Four esteemed Filipino designers present their take on the terno
Good news, Filipino fashionistas: Our national costume just went global (again)! At the recent Rakuten Fashion Week in Tokyo, four esteemed Filipino fashion designers flexed their artistic chops and craftsmanship prowess at Bench Presents TernoCon, where they reinterpreted the classic terno and barong in their own unique vision.
Both the terno and barong, of course, are icons of Filipino culture—and both have a distinct stigma to them. When you think of a terno, classic Filipina beauty immediately comes to mind. We see hordes of poised Manila socialites floating elegantly across the ballroom, with their jaunty butterfly sleeves framing their demure yet beaming smiles. The terno is a beacon of classic elegance, but one rooted in tradition.
The beauty of fashion, however, is that it’s chock-full of ideas interpreted and reinterpreted. At Bench Presents TernoCon, designers Dennis Lustico, Joey Samson, and Chito Vijandre and Ricky Toledo reimagined the terno in a myriad of creative ways. Ahead, see how each designer breathed new life into the traditional Filipino costume.
Dramatic elegance by Dennis Lustico
Out of the three terno collections to be presented, Dennis Lustico remained the most faithful to the terno’s traditional roots. Inspired by nature, his ternos depicted several nature motifs such as sampaguitas in bloom and clusters of coconut trees. Featuring muted neutrals accentuated by well-curated pops of color, the overall effect was reminiscent of the smiling Filipinas working the fields in Fernando Amorsolo’s paintings.
But lest you think Lustico brought nothing new to his interpretation, prepare for a heavy dose of drama, mama. Elegant ternos were paired with wide salakots covered in long dramatic lace veils that gave models an alluring air of mystery. A model slinked down the runway in a barong reinterpreted for women, paired with a dainty lace pañuelo wrap. Lustico proves that classic tradition, when rendered at the highest level possible, can be absolutely jaw-dropping.
Avant-garde modernity by Joey Samson
It’s hard not to look at veteran designer Joey Samson’s take on the terno and not immediately think of Viktor & Rolf or Thom Browne—both of whom are couturiers known for pushing the boundaries of what can be deemed stylish or beautiful. If Dennis Lustico paid tribute to the traditional and classic elegance of the terno, Joey Samson pushed what it could be by fusing it with Western elements and playing from a distinctly avant-garde sensibility.
Using a black-and-white color palette as a baseboard, Samson fearlessly played with silhouettes and proportions: He added explosions of tulle under the bust of a bridal terno, experimented with tiered ruffles and played around with the idea of a drop-waist. There was also this idea of fusion—printed silk obi belts were wrapped around a deconstructed terno jacket, and a black lace pañuelo accentuated a barong menswear look. The overall effect was boundary-pushing, modern and decidedly cool.
Maximalist kitsch by Chito Vijandre and Ricky Toledo
Finally, as the finale of the fashion show, designers Chito Vijandre and Ricky Toledo prove that you can make the terno unabashedly fun. With a no-holds-barred maximalist point of view, the duo sent their models down the runway with huge smiles and wearing joyously exuberant takes on the national costume—all while marching down to campy pop classics from iconic Pinoy pop band Aegis, of course.
Exuberance was the number one priority when it came to the clothes. These ternos were festooned with intricate embroidery and beading, eye-searing hues, kitschy slogans, an abundance of appliques—and sometimes, all of the above. It’s a testament to Vijandre and Toledo’s talent that this maximalist approach still appeared cohesive and well-edited. All in all, the mood was joyful, loud and unapologetically unrestrained.
And there we have it: three distinct reinterpretations of a classic Filipino garment that showcased the best of Pinoy fashion creativity. Which is your favorite take on the terno?
Words Jer Capacillo
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver