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‘Inuwak’: Lesley Mobo creates the mourning terno

London-based Filipino designer isn’t done mining Philippine traditions

“I was inspired looking at vintage images of the Philippines, and I saw some mourning traditions.”

It’s the fall in the UK and London-based Filipino designer Lesley Mobo is quite busy with his projects and even wedding clientele in both the UK and in the Philippines. As an escape from his busy schedule, he was inspired to make another terno, this time based on the traditional mourning attire called “Inuwak,” which signifies sorrow and comes from the Tagalog word “uwak” or crow.

“It’s another experimentation,” Mobo told TheDiarist.ph in an exclusive chat. “I was inspired looking at vintage images of the Philippines, and I saw some mourning traditions.” He tried to extract elements from old traditions and make them new.

Shot in London’s Kew Gardens, the biggest Victorian glass greenhouse, the shoot features Filipino model Jana Stuntz who is also in London and whom Mobo asked to wear his terno as his muse. “I’ve been longing to work with Pinay models.”

Mobo feels fortunate that there are more of them now based in the UK.

Using lace and tulle as main fabrics, Mobo opted for a feminine, classic silhouette of the terno, evoking the romance of eras gone by. The tulle draped on the lower hips loosely translate into the tapis— “It was more trying to get element of the tapis or cola (train) of the old Philippine dresses, and making it more modern,” he said.

Mobo even made a headpiece based on the “sarok,” a traditional wide-brimmed hat from the Philippines, usually made of either rattan or Phragmites reeds, and draped with tulle to create a mourning veil.

Mobo was candid enough to say that his experimentation sometimes works, sometimes it doesn’t. “I am obsessed still with our traditions so I still fiddle with ideas. We have so many elements and codes where we can visit and get inspired.”

He even advised young Filipino designers to start looking at our own Filipino elements and make them contemporary. Then maybe Philippine fashion might evolve further.

Using lace and tulle as main fabrics, Mobo opted for a feminine, classic silhouette of the terno, evoking the romance of eras gone by.

Originally from Aklan, Mobo moved to London in May 1999 to study at Central Saint Martins, and took both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Fashion under renowned course director and professor Louise Wilson, who also molded British designers like Alexander McQueen and Christopher Kane.

He started working for Harrods—London’s iconic department store—in 2002 and became its head designer in 2003. In 2009 he started his own brand, MOBO with his business partner Michael Bowden which embodies his aesthetic of “modern, spontaneity, a sense of appropriateness and proportion in everything.”

In 2015, he created the “Salma” silk dress worn by Lea Seydoux in the James Bond film Spectre.

About author

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He runs a GenZ website You.com.ph. He was contributing editor of Inquirer’s To be You section where he built a network of student writers, student athletes and models and beauty pageant candidates including Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach who was its beauty correspondent, then beauty editor. He’s styled Wurtzbach and other beauty queens for shoots. He’s a stylist and a kettlebell aficionado.

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