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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, 20th Century Philippines Part 37: Steve de Leon

Steve Cortes de Leon is a Filipino fashion designer and costume designer that started his career at the age of 15. He learned how to sew from his mother, and he put on his own fashion show in his first year of designing. After receiving his business degree from San Beda College, de Leon took over operations of his mother’s shop and made clothing for many women, especially wedding gowns.

About ten years into his fashion career and many accomplishments later, de Leon took on the Barong Tagalog and designed various interpretations of it. From creating barongs that resembled period costumes to making more contemporary pieces, de Leon’s barongs all contained what he believed were its essential elements: a loose silhouette, loose sleeves, pechera (embroidery design) and cuffs.

Gabby Concepcion wears a de Leon Barong Tagalog in this movie scene from Dapat Ka Bang Mahalin (1982 Viva Pictures)

Gabby Concepcion wears a de Leon Barong Tagalog in this movie scene from Dapat Ka Bang Mahalin (1982 Viva Pictures). It is a loose fit, stripe barong made of revived banana fabric, with a half button-down design, and a mandarin collar with lace edges. Also pictured: Sharon Cuneta

Two of de Leon’s more contemporary barongs likely made of a special variety of silk.

Two of de Leon’s more contemporary barongs likely made of a special variety of silk. There is sparse embroidery, a loose fit, full button-down design with covered buttons. The man’s barong has a standing rayadillo collar, and the woman’s Barong has a band collar

De Leon’s version of a camisa de chino. It’s made of piña-jusi fabric and has a gumamela floral design

De Leon’s version of a camisa de chino. It’s made of piña-jusi fabric and has a gumamela floral design.

De Leon’s contemporary version of a 19th century striped Barong Tagalog design. It is a half open button-down design

De Leon’s contemporary version of a 19th century striped Barong Tagalog design. It is a half open button-down design. Model wears a black cravat with a diamond stud at the pointed fold-down collar

Model wears a de Leon Barong Tagalog with a windowpane pattern and front embroidery.

Model wears a de Leon Barong Tagalog with a windowpane pattern and front embroidery. Fabric is likely piña jusi. It features a full button-down design with covered buttons, a pointed fold-down collar, loose fit and shortened cuffs. Model wears a black cravat with a diamond stud

Designer Steve de Leon circa 1980's

Designer Steve de Leon

All photos circa 1980’s from Visitacion R. de la Torre’s 1986 book The Barong Tagalog: The Philippines’ National Wear.