Local Couture: Filipino Designs Shine At SONA 2023

The fashion at this year’s SONA was a display of national identity and heritage by Filipino designers.

Filipino designers showcased their creativity and skill at President “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s second state of the nation address as lawmakers and other public figures donned their pieces.

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Fashion designer Michael Leyva notably created around a hundred ensembles, both barongs and Filipinianas. Among his clientele were Senator Nancy Binay, Representative Len Alonte, Senator Koko Pimentel’s wife Kath Yu-Pimentel, as well as fashion icon Heart Evangelista.

Michael Leyva's gown for Heart Evangelista
Michael Leyva’s gown for Heart Evangelista | Image via Instagram @michaelleyva_

Making that many different pieces means the designer had to think outside the box to make each one unique. Using floral appliqués and locally sourced textiles from different ethnic communities, from Abra to Aklan, Leyva mixed and matched different elements to create various beautiful looks.

Leyva’s design for Evangelista was an understated column gown with a zig zag neckline. Hundreds of pearls and beads embellished the dress. Meanwhile, Yu-Pimentel’s modern Filipiniana had a splash of color with vibrant blue fabric.

Michael Leyva's modern Filipiniana for Kath Yu-Pimentel
Michael Leyva’s modern Filipiniana for Kath Yu-Pimentel | Image via Instagram @michaelleyva_

An emphasis on local traditions

Senator Risa Hontiveros went into detail in her Instagram post to showcase what she wore. Joel Acebuche, her designer, was inspired by Filipino weaving traditions for this piece. The Senator’s hand embroidered piña calado was made by the women weavers of Lumban.

Joel Acebuche's design for Senator Risa Hontiveros
Joel Acebuche’s design for Senator Risa Hontiveros | Image via Acebuche’s Facebook page

Hontiveros finished up her look with a hand woven tikog purse from Samar and shoes made by Zapateria, a century old Marikina shoe maker.

The vast variety of Filipino fashion

Audrey Tan-Zubiri's embroidered gown by Rajo Laurel
Audrey Tan-Zubiri’s embroidered gown by Rajo Laurel | Image via Instagram @rajolaurel

Some guests chose to wear more than one look for this year’s SONA.  For example, Evangelista also wore an off-white full banig terno jumpsuit designed by Ivar Aseron.

Audrey Tan-Zubiri, wife of Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, wore two Rajo Laurel gowns to the event. The first was an embroidered garden terno while the second was a floral, off-shoulder dress with pleated fabric.

Emmeline Aglipay-Villar's floral embroidered terno by Lesley Mobo
Emmeline Aglipay-Villar’s floral embroidered terno by Lesley Mobo | Image via Instagram @emaglipayvillar

Lesley Mobo’s creations for the Villars and Tootsy Angara were light and subtle with floral elements. Meanwhile, designer Mark Bumgarner’s looks for DILG Undersecretary Margarita Gutierrez as well as Congresswomen Princess Sakaluran and Sittie Aminah Dimaporo were brighter and more structured.

Mark Bumgarner's pink sculptural terno for DILG Undersecretary Margarita Gutierrez
Mark Bumgarner’s pink sculptural terno for DILG Undersecretary Margarita Gutierrez | Image via Instagram @markbumgarner

Instead of diverting attention from more important national matters, Leyva told CNN Philippines that their designs serve a purpose on this platform for the country’s culture. With these pieces, designers are showcasing the vast variety of traditional Filipino fashion, sometimes with a modern flair.

Leyva also shared that he expected this year’s SONA to be subtle yet a little more extravagant, reflecting the designers’ excitement since the fashion industry in the Philippines has slowly been recovering after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Banner image via Instagram @iamhearte: Dress by Ivar Aseron @ivaraseron, feather pouch by L’alingi @lalingilondon.

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