Masters and Millennials. Three, four generations of Filipino fashion designers face off in the biggest edition yet of Inquirer Lifestyle’s Face-Off fashion series, to tackle one Filipino costume: the maria clara.
Thirty-two of the most influential fashion minds will go head-to-head on November 30 at the grand ballroom of Solaire Resort and Casino, to showcase their reimaginations, interpretations, reworking, or a mix thereof, of the traditional dress named after the “Noli Me Tangere” heroine, in the hopes of contemporizing the maria clara, in the same manner these same designers have been doing with the terno in recent years.
This is the seventh of the Inquirer Face-Off series that started in 2009, meant to pit fashion designers against each other in a friendly creative arena.
The featured designers are:
Masters: Albert Andrada, Barba, JC Buendia, Auggie Cordero, Ito Curata, Rhett Eala, Cesar Gaupo, Oj Hofer, Rajo Laurel, Jojie Lloren, Loretto, Dennis Lustico, Efren Ocampo, Randy Ortiz, Philip Rodriguez, Mike de la Rosa, Cary Santiago and Lulu Tan Gan.
Millennials: Edwin Ao, Jerome Salaya Ang, Ivarluski Aseron, Pablo Cabahug, Louis Claparols, Eric de los Santos, Maureen Disini, Jun Escario, Sassa Jimenez, Francis Libiran, Yvonne Quisumbing, James Reyes, Vania Romoff and Joey Samson.
Each designer will present three designs, the third worn by their respective muses, in a show directed by Jackie C. Aquino and Robby Carmona. Face-Off 2014 is staged by Inquirer Lifestyle with Hana Shampoo and Champion Infinity, with the support of O+USA, Solaire Resort and Casino, LOOK Magazine, Max Factor and Jing Monis Salon.
Here, the designers share their concepts for their capsule maria clara collections.
What I am proposing is the evolution of the maria clara. I wanted to expand on the idea of the garment being in separate forms, and I wanted to imbibe a new vocabulary to the tapis, panuelo and blusa. The garment is made from tulle, bonded foam and hand embroidery.
Elements of its origins are still very present, like the hand embroidery and the tapis, panuelo, saya and the blusa, but moving forward to a contemporary mindset. The body suit is the foundation of the design, but I have translated this into several variations that hopefully will prove to be wearable and desirable.
I am doing the piece in black and white, as I feel this is the best way to express the ideas clearly. I am actually quite excited to show some new takes on the panuelo.
My design mission was just to make an impression of the maria clara. So I worked on how you can adapt it to today’s modern woman by using crepe sheath dresses and incorporating identifying elements of the maria clara like the panuelo, the bell sleeves, the standing collar.
This is a stylized maria clara in silk tulle and silk cocoon, embellished with intricate calado and dainty floral embroidery, inspired by the work “Tres Marias” of painter Lydia Velasco.
The concept behind my pieces is the idea of a heroine like Gabriela Silang or my muse Nikki Luna. A modern-day heroine, Nikki rallies against oppression and inequality with her pen and paintbrush as her weapons. This passion is what inspired me in this collection.
Some elements of the maria clara or baro’t saya were derived from the pre-Spanish era, like the tapis that was originally worn by the natives. In some of my pieces, I incorporated and redesigned the tapis, for it is truly ours.
Also an important element in my design is the terno’s butterfly sleeves, which is a modern take on the maria clara, revolutionized by Valera, Longos, Roa and, of course, Imelda Marcos. It has become a symbol of our strength as Filipino women. What interests me is its shape rather than purpose. For me, it states that we no longer are flimsy and weak, we are solid and upstanding.
I took elements of the maria clara like the embroidery, full long skirt, in stripes etc., and used these elements, and adapted them for today’s woman. I did not really follow the maria clara in its purest form. I remember my grandmother wearing long florals, stripes or checkered skirts with white cotton eyelet blouses. She is the inspiration for this collection.
On one of my trips to the Busay mountain of Cebu, I was mesmerized by the abundance of flower fields in the area. Coincidentally, this was also the subject of renowned Cebuano artist Romulo Galicano in his painting, “Summer in Busay Mountain.”
Our concept of the new maria clara is multifunctional. I abbreviated the top so the modern Filipino woman can wear it as a hanging blouse or bolero, either paired with high-waisted skirt, pants or tube gown to low-sling shorts, while the main gown can be worn as a separate contemporary gown in itself. However, when worn as a complete ensemble, it retains the purity of the maria clara in portraying the dalagang bukid, despite its modern twists in the tapis, top and skirt detailing.
I used the traditional hand-embroidered piña, but instead of the panuelo, I made a funnel collar that one could play with. There are two shapes for the baro: the tent tunic, which one wears with stretch twill baston pants for day, and the cropped swing top that one wears with “impolite” ball skirt pants for galas. I stuck to the traditional colors of the maria clara; they echo the black-and-white drawings of H.R. Ocampo.
The idea started with infusing geometry to the angular silhouette of the traditional baro’t saya. My concept is to modify the tapis, making it the strongest element of the ensemble. To give a new approach to the fabrication, wool is used for the saya, and combined knitted fabric for the baro to update its comfortability.
ERIC DE LOS SANTOS
My modern maria clara is made of the local fabric hablon. It has a beaded vest, wide-leg brocade pants. I researched and got inspired by the “old Iloilo” lifestyle and fashion of Filipino women.
The design is inspired by Juan Luna’s “Tampuhan” painting. It is in black-and-white silk shantung embellished with a rich necklace.
MIKE DE LA ROSA
My new version of the baro’t saya is designed for the young and stylish woman. I updated the traditional baro’t saya by treating the panuelo less like a kerchief shawl and more like an expanded tube encircling the shoulders and going upward around the neck. I have high slits on the skirt to give a younger and sexier look to it. I veered away from my usual choice of fabrics like silk chiffon and used neoprene, a material used for wetsuits. It doesn’t drape well, but it holds itself up in an unusual way, which I like and enjoyed working with for this show.
Basically I wanted to create something relevant to the times. I’ve always been fascinated by the traditional maria clara but have never been given the chance to make one. This time around, I plan to make it more current. I’ve tweaked silhouettes and changed them to ball gowns.
I’ve downplayed trims and décor detail as well, foregoing weaving and embroidery. My choice of fabric has changed, too, as I am using silk gazar and neoprene. My design has not lost the Filipino touch, though, as I’ve incorporated some jusi in the upper bodice to make it look and feel familiar.
I’ve used the book “Patterns of the Filipino dress” as reference to my designs. Let me point out that my gowns do not look anything traditional, but I wanted to understand how to create a traditional maria clara, as well as understand its evolution and how I can apply it today. I have many influences, mostly from what I see in my travels, and I’m pretty happy to share it through my designs.
One of the dresses is a maria clara ensemble composed of camisa, panuelo and saya. The camisa and panuelo of this dress are fully embroidered with my signature Art Deco embroidery; detailed with oversized sleeves and accessorized with a visor. This is one of my millennial versions of the Philippines’ maria clara.
To help me come up with a redefinition of the maria clara gown, I spent some time reviewing several costume books in my library as well as examining some old Filipino postcards, which depict the gown shortly after its introduction in the late 1800s. Although the maria clara was considered then, as well as now, very stylish for formal occasions, I noticed that there were certain design elements which today are no longer practical for the modern woman.
For example, the bulky nature of the gown years ago limited the wearer’s mobility. Today, women who attend formal parties want a gown that does not restrict movement, allows the wearer to easily stand for long periods, sit and even dance. In a humid climate such as ours, the heavy layering of the early design did not provide the level of comfort women demand today. Also, the modesty elements of some of the old designs are the antitheses of contemporary design and fit. Therefore, my design emphasis will focus on updating these perceived design element deficiencies.
From my research, I found that there was really no true Filipino dress. The maria clara came from a mix of the baro’t saya, which had so many layerings, with the camisa or kamison as the basic foundation; and what we generally understand to be the “maria clara,” with the panuelo and tapis. I found that women then used a different tapis depending on the occasion, and that they wore no tapis at all on a daily basis because it was cumbersome.
The maria clara is not even Filipino. It’s really Spanish—the indio wore different clothes from the mestizo and the español. Because the middle class would social-climb, their versions of the maria clara would be even more elaborate, which is always the case when you just copy; they had a different interpretation.
As for the terno, its silhouette is very European. Once you remove the butterfly sleeves, it’s nothing but a long gown.
For Face-Off, I designed a bastardized version of the Filipino costume, though I removed the European influence and went for Asian fusion instead—a bit of Korean, because they’re all over town, and Japanese. Both these cultures wear their traditional dress on an everyday basis, and I see that to be quite admirable.
I wanted to do something that isn’t too formal, something that can be worn to a cocktail or a lunch event. I painted most of the pieces in tribute to my favorite artists.
I was inspired by the “Noli Me Tangere” character Doña Victorina, though a younger version of herself. I made a flamboyant dress for attending balls, but I’ve made the cut of the kimona sexier and coquettish to suit the contemporary woman. I used a mix of silk organza, silk gazar, French lace, jacquard.
LULU TAN GAN
My design concept: contemporary Maria Clara pays tribute to her Hispanic and tribal roots.
Inspired by Pacita Abad’s “The Filipina’s Identity,” the piece is a blend of the tailcoat and the maria clara, as the modern Filipina is very much westernized, save for some cultural nuances.
The concept of this collection evolves on the maria clara sleeves. This is my take on a modern maria clara, something that women of today can wear on glamorous occasions.
I created art pieces using tech fabrics and a technique I explored years ago using hardware components to link the garment together. I also experimented with the maria clara silhouette—wide top and long skirt with tapis. I also reinterpreted the scapular as accessories for my collection.
The past year, I’ve become an active member of the Manila Nostalgia and Ancestral Houses of the Philippines Facebook groups. I’ve also actively blogged about heritage houses I’ve visited with my college friends who are all into ancestral houses. Thus, it all came naturally—I am breathing love for our heritage.
I made use of the maria clara sleeves and panuelo to romanticize my suits. I’m showing one skirt suit and one pantsuit for the Face-Off show. I asked myself the question: What would Maria Clara wear today if she were to cut ribbons or deliver a speech at the Senate or the United Nations?
My inspiration is the tambourine medallion. I made a gown with a cape, a blouse and a skirt, and a cocktail dress. My idea is modern minimalism with an oversize accent, thus the column-dress silhouettes with oversize accents. I used neoprene in blush and soft tulle.
JEROME SALAYA ANG
My take on the maria clara is a hybrid of the terno and the maria clara sleeve, following today’s trends, in a collage of neoprene and leather with fabric manipulation.
My idea of Maria Clara is a woman coming from the future. After reading some stuff about her, an idea popped into my head: What would she be like if she came from the future or some distant universe? For the collection, I played around with a lot of darks, metallics and touches of neons to give it that space-age feel. But I still gave it a Pinoy touch by mixing the looks with piña silk fabric.
My inspiration was a painting done by Fernando Zobel in 1957—modern and timeless. I wanted to come up with a dress that’s not costume-y, devoid of Santacruzan or pageant elements, but full of Pinay optimism and readiness to mingle with the world.
My modern maria clara is made of piña cloth accentuated with black sequined bamboo details on the skirt. The collar and sleeves are of pleated piña fabric that gives it a structural form. Elegance and femininity are emphasized with fine beadwork detail.
I designed beautiful “shapeless” dresses while retaining the bell sleeves. Standing panuelo with my signature fabric carvings in black diaphanous silk organza will help define and redefine the maria clara look of yesterday, today and the next millennium.