By JOHN LEGASPI
Images by NOEL PABALATE
In recent years, there has been a resurgence among Filipino icons— including the terno. The stiff but dazzling pieces complete with butterfly sleeves came to be seen as a cultural icon, while the rise of loving everything local came back to the retail floors. From being the dress code for formal and political events, and events fit for history junkies, the terno evolved into something casual and wearable, making it appeal to a broader market.
Today’s Filipino fashion scene is now grooming new visionaries to follow in the footsteps of Salvacion Lim, Ramon Valera, and Patis Tesoro, incorporating local textiles and mastering the techniques of producing a symbol of a dignified Filipina.
Ternocon, a passion project of Bench and Suyen Corporation’s Ben Chan together with the Cultural Center of the Philippines headed by Margie Moran Floirendo, gathered 12 emerging designers, to inspire and motivate them to create ternos, and to encourage dialogue and scholarly discussion of issues concerning the Philippine National Dress.
Designing and creating a terno should be second nature to Filipino designers. In the same way that Korean designers know their hanbok, Japanese designers have mastered their kimonos, the Chinese developed their cheongsam, and Indonesian designers their batik. — Margie Moran Floirendo
For its second run, the Ternocon 2020 crowned three designers who showcased the best designs that uphold the terno’s most distinct aspects. Ternocon 2020 winners Dinnes Obusan from Camarines Sur (bronze), Jaggy Glarino from General Santos City (silver), and Hannah Adrias from Pasay (gold) chat with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle as they look back on their Ternocon experience, and why it is a must for every Filipino designer to know the art and discipline of creating the butterfly sleeves by heart.
The youngest among the finalists, Hannah created a collection that centers on women empowerment. Her initial inspiration was the National Flower sampaguita, hence the palette of stark white and deep olive. “What they taught us at Slim’s is to look and focus on one thing, and then form shapes,” the designer said. “From the shape I then make silhouettes. Just like the designs I submitted for Ternocon, I incorporated the shape of the leaves and the petals, but I made it military in aesthetic.”
Hannah has a passion for designing menswear, which is evident in her three-piece terno collection. Her fatigue green collection incorporates the use of silk cocoon, with buckles, straps, and leatherwork, giving it a contemporary vibe.
In 2015, Hannah was among the few students selected by the school’s director to design ternos for celebrities attending the launch of Bench’s Fashionable Filipinas book by Mark Lewis Higgins and Gino Gonzales, who’s also the artistic director of Ternocon 2020.
“The terno has been there ever since. It’s sad to see that in the future, it might be gone,” she said. “I want the younger generation to wear the terno, not see it as a costume, but something they could wear every day.”
A registered nurse, Jaggy’s interest in the arts started when he was young. “I have always been into the arts. I have always been aware of the arts as a form of expression. It has also been my competitive outlet,” the designer said. “I have been joining contests, from poster-making to vegetable-carving contests, since I was a kid. I didn’t realize then how indirectly related these things were to fashion until I have had access to fashion publications.”
For his Ternocon 2020 collection titled “Malaya,” Jaggy incorporated sheerness and softness in his creations. “It’s inspired by the idea of freedom,” he said. “I want to showcase liberation being a general and encompassing human experience.” He used satin, Chantilly lace, and silk organdy for the collection and styles his muses with butterfly glasses as a finishing touch.
It’s a constant challenge for Jaggy to hone his aesthetic and fashion language. “It was difficult being a conceptual designer and make money,” he said. “Most of my earlier works were too avant-garde to be worn in the Philippines. Most of the time, people loved how expressive my designs are.”
In 2016, Jaggy was handpicked by international fashion designer Josie Natori to take part in the International Fashion Showcase in London. He has also presented his works at Amazon Tokyo Fashion Week in Shibuya, Japan in 2017 through the Bench Design Awards.
Dinnes’ inspiration to pursue a career in fashion was his grandmother. “She’s a sewer,” he said. “I was fascinated by her photo when she graduated. My lola was wearing a terno in the photograph.”
He brought a playful touch to Ternocon 2020 with his all-black collection. “My collection was based on my final exam for dressmaking to be shown in an exhibit with the theme ‘Laro,’” he said. “I took inspiration from the game Chinese garter, which was also evident in what Gabbi Garcia wore at Ternocon 2018.” His collection is made from velvet fabric and American tulle, with loop details that resemble a fingerprint.
He believes that every Filipino designer should know how to create the Philippine National Dress, and update it without tampering its origin. “It’s important to give the terno an updated touch based on its traditional look to keep it up with the needs of its modern wearer,” Dinnes said. “I made the sleeves a little smaller and cut it into a tulip shape. I’m very happy that I joined Ternocon 2020. It reintroduced the terno to the new generation with modern ways on how to wear it.”