‘Modern Filipiniana’: Fashion expectations for the 2019 ABS-CBN Ball

Voltaire E. Tayag

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‘Modern Filipiniana’: Fashion expectations for the 2019 ABS-CBN Ball
This year's ball puts the spotlight on the modern Filipiniana

What started out as an annual party to promote up-and-coming celebrities has become the country’s biggest annual fashion event. The ABS-CBN Ball is the Philippines’ answer to the Oscars red carpet.

On September 14, it’s biggest and brightest stars will descend upon Shangri-La at the Fort, in outfits they hope would land them in the best dressed lists. Or, at the very least, outfits that won’t end up in the worst dressed category.

Fashion designers and stylists are working overdrive to come up with exciting, fresh ideas for this year’s “Modern Filipiniana” theme. It’s a tricky design peg for Filipino designers because, after all, this is our native fashion. For the women, going in a very classic direction can make the look very matronly or “ninang.” For the gents, going too fashion forward teeters on “Kuya Germs” Master Showman territory – a look arguably only a very select few can pull off.

No stranger to this grand event is fashion designer Nat Manilag who has dressed celebrities like Julia Barretto, Vina Morales, Kristine Hermosa, Erich Gonzales and Tony Labrusca. Manilag is excited for this year’s theme. 

“I’m dressing up 10 celebrities. I’m using piña fabric in a modern barong. I also incorporate terno sleeves with a modern style of pant suits,” Manilag said.

Asked if a modern filipiniana theme is more challenging than the usual Hollywood red carpet glam, Manilag said: “It’s more challenging to make a modern Filipiniana versus Hollywood red carpet glam because you have to be more specific with the design that will look Filipiniana but very stylish yet wearable and looks formal.”

NAT MANILAG CREATIONS. Empoy, Vina Morales, Gary Valenciano, and Melissa Ricks are among the celebrities who wore his outfits in the past. Melissa photo by Inoue Jaena, other photos by Jay Ganzon/Rappler

Take a look at all the hottest actors in the past decade and chances are, they were styled by Ton Lao. From Piolo Pascual, Sam Milby, Enrique Gil, Daniel Padilla, to Xian Lim, Lao has dressed them all for the Ball. 

In previous years, Lao has switched from using the suits or tuxedos from local designers like Francis Libiran and Nat Manilag to foreign designer labels like Hugo Boss, Armani, Prada, Dior Homme or Dolce and Gabbana. 

SUITS. Piolo Pascual has been one of Ton Lao's clients for the ABS-CBN/Star Magic Ball red carpet in the past years. File photo by Jay Ganzon/Rappler

A DIFFERENT QUEN. Enrique Gil's look is also styled by Ton Lao in last year's ball. File photo by Jay Ganzon/Rappler

With this year’s theme, he will definitely be going with local designers. Lao said, “I really think it’s about time to showcase and globalize Philippine fashion. You can expect a mix of colored barongs, suit barongs and classic barongs with a twist.”

Another fashion designer who is busy is Bessie Besana. In the past, Besana has dressed Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, Jessica Marasigan, Luke Conde, Dimples Romana and Daryl Ong. For this year’s ball, he is dressing up 4 stars for the ball —two male and two female.

For the male celebrities, Besana is doing his signature barong suit in different colors. However, his approach for his two muses will be very different as one is a very young celebrity and another is a very talked about character actress. He plans to infuse traditional Filipino techniques such as butterfly sleeves and embroidery to adapt into a modern style. 

POWER SUITS. Dimples Romana has worn Bessie Besana in last year's ABS-CBN Ball. File photo by Jay Ganzon/Rappler

There are mainly two ways that Pinoy fashion designers reinterpret Filipiniana: a) use Philippine indigenous fabrics in contemporary designs and incorporate them in unexpected forms and b) use modern, tech textiles in creating traditional silhouettes and patterns of dresses. 

In terms of details, designers will probably play with colors, fabric manipulation (like pleats, ruffles, ruching), embroidery and possibly hand-painting. Many of the artisans from the provinces of Laguna and Bulacan will be tapped to come out with one of a kind embellishments and creations.

The idea of elevating Filipiniana beyond the confines of “Linggo ng Wika,” weddings or the “SONA” is a welcome fashion step forward. Sometime in the near future, the term Filipiniana no longer has to be prefaced with the word modern to make it palatable for the fashion elite. 

It brings a new consciousness to the younger generations who can see it’s beauty, modernity, sophistication and pride in wearing Filipiniana. —Rappler.com


Voltaire has 10 years experience in the fashion industry. He previously worked with a luxury clothing and accessories brand in Los Angeles, CA. He graduated magna cum laude from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, major in Fashion Design.

He also holds a BS in Applied Economics and BS in Marketing from DLSU. He is now doing real estate but finds ample spare time to pursue his passions.


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