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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, 20th Century Philippines Part 20: Aureo Alonzo

Aureo R. Alonzo was a Filipino fashion designer and couturier known as the “prince of Philippine haute couture”. He was entirely self-taught. After getting his start making dresses for his sisters, he went on to dress royalty, politicians, celebrities and socialites in the Philippines and around the world. Alonzo has presented his work in international fashion shows and competitions, having been the only Filipino and Asian to win the Camel Award of International High Fashion in Cervinia, Italy in 1975. To win this award against an all European field, he had to design, cut, sew and finish a dress before a panel of judges, which included Yves Saint Laurent.

During the 1960’s and 70’s, Alonzo, Pitoy Moreno (covered in part 13 of this series) and Ben Farrales (covered in part 16) ruled and defined fashion in the Philippines. All were recognized and made their marks nationally and internationally.

Alonzo experimented with the Barong Tagalog in the 1970’s. He began by having Philippine and Asian images painted on them, like a calesa (horse drawn carriage, 4th pic below) and an ancient Chinese warrior riding a horse (5th pic below). He also made historically-inspired barong’s featuring extended lengths, pleats and generous calado hand embroidery (1st and 2nd pics below). Alonzo also played with dye and graduated shading on his barongs (3rd pic below), a trend that saw some prominence in more recent years. He was not shy with colors, using canary yellow, black, aqua blue and fuschia on jusi (silk) barongs.

 Robert David models a historically inspired, long Barong Tagalog by Aureo Alonzo

Robert David models a historically inspired, long Barong Tagalog with front pleats and calado hand embroidery. Pic is from Visitacion R. de la Torre’s 1986 book The Barong Tagalog: The Philippines’ National Wear and is likely from the late 1970’s or early 1980’s.

The calado hand embroidery on the back of the Alonzo barong modeled by Robert David

The calado hand embroidery on the back of the Alonzo barong modeled by Robert David in the 1st pic. Pic is from de la Torre’s book The Barong Tagalog, and is likely from the late 1970’s or early 80’s.

An Aureo Alonzo jusi Barong Tagalog that is color dyed in graduated shades modeled by Robert David

An Alonzo jusi Barong Tagalog that is color dyed in graduated shades and featured simpler machine embroidery and a full button down design. Modeled by Robert David. Pic is from de la Torre’s book The Barong Tagalog and is likely from the late 1970’s or early 1980’s.

An Aureo Alonzo Barong Tagalog with a calesa hand painted on the front.

An Alonzo Barong Tagalog with a calesa hand painted on the front. It is made of a jusi blend called “Filsilk” and features a mandarin collar and a full button down design. Pic is from de la Torre’s book The Barong Tagalog and is likely from the late 1970’s

An Alonzo Barong Tagalog with a Chinese warrior on horseback hand painted on the front.

An Alonzo Barong Tagalog with a Chinese warrior on horseback hand painted on the front. It is made of a jusi blend called “Filsilk” and features a long pointed collar and a half button down design. Pic is from de la Torre’s book The Barong Tagalog and is likely from the late 1970’s

Aureo Alonzo stands in a Barong Tagalog between two of his models circa 1980s

Aureo Alonzo stands in a Barong Tagalog between two of his models. This photo is from the 1980’s

Aureo Alonzo in a black piña Barong Tagalog in 2013 at a tribute fashion show produced in his honor

Aureo Alonzo in a black piña Barong Tagalog in 2013 at a tribute fashion show produced in his honor. From Lifestyle.inq