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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, 20th Century Philippines, Part 16: Ben Farrales

Often referred to as the Dean of Philippine Fashion, Ben Farrales is considered an icon and legend in the fashion industry. His career in fashion started in 1950’s Manila and continued all the way through to about 2012. Farrales is known for his filipiñiana clothing designs, which often incorporated native fabrics and indigenous weaves. Being from Mindanao, his collections included many Muslim-inspired pieces. Farrales is the first designer to hold a fashion show at the historic Manila Hotel in 1959 and the first Filipino to hold a show at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. in 1984.

 

Farrales designed and experimented with the Barong Tagalog. For custom barongs, he incorporated Muslim brass buttons and cuff links. In 1983, Farrales created a tuxedo barong for men and women for a fashion show (see 1st pic). He also made historically designed barongs, barong dresses and casual barongs.

 Roman A. Cruz models Ben Farrales’ tuxedo barong

Roman A. Cruz models Farrales’ tuxedo barong. It features front pleats instead of embroidery, a full button down design, covered button placket, translucent fabric, and a fold down tuxedo collar with bow tie. Photo is circa 1983 and is from Visitacion R. de la Torre’s 1986 book The Barong Tagalog: The Philippines’ National Wear

Ben Farrales (left in striped barong) sits with then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile (right) and his wife Cristina (center)

Farrales (left) sits with then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile (right) and his wife Cristina (center). Farrales wears one of his own historical striped Barong Tagalog designs. Photo is probably circa 1970’s and is from de la Torre’s book The Barong Tagalog.

A more recent photo of Ben Farrales (center) in his own Barong Tagalog. Probably from around the 2000’s.
A more recent photo of Ben Farrales (center) in his own Barong Tagalog. Probably from around the 2000’s.