AFTER three editions, TernoCon, the terno-making contest and mentoring convention spearheaded by the Cultural Center of the Philippines and lifestyle behemoth Bench, is reaching out to a wider audience.
On December 9, Saturday, the creative initiative ventured out of its home at the CCP and staged “Paskong TernoCon 2023” at the SM Aura Premier in Taguig City. It was a welcome collaboration between SM Supermalls, Bench/ lifestyle + clothing, and the CCP through its Cultural Exchange Department.
“The main takeaway here is that it’s possible to wear a terno every day, not just on special occasions,” SM Supermalls president Steven Tan is quoted as saying to CNN Philippines.
THE enchanting evening of couture and culture is an inspired idea to hold it at a commercial space, making it more accessible to a lot of people. Notable designers Joey Samson and Lesley Mobo were tapped to showcase collections.
“‘Paskong TernoCon’ is a celebration of Filipino design in a Christmas context. So it’s the Philippine dress [terno] and the Philippine barong set against the Philippine-themed Christmas décor of SM Aura Premier and Christmas music,” explains Gino Gonzales, the artistic director. “But this time, we don’t have a contest for this. We selected two former mentors to show a 20-piece collection each. The biennale TernoCon only allows for a 10-piece collection per mentor.”
The design and styling is specifically done in the context of a unique Pinoy Christmas.
“It’s also the first time that a TernoCon show is being done outside of the CCP. It’s been a dream to bring it to a wider live audience. And we were fortunate that SM Aura Premier was committed to make that happen,” adds Gonzales.
“I have a high admiration for the design process and work ethics of both Joey and Lesley. Along with a few other designers who I’ve been observing for many years, I think these two have very strong points of view. They have something to say as designers, and they stick to their respective messages,” Gonzales continues.
Mobo and Samson were selected because they don’t approach things the same way. They are quite opposites, actually. Samson excels in tailoring and sees the world in white, off-white, gray and black. Meanwhile, Mobo is an adept draper and sees the world in full color.
“I encouraged both to play on their strengths. And for each to show a facet of the Christmas season without being too literal about it. Joey to communicate timeless elegance and use whitework found in piña, lace, etc. And to keep things quiet,” Gonzales says. “Lesley…to communicate the loud and joyful facet of the season and to use folk crafts as an inspiration. And, in contrast to Joey’s whitework, to use bold tropical prints.”
FROLIC IN THE TROPICS
Mobo’s collection is a continuation of his “Tropical Ternos,” an exploration of “tropical” sensibilities and celebration of folk crafts and exuberant colors. He also showcased his prowess in draping—a process of positioning and pinning fabric directly on a dress form—which is a key element in his design work.
“The textiles are composed of bold, printed materials in tulle, georgette and jacquard. The look is very colorful, while my techniques are mainly hand-draping and layering,” says Mobo.
His collection is full of festive prints of florals and polka dots and clashing colors so vivid they illuminated the runway.
“These are rural ternos. Very barriotic,” quips the London-based, proudly Aklan native.
DREAMING OF A WHITE (WORK) CHRISTMAS
Samson’s collection is a contemporary take on “whitework”—needlework done in white thread over white fabric. “I’m sure you might have noticed that some of the pieces are from my original collection at TernoCon 2023. I added a few pieces when we did TernoCon at Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo 2024 Spring/Summer. This time, when they asked us to do it again, I had to do other pieces,” he shares.
“The [inspiration] basically started with the life and letters of Jose Rizal. And then since it became three collections in all, it evolved into something that we can be proud of as Filipinos—our culture, the craftsmanship,” says Samson.
The opening number was a dress worn by actress Janine Gutierrez. “It’s basically made from a lowly cotton plaid material, and I employed flattened accordion pleats toward the serpentine skirt,” he notes.
“For actor David Licauco, it’s something very modern. If you noticed, it’s perforated jersey material for the tunic and the pants, so the treatment I looked at it as the same technique as the callado. I wanted the clash of very sporty or casual linen as to something that’s very crafty. It’s handwoven callado and I also beaded it,” Samson shares.
“I used a lot of vintage jewelry, from Unang Panahon, because I want a very modern silhouette tapos biglang may heritage jewelry,” he says.
Samson also uses Aklan piña, which has recently been inscribed in the Unesco Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
“It’s nice that more people became more aware of it because it became accessible. It’s a very expensive material so not a lot of people can afford or appreciate it,” says Samson. “Feeling nila, napaka-elitist ng material. And it’s not readily available. When you order from weavers, it takes forever to arrive especially when you customize the embroidery.”
Image credits: @MINTPRODTEAM, @JANNINEISHHHH, @_ZODOMINGO