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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, 20th Century Philippines Part 34: Joe Sason

Joe Sason is a Filipino fashion designer that started making custom made clothing in 1979. In the 1980’s, Sason’s approach to designing and presenting the Barong Tagalog was conservative and traditional mixed with modern touches.

He stuck to the conventional barong fabrics of piña, jusi and sinamay (abaca), but he also incorporated a full button-down design with covered placket and stylized cuffs à la Pierre Cardin. Sason used 18th and 19th century stripes and all over calado hand embroidery, but his barongs were shorter in length and tailored close to the body.

He presented barongs with the traditional undershirt - the camisa de chino, but he kept them untucked and sometimes they were various colors. Sason probably intended to use stylized neckerchiefs, as was popular with the middle and upper classes in the 18th and 19th centuries, but they looked more like western bow ties à la Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame. He also made outright modern-looking barongs.

Designer Joe Sason (left) wears his own sinamay (abaca) black striped Barong Tagalog.

Designer Joe Sason (left) wears his own sinamay (abaca) black striped Barong Tagalog. His barong features a full open design with covered buttons, a shorter length, French cuffs and a trubenized pointed fold-down collar. He pairs his barong with an untucked camisa de chino and western bow tie.

Sason (left) wears his own piña Barong Tagalog with all over calado hand embroidery.

Sason (left) wears his own piña Barong Tagalog with all over calado hand embroidery. His barong is a full button-down design with covered placket and stylized cuffs. It is hip length, closely tapered with a trubenized pointed fold-down collar. He also wears a colored camisa de chino and western bow tie here. His friend wears a modern jusi barong, closely tailored with a full button-down design, covered placket and mandarin collar.

Sason (right) and his friend wearing Sason barongs, Sason with all over calado piña barong and friend with jusi barong

Sason (right) and his friend wearing the same Sason barongs as in the 2nd pic. The stylized Pierre Cardin cuffs, prominent bottom hem and the cropped length are easier to see on Sason here. The friend’s barong is very tailored and cropped and has contemporary embroidery only on the upper torso and continuing onto the sleeves.

All pics are likely from the 1980’s and are from Visitacion R. de la Torre’s 1986 book The Barong Tagalog: The Philippines’ National Wear