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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, 20th Century Philippines Part 25: Danilo Franco

Danilo Franco was a Filipino artist, fashion designer, art director and professor that was known as the “Dean of Filipino Fashion Illustration” and famous for his unique methods of adorning the Barong Tagalog. After completing his bachelors degree in fine arts from the University of Santo Tomas, Franco worked as an artist for the Philippine Daily Express newspaper, eventually becoming the art director. During this time in the early 1970’s, he was also experimenting with hand painting on fabric and clothing, like on dresses, t-shirts and denim.

In 1975, Franco started hand painting designs on the Barong Tagalog. The following year, he unveiled his hand painted barongs at a fashion show in Manila. These first barongs featured Chinese and Asian themes like birds and flora. The popularity of these barongs gained Franco a high profile and famous clientele, including singers, actors and models. He is credited with pioneering these one-of-kind hand painted creations for women and men.

Franco’s creativity and craftsmanship grew his reputation and his celebrity following. In the late 1970’s, after making a name for himself with his hand painted clothing, he left the newspaper business and launched his own fashion line and boutique. In the 1980’s, Franco innovated another way to decorate barongs by mixing patches of textured fabrics, like velvet, bead work and calado hand embroidery.

After establishing his brand in the fashion industry, Franco taught fashion illustration and design in universities and fashion design schools around Metro Manila. He also shared his artistic talents with the industry, often creating illustrations and other artwork for many other fashion designers.

 Singer Pat Castillo wears a multicolor jusi Danilo Franco Barong Tagalog that is adorned with patches of velvet beadwork and calado hand embroidery.

Singer Pat Castillo wears a multicolor jusi Danilo Franco Barong Tagalog that is adorned with patches of velvet, beadwork and calado hand embroidery. This photo is likely from the 1980’s, and it is from Visitacion R. de la Torre’s 1986 book The Barong Tagalog: The Philippines’ National Wear.

Pat Castillo sits with Danilo Franco, and both wear his mixed design barongs. 

Pat Castillo sits with Danilo Franco, and both wear his mixed design barongs. Both their barongs are jusi and have patches of velvet, beadwork and calado hand embroidery as the front pechera (design pattern). This pic is likely from the 1980’s and is from de la Torre’s book The Barong Tagalog.

Danilo Franco in one of his own jusi patchwork design barongs with velvet, beadwork and calado hand embroidery on the front.

Danilo Franco in one of his own jusi patchwork design barongs with velvet, beadwork and calado hand embroidery on the front. This pic is likely from the 1980’s and is from de la Torre’s book The Barong Tagalog.

Singer, actor and activist Anthony Castelo models a hand painted Franco Barong Tagalog on the cover of Weekend magazine circa 1981

Singer, actor and activist Anthony Castelo models a hand painted Franco Barong Tagalog on the cover of Weekend magazine circa 1981. Franco often experimented with how he styled his barongs. He treats this barong like a casual shirt, tucking it in, not wearing an undershirt, pairing it with jeans and rolling up the sleeves. Source: philstar.com

Castelo models another hand painted Franco Barong Tagalog, which looks just like any other casual western shirt

Castelo models another hand painted Franco Barong Tagalog, which looks just like any other casual western shirt that you wear without an undershirt, tuck into your pants and roll up the sleeves. From Weekend magazine circa 1981. Source: philstar.com

Castelo models a hand painted Franco Barong Tagalog with a buttonless half open design, mandarin collar and shortened cuffs

Castelo models a hand painted Franco Barong Tagalog with a buttonless half open design, mandarin collar and shortened cuffs. This barong is also untraditionally tucked in and worn without an undershirt. From a 1981 edition of Weekend magazine. Source: philstar.com

Castelo models a long sleeve, hand painted Danilo Franco barong that has a shortened fold down collar, shortened cuffs and a half button down design

Castelo models a long sleeve, hand painted Danilo Franco barong that has a shortened fold down collar, shortened cuffs and a half button down design. He untraditionally wears it tucked in and without an undershirt. From a 1981 edition of Weekend magazine. Source: philstar.com