During the Marcos presidency, Italian and French fashion designer Pierre Cardin opened a boutique in Manila. In 1971, Giovanni Sanna, an Italian designer working for the fashion house of Pierre Cardin, created a stylized Barong Tagalog specifically for President Marcos. It was called the Pierre Cardin Barong Tagalog or the “Barong Marcos Style”. This barong was tapered close to the body. There were darts in the front, slits (or vents) in the back, a thick collar, flared sleeves, sharply contoured and pointed cuffs, a full button down opening with covered button placket, and minimized embroidery.
These features were all thought to be new innovations, but many were not. Filipino fashion designers were already utilizing most of these features on their barongs before Sanna and Cardin, as we’ve presented in part 12 & 13 of this 20th century series.
Of course, since President Marcos wore this barong and it was designed by a famous European fashion house, it took up all the attention and was very much sensationalized. It also overshadowed the Filipino creations that were already paving the way for and inspiring this design. This style of barong remained very popular until the 1980’s.
There are some other misconceptions surrounding the Pierre Cardin Barong Tagalog. All due respect to Pierre Cardin, who passed away five days ago, but he did not redesign the Barong Tagalog. Neither did Jean Paul Gaultier, who only served as manager in Cardin’s Manila boutique from 1973 to 1974.
President Marcos and First Lady Imelda sit at Clark Air Force Base for turnover ceremonies on 14 March 1979. Marcos wears a Pierre Cardin Barong Tagalog.
A closer look at the Pierre Cardin Barong Tagalog of President Marcos worn at Clark Air Force Base on 14 March 1979.
President Marcos and First Lady Imelda stand before the president’s desk and seal in Malacañang Palace. Marcos wears a Pierre Cardin Barong Tagalog. Photo is likely circa 1970’s.
President Marcos stands with pro American boxers Muhammad Ali (left) and Joe Frazier (right) in 1975 in the lead up to the Thrilla in Manila. All three wear Pierre Cardin barongs, or similarly styled barongs.