If the guests of Ternocon last January 29 went home feeling full and impressed, it must be because for the first time after the pandemic, they were a witness to the return of Philippine high fashion—with a vengeance. And it was a feast, not gluttony, but a well-thought-out tasteful feast that the mentors of the 12 participants prepared. Mentors Dennis Lustico, Joey Samson, Chito Vijandre and Ricky Toledo prepared capsule collections, each of which had a beautiful narrative, a clear, confident and out-of-the-box design perspective on the balintawak, its camisa (top), saya (skirt), alampay (wrap skirt), and most important, a craftsmanship the skill level of which we haven’t seen in recent years.
And just as important—the detailing was so intelligent that the runway didn’t do justice to it. Examples: super tiny white pompoms embroidered on the Korean gauze skirt were made to look like the sun with thin rays by Lustico; or Joey Samson’s tulip skirt made of organdy flowers, each one handstitched. But that is getting ahead of the story.
What was obvious was that the business challenges and financial setbacks caused by the lockdowns didn’t deter these seasoned designers from pulling all the stops to create their collections. If there is revenge-travel, this is revenge-fashion. Therefore, we understood perfectly if they went over the top in some instances. They were making up for time lost to the pandemic.
We hope that the GenZ and millennial design talents whom they mentored picked up the most significant learning: a designer must pursue and assert his/her/their design identity, and not just meander along, copying and given to excess.
Lustico, a tri-athlete, was inspired by the wild colorful blooms he’d see by the wayside during his hikes. “I was inspired by the feeling of the hike, the sight of the colorful flowers against all that green,” he told TheDiarist.ph.
Indeed Lustico carried over the high he felt to his capsule collection. The wild flowers on the roadside inspired a burst of the happiest orange, fuchsia, periwinkle blue and grass green. Each ensemble would carry a blend of these colors.
His opener was a dazzler—orange camisa, blue oversized pants, fuchsia tapis. What was striking was how Lustico dyed the pina in bright colors for the camisa and handembroidered them with geometric tribal patterns, combined with silk tapis. This was followed by pink beaded tulle camisa, oversized pink lace pants with ash grey duchess satin tapis, worn over green stockings. Lustico used styled salakot headdresses (they were actually lampshades, bought on one of his Southeast Asian trips, repurposed into headdresses)—the hip ethnic touch—and colored stockings (fuchsia, purple, green) underneath transparent saya, for a dash of mod and pop art.
Then came a leaner silhouette of pina camisa dyed in forest green with sequined floral embroidery, dyed pina green tapis worn over purple stockings.
Next came black organdy cropped camisa and saya—with an interesting detail: handbeading of ostrich feathers shaped into coconut sleeves, but they were so minute you’d have to “pause” and “zoom in” the model walking past you, which you couldn’t of course, because this was not digital; it was live! The ensemble was worn over midnight blue stockings.
Lustico obviously loved the serpentine and exploited the silhouette in two show-stoppers: one in black net-on-black-organdy with white applique on the bodice, skirt and sleeves, the black being sheer enough to show a fuchsia underneath, fuchsia stockings and shoes. It went with canary yellow long shawl of embroidered florals on organza.
The other show-stopper was the white serpentine gown in shell duchess satin, the peplum bodice and the skirt made of Korean gauze with black beads. It went with pink silk gazar shawl.
This was followed by the Korean gauze camisa and saya with a pattern embroidery of minute pompoms representing the Philippine sun and its bright rays. A huge purple ribbon accented the knee-length skirt that revealed the purple-stockinged legs.
Lustico also had black-and-white polka-dot taffeta skirt, a camisa with hand-beaded sulihiya pattern worn with fuchsia stockings.
If Lustico, on one hand, set off an explosion of colors, textures and details, Joey Samson, on the other hand, was adamant minimalism—very Joey Samson. This was what I meant by having a well-defined design identity. Lustico and Samson have a clear sense of self-identity.
Samson’s color palette was monochromatic—ecru, ivory, off-white, black and white, with judicious inclusion of plaids and prints; you can’t forget those images. Even if he allowed himself a profusion of details, Samson did austere tailoring and dressmaking—and that was a feat considering it was the balintawak. His sense of structure and proportion has always been his comparative edge.
I was rather amused but taken in when he told me his inspiration for his capsule collection: Ang Pag-ibig ni Jose Rizal. “It’s a book and the pages represent Rizal’s love life,” he said. He was intrigued by the national hero’s love life, so his collection made use of book-leaf layering, actually voluminous accordion pleats incorporated in the balintawak. Samson wanted the “voluminous look yet airy,” he said, and he pulled it off.
His collection opened with red-and-green cotton plaid balintawak with book-leaf skirt, followed by a balintawak that showcased a masterful layering of cotton tuxedo shirt, camisa with sampaguita embroidery on the sleeves, and voluminous book-leaf skirt made of Swiss tulle over wool trousers.
He had baby-doll tulle dress with cropped pina barong with terno sleeves, its collar actually a veil wrapped around the shoulders and forming into a bow. Underneath was the eyelet cotton enaguas or petticoat.
This was followed by a printed ankle-length terno dress made of vintage kimono fabric, inspired by the Japanese girlfriend of Rizal. What passed for a collar was actually the obi of the kimono that ran into a bow in the back, attached to which were panels of suksok pina flowing to the ground. Ingenious yet not lavished.
Then came another ecru confection—what it didn’t have in color, it made up for with details and the fine mix of fabrics. It was baro’t saya in pina mixed with eyelet cotton—tiered but actually a whole dress, with eyelet cotton skirt and enaguas.
Samson preferred the A-line silhouette—away from the body.
He had a grey serpentine, layered in the upper torso and in the skirt, in gingham organdy, organza, Swiss tulle. Another number was a full book-leaf skirt, its folds undulating as the wearer moved.
Angel Aquino, now a highly acclaimed actress, returned to the ramp in a peplumed terno with tulip skirt made of handstitched organdy flowers.
Samson’s finale was a voluminous white terno, his tribute to Josephine Bracken—book-leaf front in organdy quite overpowering. Its side revealed dried fresh flowers attached to a mesh—Samson’s symbol of Bracken’s ill-fated miscarriage and widowhood.
For the finale, the moment they put a vintage jukebox in the middle of the stage, one knew that the segment of Chito Vijandre and Ricky Toledo would be like no other. With mic in hand, the models lip-synced and strutted to Tukso of Eva Eugenio—a pop culture marker of the ‘70s. Ternocon, one knew then, would end in fun, whimsy, visual overload: a one great tukso (temptation), perfect for a world that wanted to take revenge on the pandemic world. Vijandre and Toledo’s collection is in another TheDiarist’s story.
The jukebox was the idea of Ternocon’s artistic director Gino Gonzales.
And through Ternocon, Bench’s head and retail visionary Ben Chan, the man behind this annual event, helped the world get its fashion revenge.