These designers are capitalizing on a sense of renewal with their interpretations of the beloved Barong Tagalog.
Widely recognized as formal attire, Filipino contemporary designers are reclaiming our culture through their modernized interpretations of our national costume.
The Barong Tagalog has been an essential in every Filipino’s wardrobe. A symbol of the Philippines and a trademark in Filipino clothing, even notables abroad have donned and recognized the iconic national costume including director Quentin Tarantino, musician David Bowie, former U.S. President Barack Obama, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Merging pre-colonial Filipino and colonial Spanish styles, the embroidered garment is distinct yet delicate with ornate details sewn into its piña.
By putting their own spin on the country’s national dress, a fresh crop of designers is making the traditional garment an everyday staple, while maintaining its roots and its connection to Filipino identity. Below, Vogue Philippines lists four burgeoning creatives who are proving why the modern barong should be your next go-to foundational piece.
Known for his intricate tailoring and attention to detail, Kelvin Morales pushes boundaries when it comes to his modernized versions of the barong. While paying homage to the traditional silhouette, Morales adds a quirky and modern twist by embroidering a school of bangus fish found in an electric blue hue, getting design inspiration from BTS, and sewing on floral appliqués, a design style he is celebrated for, among others. Each piece tells its own narrative: rich in references to art, culture, and normal scenes we would see in everyday life.
Toronto-based Vinta brings about the quintessential allure of Filipiniana fashion to the international stage. A small, ethical, woman-owned business, it spotlights heirloom quality Filipino craft and culture. For their unique take on the traditional barong, they’ve integrated old-fashioned processes that date back from the 1920s with home-grown contemporary Filipino embroidery consisting of Philippine folk magic motifs, Sandata (sword) imagery, and versatile design elements.
On the brand’s website, Vinta founder Caroline Mangosing wrote, “That’s the thing I had always wanted to do—to update the very Victorian, European influence in the barong embroidery motifs on Philippine barongs. It never made sense to me that the embroidery motifs were just these swirls and generic flowers. Here we are with this deep tradition in embroidery, so why don’t we decolonize the design and make our traditional garment make sense to us?”
With the intention to introduce and re-introduce culture, Gabbie Sarenas preserves artisanal techniques and reimagines them for the modern Filipino. The brand can be summarized in one phrase: a love letter to the Philippines. Her Raul menswear collection comprises of surprising elements that keep you on your toes like embroidered white Sampaguita flowers, local greenery, special tamales, fruits, and wildlife in mood-boosting vibrant outlines.
“My interpretation is always with respect to and with love to. It’s always that ‘introduction and reintroduction’ of pieces of history that we may or may not be aware of. It’s always exciting to learn something new,” Sarenas tells Vogue Philippines.
Embrace the whimsical, fun, and outrageous with Randolf‘s reinterpretation of the traditional barong. Inspired by pop cultural references (like a client’s favorite song), the label’s modern barongs are adorned with fiery skulls, hearts overflowing with roses, angels, and colorful roosters. Proving that a fresh perspective can resonate with barong-wearers and beyond, Randolf brings a custom touch to the traditional garb.