3 Filipino Designers on ‘Convincing’ Millennials to Wear the ‘Terno’


IN Japan, Japanese women both young and old would be seen wearing the kimono whether casually on the streets or formally on occasions. This, a millennia after its invention.

The “prototype” kimono was first worn as early as the 8th century during the Heian period (794-1192). By the 18th century during the Meiji period (1868-1912), the kimono we knew today came to be.

Meanwhile in the Philippines, the equivalent terno, a beautifully silhouetted gown featuring the iconic butterfly sleeves, can only be seen on stages of beauty pageants orfashion shows. In recent times, during the State of Nation Address. This even if it is much younger traditional dress. 

The original terno with “matching”—thus its name–camisa, pañuelo and saya was worn by Filipinas as early as the 18th century. In the 1940s, National Artist for Fashion Design Ramon Valera invented the one-piece terno we all know today.

Thankfully, the terno is returning to mainstream with the effort of passionate individuals, cultural institutions and private stakeholders. Of course, there are the untiring Filipino designers who breathe creativity and skill into the making of the iconic terno.

Pivotal in keeping the terno loved, appreciated and worn in the next generations to come is the newbreed of Filipinas, today’s millennials.

How will these fashionable, female millennials be “convinced” into wearing the terno? Three Filipino designers give their thoughts:

JC Buendia: Take it to social media

“Through my work, I wish to inspire them to wear the terno. I think that the youth now, the millennials, are very visual. They look at social media for inspiration so I guess it’s a good venue for me to share and promote the terno that I design.

I’m more for keeping the terno traditional. We cannot really modernize it. Like the Japanese, their kimono really doesn’t change much.”

Len Cabili: Showing by example

“It really stems from each and everyone one of us taking that responsibility to wear it as often as we can. I think especially now it’s showing by example. So we can’t convince the younger generation to wear it if we ourselves don’t wear it.

We really have to embrace it in such a way that it really is synonymous to the Filipina. When we wear it we are establishing and declaring that this is the Filipina. I am a Filipina and this is what we wear.

It really should be making it a part of our daily lives and hopefully the younger generation will see it and will pick it up.”

Cary Santiago: Join a movement

“While some other Asian countries are celebrating their heritage and culture in every occasion that they have with their national costumes, we don’t have this here in the Philippines. Because, we think that to wear the Philippine terno is expensive, and then we cannot wear it again.

This is the challenge here is, the reason also for Bench and the Cultural Center of the Philippines to launch this kind of awareness.”

This year, CCP and Bench stage the second Ternocon, a terno making convention and contest for regional designers. Buendia, Cabili and Santiago serves as mentors to 30 regional designers from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Renowned designer Inno Sotto, on the other hand, is chief mentor. Gino Gonzales, award-winning costume designer and author of Fashionable Filipinas: An Evolution of the Philippine National Dress in Photographs, 1860-1960, helms the program.

Ternocon culminates with a fashion and cultural showcase at the CCP on November 10. Each designer will present one cocktail balintawak terno and one formal terno they designed, created and executed throughout the convention. The mentor designers will join in the presentation to show their own collections.

Millennials are invited to come and see the spectacle!

(Photos courtesy of CCP)

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