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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, 20th Century Philippines, Part 18: Giovanni Sanna

Giovanni Sanna was a tailor and fashion designer that worked most notably for the fashion house of Pierre Cardin. He worked for the House of Cardin for twenty-five years, stationed in their Manila boutique, and he is responsible for designing the Pierre Cardin Barong Tagalog, which we discussed in our previous installment. Sanna is originally from Sardinia, Italy, and he stayed in the Philippines over two decades as a “permanent guest”.

After designing the Cardin Barong, which he refers to as merely a “practical innovation”, Sanna went on to design more traditional retro style barongs for high profile clients in stark contrast to the Cardin iteration. These barongs were inspired by particular late 18th century versions. They were either made of piña or jusi, and they featured a more traditional half open button front design that reached down to the navel. Just below the button placket were a group of vertical pleats, and the front embroidery design often featured hand embroidered flowers, fruit or stars. These barongs fit long on the wearer with the bottom being at ten inches above the knee. The collar was high, small, round and folded down. There were pleats on the top length of the sleeves, darts on the back and vents no longer than six inches at the sides.

Sanna also made a full button down Barong Tagalog featuring calado style hand embroidery with variations incorporating old European patterns. He strongly believed that barongs were only to be worn by men.

After his tenure in Manila, Sanna returned to Italy and eventually pursued a religious life as a monk. Currently he is a Benedictine Monk in present day Subiaco, Italy, and he is 78 years-old.

Giovanni Sanna in one of his retro style late 18th century-inspired barongs

Giovanni Sanna in one of his retro style late 18th century-inspired barongs. Photo is probably from late 1970’s or early 1980’s. From Visitacion R. de la Torre’s 1986 book The Barong Tagalog: The Philippines’ National Wear.

Businessman Greggy Araneta wears Sanna’s retro Barong Tagalog

Well-known polo playing businessman Greggy Araneta wears Sanna’s retro Barong Tagalog. Photo is likely from the early 1980’s and is from de la Torre’s book The Barong Tagalog.

Irene Marcos and Greggy Araneta’s wedding in 1983 featured Greggy and his groomsmen in Sanna’s retro late 18th century Barong Tagalog

Irene Marcos and Greggy Araneta’s wedding in 1983 featured Greggy and his groomsmen in Sanna’s retro late 18th century Barong Tagalog. Photo is from de la Torre’s book The Barong Tagalog.

Sanna, known as Dom Giovanni, is presently a monk, and he stands in his black Benedictine habit at the monastery in Subiaco, Italy

Sanna, known as Dom Giovanni, is presently a monk, and he stands in his black Benedictine habit at the monastery in Subiaco, Italy. Photo is from 2017 from Lifestyle.inq