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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, 20th Century Philippines Part 35: Joe Salazar

Joe Salazar was a Filipino fashion designer and couturier referred to as the Master of Philippine Fashion Design and the King of Philippine couture. He was known for his ternos and gowns, artistry, perfectionism, master craftsmanship, elaborate handmade details and his high-profile clientele.

Salazar made a name for himself in the 1970’s through the well-known people he dressed, and his ternos and gowns became aspirational items. He reached the peak of his popularity and demand during the Marcos Martial Law era. After the fall of the Marcos regime in 1986, he lost his business. After years of dormancy, Salazar’s career experienced a resurgence in the 1990’s with new clients in the public eye, and he reclaimed a spot at the top of fashion. Salazar worked diligently and tirelessly until his untimely death in 2004 due to tonsillary cancer.

During the 1980’s, Salazar dressed his male clients in the Barong Tagalog for weddings and other significant occasions. Other than using traditional barong fabrics of piña and jusi and the loose silhouette, Salazar’s barongs were uniquely untraditional. He combined contemporary pin tucked pleats with surrounding Baroque machine embroidery on his square pecheras (front embroidery bibs), which looked a lot like tuxedo shirts with embroidery on them. Square or U-shaped pecheras were usually for adorning half open button-down barongs, but Salazar put these on full button-down barongs, which were his preference. He also incorporated more contemporary trubenized collars, French cuffs, covered plackets and shorter barong lengths.

Francis Magalona wears a Joe Salazar piña Barong Tagalog featuring a shorter length, full button-down design

Francis Magalona wears a Joe Salazar piña Barong Tagalog featuring a shorter length, full button-down design, square pin tuck and machine embroidery pechera, French cuffs, side vents and a mandarin collar. This barong is paired with a black satin neckband.

Aga Muhlach wears a Joe Salazar jusi Barong Tagalog featuring a cropped length, full button-down design

Aga Muhlach wears a Joe Salazar jusi Barong Tagalog featuring a cropped length, full button-down design, pin tuck pleats with surrounding machine embroidery on the pechera/bib, French cuffs, side vents and a cutaway collar.

First 2 pics are likely circa 1980’s and are from Visitacion R. de la Torre’s 1986 book The Barong Tagalog: The Philippines’ National Wear.

Joe Salazar circa 1970. Pic from Tatler Philippines

Joe Salazar circa 1970. Pic from Tatler Philippines.