when one of Klum's stylists saw his collection. Klum hosts the German version of the successful television series Next Top Model created by Tyra Banks, who also hosts the American version.
"It was one of Heidi's stylists' best friends who introduced me. They flew me to Germany and the rest, as they say, is history."
A number of high-profile guests perform on the show, including Perry last year.
"It's been an amazing ride for me, like a dream come true," he says. "Every designer wants to dress up a celebrity but there are lots of designers so they have so many choices. And if they pick you, it's a great opportunity. That's why I always say aside from hard work, it's also luck."
Will all this hobnobbing with celebs and a planned store in Los Angeles mean there is a possibility he will abandon his Dubai base soon?
"No way," comes the prompt reply. "I will never leave Dubai. I started here and this place has been lucky for me. I love Dubai and I think Dubai loves me."