Barong Tagalog to Get Modern Makeover for Olympics
Rajo Laurel, one of Manila’s top fashion designers, has been chosen by the Philippine Olympic Committee to design and create clothes for the small Philippine contingent during the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics on July 27. His plan: A modern-world makeover of the traditional Philippine barong Tagalog.
The barong Tagalog is an embroidered formal shirt, typically worn untucked, which is commonly used at Philippine ceremonial events. It is widely seen as one of the more distinctive visual elements of Philippine culture.
Mr. Laurel, a judge in the reality show “Project Runway Philippines,” said he likes the barong Tagalog because he believes in the national costume’s “simplicity and elegance.”
The typical barong, Mr. Laurel said, is steeped in tradition dating back to the 1600s. Some say the shirt – which sometimes uses a sheer, see-through fabric made out of pina fabric (a textile derived from pineapple leaves) – was forced upon locals by Spaniards during the colonial era so that any hidden weapons could be kept in plain sight. Others say it stemmed from a desire to have loose, breathable and comfortable garments in the Philippines’ tropical heat, with the fine embroidery coming later.
Today, “it’s distinct Filipino formal wear, and I’m proud to be able to show that to the world,” Mr. Laurel said.
Mr. Laurel said he’s not exactly reinventing the wheel when it comes to the barong tagalog – he just wants to give it “a more modern take.”
“I want to pay great respect to the tradition of the garment. I’m just going to give it a more tapered fit, a slightly cropped length and small fabrication changes. Headwear (inspired by Filipino tradition also) will feature in the design,” Mr. Laurel said.
Mr. Laurel, whose work has been worn by American supermodel Tyra Banks, said he’s using black, gold and mocha as primary colors for the stylized barong Tagalog, in a rayon fabric to give it a more modern feel (and to help keep the athletes warm in London’s cooler climate). The embroidery will feature a modern design with dark cobalt and blue threads symbolizing good fortune and luck. The barong Tagalog will be paired with weight wool flat front trousers, he said.
The main accessory for the small contingent of nine Philippine athletes and 13 officials will be a salakot – a traditional wide-brimmed hat, often made with rattan or reeds – with gold leaf that Mr. Laurel hopes will catch the light as the Filipino representatives enter the stadium.
The Philippine Olympic team is composed of track athletes Marestella Torres and Rene Herrera; swimmers Jasmine Alkhaldi and Jessica Lacuna; boxer Mark Anthony Barriga; BMX rider Daniel Caluag; judo practitioner Tomohiko Hoshina; shooter Brian Rosario; and weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz. 🙄