There’s no doubt that the pandemic is changing the fashion industry. From nearly eliminating all the conventional reasons to dress up to compelling brands to manufacture PPEs for survival, the pandemic has driven designers to pivot over lockdown. What used to be a race to create pieces based on seasons became a challenge to adjust to the change in consumer habits.

During his time in isolation after the hectic schedule of his mentorship at TernoCon, Manila’s Prince of Fashion Inno Sotto takes a step back and opens up to buzzworthy designer Carl Jan Cruz, an admirer of Sotto’s, about a newfound calmness in the current industry. 

Like sitting through a podcast, we got to listen to the two catch up and drop hot takes via Zoom about the countless lists of “Best Dressed Women,” designing the terno and whether fashion schools are still relevant.

Purging of the fashion scene

Carl Jan Cruz: Hi, Inno.

Inno Sotto: Hey, CJ. How’ve you been? 

CJ: I’ve been OK. I mean, we were messaging—I forget when, time is a social construct now. How about you? How have you been?

Inno: It’s been quiet. It’s a learning experience for me. I mostly read, play with fabrics—I’ve been actually happy. There’s this, what I call purging. All of a sudden, it’s like everything’s going to start on a clean slate and fashion will probably have to reinvent itself. I’ve been trying to figure out what the scene’s going to be like after the pandemic, and I’ve been spending more time thinking and really analyzing things. 

CJ: What about in terms of work, how has it been?

Inno: I have a lot of unfinished work. [But] I like where I am now. I don’t necessarily get people talking to me about the next order [for] the next event they’d like to go to and [asking] if I could possibly make something for them. There’s a calmness now in the whole scene.

Prior to the pandemic, there was TernoCon, there were some orders I had to finish and a wedding I did during the weekend before we were all asked to stay home. And then it [was] like somebody just switched off the light without telling me and I was really surprised by all of that. I didn’t like the way that happened. When my clients came around and ordered things for their wedding anniversary [in July], it felt good and it sort of woke me up. 

I think it’s going to be up to me and, perhaps for most of us designers, to actually sort of decide what we want to do after the pandemic. I don’t think I’d sit and wait to be told that this is what’s going to happen.

CJ: Yeah, I really, really agree with that. I was certainly in shock when March happened. We also [had a client] who wanted to get married at their house. But in our case, they wanted to get married in jeans in April. It was exactly the same feeling that yung energy mo, it doesn’t feel kalat. I realized that this is how I want it to be every time I kind of take on a project or make clothes. 

The countless lists of “Best Dressed Women”

Inno: One of the funny things I realized, and this was way before the pandemic, was the countless, countless, countless lists of “Best Dressed Women.” Why do best dressed women, who are known for their taste and having the knack for fashion or putting things together, actually need a stylist? Will you let me know, CJ? I don’t think Marie-Chantal had one, I don’t think Jackie Onassis had one, I don’t think Audrey Hepburn had one. 

CJ: Right.

Inno: But some women were so dependent on somebody to actually make them look good. I don’t know if being on that list reflects the tastes and the ability of a stylist [more] or the innate taste of that woman [on that list] to actually express herself in a choice of clothing and in the way she entertains. You know, for the major editorials abroad or the editorial sections, there is a stylist for that because they’re working on a concept.

CJ: I get what you mean. On a lifestyle basis, right? My logic is that style really was able to define power. But because of how society or the world has evolved, unfortunately, power [now] defines style—and usually with power, you can afford certain things. That would suggest that these people can shop at certain places, but you miss the chance of finding out what these people could do with what they [already] have. For personal style, it’s nice to look at what’s going on, but it’s really different when you stumble upon it yourself and you have a response to it. To be honest, in the past six months, I don’t know about you, but I have this deep, deep fear of not really liking fashion anymore. But I mean, I realized that it wasn’t just fashion. I guess I’m finding more bliss now that I just love creating things.

Has the terno been tampered with too much?

Inno: I think everybody got a little too excited about fashion. When I was designing [for TernoCon], I would often say, “You know, guys, if there’s anything you should stop doing as designers, stop designing anything that’s supposed to be ‘bongga.’” I also realized that if it’s a terno, it’s worn on special occasions. But the word “special” is taken totally, totally out of…

CJ: Right. Was it like a constant fine line with costume and the terno?

Inno: It is a costume. It is a national costume.

CJ: Yeah, it is a national costume. I guess what I mean, in a sense, is that it doesn’t feel like the national costume anymore.

Inno: I think it’s been tampered too much. Everybody just started to do things with it. Unless you can make it really better and still manage to identify yourself as a Filipino wearing a national costume, I don’t think you should really change too much about the terno. Ang nangyayari kasi, the terno is worn by women who actually play a role. You have to be a Reyna Elena, a Hermana Mayor in a fiesta or a town fiesta queen.

Fashion is more than just the designer

CJ: On a local scale, I hope people get to see the value of fashion. Yes, it is classist, it’s elitist, it is defined by social class. But at the end of the day, I hope people see it as something that can be a vessel or like an engine that could cultivate culture that has defined part of history. I get that the fashion industry has evolved into something very problematic and that could be addressed. We have to be accountable for things and improve them.

To isolate it and not to be as vague, people have always asked, “Why is being a fashion designer all about you?” And it’s not just an external conversation, but an internal one, too, for me as a designer or a company owner now. Hopefully, I can take in some of those structures from people before who tried to create something really good—you can’t take much of it or make it so big that it’s possible for everyone to have it. I’m making peace with that because I also came from an educational system where there was a lot of pressure that you have to be at a certain scale already.

Inno: But I think in whatever kind of school, there will always be that pressure to have to excel. Otherwise, you miss the opportunity to be challenged and to be, how do I say, creative or more skillful in whatever you’re doing. But you know, I understand it when you say that a lot of people actually think that fashion is about the fashion designer. I, on the other hand, have always thought that it’s about the woman who comes to me. I realized, even having gone to school and all of that, the bulk of the things I know now really more have to do with all of the women who have come through that door to actually ask for an appointment to sit down with me. I think going to a fashion school helps, but I also think it’s important to actually allow your mind to wonder and to be very curious about many things.

WATCH: Inno Sotto and Carl Jan Cruz dish on style, power and terno

CJ: I guess it’s something also in the relevance of fashion schools now. As a business owner or brand owner in RTW, I keep getting asked, actually, what I look for in a resume. I do get a lot of proud submissions that they may have attended this or that and it’s good. But again, from experience too, nothing beats just what they bring to the table. It’s more about the synergy of what they can do. I get rin kasi messages or emails sometimes that say, “Sana you can consider it, wala akong diploma,” or “I didn’t really do fashion.” I don’t want people [to bring themselves down] before they [even] get started. If you think you have something, go for it.

Writer’s note: This conversation has been edited for brevity

Written by Nadine Halili
Produced by Nadine Halili
Creative direction by Nimu Muallam
Art direction by Tricia Guevara and Dana Calvo
Layout and design by Tricia Guevara
Video by Michael Yabut
Assisted by Neal Alday and Lia delos Reyes

sona fashion preen

Just like the previous SONAs, the ladies showed up in their best fashion looks for President Rodrigo Duterte’s first address. However, this year, a downplayed dress code was implemented.

“It will be business attire but you have the option of wearing Filipiniana as long as, for the ladies, it will not be more than knee length,” finance spokesperson Paola Alvarez said days before the event.

That said, we scoured through social media to find who followed the dress code and who broke it (by a few inches, that is). See who we spotted below.

#1 Vice-President Leni Robredo and family

[A] LOOK: VP Leni Robredo with daughters Aika, Tricia and Jillian before heading to #Du30SONA2016

— Leni Robredo (@lenirobredo) July 25, 2016

Keeping with their simple motifs, Vice-President Leni Robredo and her daughters donned Filipiniana-inspired outfits paired with lace and soft pastels.          


#2 Tootsy Angara

A photo posted by tootsyangara💖💖💖 (@tootsyangara) on Jul 24, 2016 at 8:55pm PDT

Sticking to the traditional Filipiniana style, Tootsy showed up in a green Rajo Laurel creation, decorated with some simple embroidery highlighting Filipino artisans from Lumban, Laguna, and Marawi.

#3 Heart Evangelista

A photo posted by Love Marie Ongpauco Escudero (@iamhearte) on Jul 24, 2016 at 4:51pm PDT

A photo posted by G3 San Diego (@g3cafe) on Jul 25, 2016 at 12:48am PDT

Heart didn’t waste any time changing into two outfits for the SONA. She was first spotted wearing a white Filipiniana-inspired dress by Ivar Aseron and paired with a clutch she designed. Later in the day, she changed into a chic pants and blazer ensemble from Massimo Dutti with an Hermés clutch.

#4 Sen. Loren Legarda

Sen. Loren Legarda arrives at Batasang Pambansa for #SONADu30. @inquirerdotnet

— Aries Joseph Hegina (@AHeginaINQ) July 25, 2016

Senator Loren opted for some slacks and paired it with an embroidered pink tunic by Len Cabili and chunky accessories.        


#5 Gabrielle Lopez

A photo posted by Gabrielle H. Lopez (@gabbibananii) on Jul 24, 2016 at 10:40pm PDT

Gabrielle wore a long pastel blue skirt and sheer lace top combo designed by Kim Gan―a fun interpretation of business attire. She also accessorized with jewels from Ann Ong.

#6 Clara Aseniero

Photo courtesy of Clara Aseniero's Facebook
Photo courtesy of Clara Aseniero’s Facebook

Model Clara Aseniero sported a custom Stacy Rodriguez dress that we’d totally cop. A few inches longer though and she might’ve broken the dress code.

#7 Rhea Aquino

A photo posted by Rhea Aquino (@rheaaquino69) on Jul 25, 2016 at 12:07am PDT

Wearing a modernized Filipiniana by Mary Ty, Rhea Aquino managed to combine simple and chic with the dress’ black details and her neutral accessories.      


#8 Jinkee Pacquiao

A photo posted by jinkeepacquiao (@jinkeepacquiao) on Jul 24, 2016 at 11:38pm PDT

#veryblessedday Be an encourager. Pray for those who criticize you. Be Your beautiful self , you will find the world full of beauty and goodness of God. ❤️🌸✨

A photo posted by jinkeepacquiao (@jinkeepacquiao) on Jul 25, 2016 at 6:53am PDT

Jinkee’s lavender gown was made by Inno Sotto. Sadly, her gown isn’t exactly business attire-appropriate. But later in the day, she changed into a simpler Gucci dress which, at least, followed the code length-wise. Good save!  


#9 Hon. Yedda Marie Romualdez

  A photo posted by carysantiago (@carysantiago) on Jul 25, 2016 at 12:36am PDT

Congresswoman Yedda Romualdez’s definition of business attire involved a large pink rose on on her shoulder. Her pencil skirt passed the dress code, but the rose may have been too much?


#10 Ria Fariñas

A photo posted by Chris Diaz (@chrysdiaz) on Jul 25, 2016 at 12:19am PDT

Designer Chris Diaz kept it simple with Ria’s blue dress by keeping the skirt tailored and putting soft terno sleeves. She also accessorized with a printed clutch and some jewels.  


#11 Audrey Tan-Zubiri

  A photo posted by Audrey Tan Zubiri (@audreytanzubiri) on Jul 25, 2016 at 1:12am PDT

Audrey paired a sleeveless terno blouse with a patterned skirt reminiscent of indigenous tribes.


#12 Bataan First District Rep. Geraldine Roman

LOOK: Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman wearing a Paul Cabral terno. @dzIQ990 — Isa Avendaño-Umali (@isaavendanoDZIQ) July 25, 2016

Bataan congresswoman Geraldine Roman showed up in a green Paul Cabral terno gown. She may have broken the dress code, but the gown certainly looked flattering on her.  


#13 Sen. Grace Poe

Senator Grace Poe, with her signature white dress, arrived at the House of Rep for #SONADu30 | @MAgerINQ — Inquirerdotnet (@inquirerdotnet) July 25, 2016

Sen. Grace Poe kept it simple with a white embroidered dress. Plus, she gave up her signature ponytail this time.


#14 Gretchen Barretto

A photo posted by Gretchen Barretto (@gretchenbarretto) on Jul 25, 2016 at 3:14am PDT

Also wearing Inno Sotto was Gretchen Barretto with a long-sleeved blouse and ankle-length skirt. Too bad that skirt went past the desired length.  


#15 Rep. Vilma Santos

Lipa City Rep. Vilma Santos. @dzIQ990 #SONADu30 — Isa Avendaño-Umali (@isaavendanoDZIQ) July 25, 2016

Batangas Sixth District Representative Vilma Santos was spotted wearing a cream blouse and skirt ensemble upon entering the House of Representatives. By the looks of it, the material is similar to that of a barong.

#16 Sen. Nancy Binay

LOOK: Senator Nancy Binay in Randy Ortiz with husband Pepito | @Inq_Lifestyle #SONADu30

— Inquirerdotnet (@inquirerdotnet) July 25, 2016

Despite being seen in a rule-breaking gown earlier in the day, Sen. Nancy Binay later changed into a black knee-length Randy Ortiz dress.  


#17 Batangas First District Rep. Eileen Ermita-Buhain

A photo posted by s o f i e (@sofie.b_rtw) on Jul 25, 2016 at 4:30pm PDT

Congresswoman Eileen Buhain was seen wearing a two-piece custom Sofia Borromeo creation—a pique bell-sleeved top and brocade column skirt that went past her ankles as bit. She also accessorized with a chunky necklace and gold clutch.

#18 Yasmine Espiritu-Vargas

Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas and wife Yasmine arrive at Batasang Pambansa for #SONADu30. @inquirerdotnet

— Aries Joseph Hegina (@AHeginaINQ) July 25, 2016

Yasmine walked the red carpet with husband Alfred Vargas wearing a blue traditional terno-style dress by Stephanie Tan.  


#19 Sen. Pia Cayetano

Former Sen. now Taguig City Rep. Pia Cayetano arrives for #SONADu30 @inquirerdotnet — Aries Joseph Hegina (@AHeginaINQ) July 25, 2016

Sen. Pia showed up in a blazer and knee-length ensemble. Definitely taking the business attire code very seriously.

#20 Stella Quimbo

A photo posted by Miro Quimbo (@miroquimbo) on Jul 25, 2016 at 9:02am PDT

Academician Stella Quimbo strutted in the House of Representatives in a pantsuit made from a repurposed terno.


#21 Yanee Alvarez

A photo posted by PATTY ANG (@pattyang_) on Jul 25, 2016 at 5:22am PDT

Yanee went for a simple Patty Ang LBD with a cape. A flattering silhouette for the mom-to-be.

#22 Sen. Risa Hontiveros

Photo courtesy of Risa Hontiveros' Facebook page
Photo courtesy of Risa Hontiveros’ Facebook page

Sen. Risa Hontiveros went for a regal purple wrap over her lace dress—both made by Joel Acebuche. She also completed the look with Marikina-made nude heels.


Art by Dorothy Guya

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How do you make the ever-traditional terno feel new again?

At last night’s launch of the book Fashionable Filipinas: An Evolution of the Philippine National Dress in Photographs 1860-1960, guests came in wearing what was seemingly the best show of modern-day national costumes.

The book is published by retail and lifestyle giant Bench and written and curated by Gino Gonzales, a scenographer and lecturer at Ateneo de Manila University, and Mark Lewis Higgins, a visual artist and co-director of Slim’s Fashion & Arts School. It traces the history and evolution of the terno until the 1960, and is packed with previously unpublished essays and photographs.

But the changes in the traditional garb go well beyond what the book’s breadth of coverage. Fast forward to last night, and there were embellished ternos with metallic sequins, oversized butterfly sleeves, and the piece broken down into separates. Really, the various reinterpretations of the traditional piece were endless.

So how do you fully update a piece like the terno, then? Magazine editor in chief and model Sarah Meier says, “What is crucial to the terno are the sleeves. I think anything else you do with your outfit can be completely flexible. It can oscillate between materials, texture, and prints. The true signature of a woman [who is] able to modernize something so traditional and classic is to be able to take any trend at any given time and find a way to make the two mesh together.” But model and host Tweetie de Leon-Gonzalez looks beyond the signature sleeves. For her, it’s “attitude and outlook” that does the trick.

Click through the slideshow above to see more personalities and celebrities wearing their own takes on the terno and barong!


Photos by Acushla Obusan

You’ve already seen how Lesley Mobo didn’t hold back on the runway in this year’s Red Charity Gala. Off the runway, however, the guests also didn’t shy away from putting on a show. From celebrities to designers and other notable personalities in between, they caught our eye with their choice of classic, solid colors.

Pristine whites, velvet blues, and, of course, a few shades of red were seen among the crowd. These hues were updated with modern details like flowing sleeves, deep necklines, and crystal embellishments. It was already quite a show seeing them walk around the lobby and head to the ballroom.

Looks like we’ve got ourselves a new style formula as last night’s guests proved there is nothing wrong with tweaking with the classics by adding something new every time.

Click through our slideshow to see our favorites from last night’s fashionable set!

Photos by Acushla Obusan


The Fashion & Design Council of the Philippines (FDCP) yet again showcased what they do best—a fashion fête that marries the old and the new, the traditional and the cutting edge. Samsung and the FDCP mounted an all-Filipino designers showcase that fused style and technology into an in interactive and digital show.

The show was an experience in itself. The viewers were taken into the heart of the designers’ creative process by blasting their sketches onto the screen, showing how they built their creations from the ground up.

The night’s takeaway though is that Filipino artistry and creativity is a not just a methodic process but a way of storytelling. Fashion designers Avel Bacudio, James Reyes, Ivarluski Aseron, Vic Barba, Joey Samson, and Anthony Nocom opened the show with all-white collections—a metaphor for the blank canvas.

Jerome Salaya Ang, Joel Escober, Ramon Esteban, Gerry Katigbak, Pablo Cabahug, Kristel Yulo, Ronaldo Arnaldo, Happy Andrada, Hindy Weber-Tantoco, and Noel Crisostomo brought that aforementioned blank canvas to life by reimagining it through metallic pieces of silver and gold. And to close, Dong Omaga-Diaz, Frederick Peralta, JC Buendia, Jojie Lloren, Randy Ortiz, and Albert Andrada took the traditional terno to a modern route by showing us how to wear it to today.

This, all in all, was an attempt on how technology can dabble with traditional Filipino fashion and vice versa. These hallmarks of the fashion industry were able to create something that feels new again.

Click the slideshow above for more photos of the show! 

Photos by Tammy David


There is so much to talk about President Noynoy’s last State of the Nation Address speech. But for the fashionable set, the rounds of talk less about what was said and more on what the politicians, celebrity-politicians, or celebrities-with-politicians wore and who designed what.

Truthfully, the congressional “red carpet” was made up of truly major moments: the rise of politicians’ wives whom we’ve not heard of, the battle on who had the better (or bigger!) butterfly sleeves, and the presence of the truly pretty.

Just when we were expecting that we were in for more of the boring usual, local designers have gotten it right with these 10 women. We’re grateful for pitching us a curveball, SONA!

Here are 10 women who made the terno an enviable success.

10. Nancy Binay


We didn’t know how Senator Nancy Binay could make up for last year’s fashion faux pas until she showed us her sapphire embroidered terno by the same designer Randy Ortiz. But even before anyone could make a comment, she preemptively went ahead saying, “’Di ba parang ang boring? Next time na ‘yung panggulat ulit.” (Doesn’t this look boring? Next time, I will wear another shocker!)

And though she was likened to an X-Men character, really Senator Binay, we’re not hating on this “boring” pared-down look.

9. Fille Cainglet-Cayetano


You would recognize a Cary Santiago dress even from afar. The 25-year-old volleyball player and wife of Rep. of Taguig Lino Cayetano went with the designer for a sleek and simple blush terno with his signature embossed detail on the bust. And to be dressed by Cary Santiago is, in itself, already a fulfillment.

8. Stella Quimbo


In narrowing our list down to the notables, we were sure to include wife of Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo, Stella Quimbo, in her Jun Escario ethnic-tonedterno with a full floor-length silver skirt. We sure love a designer who goes for a truly modern take on a classic and even more the woman who’s up to try it herself. And can we also talk about her glowing tan?

7. Dawn Zulueta-Lagdameo


Designer Cary Santiago truly has a penchant for the romantic. And since he was dressing Dawn Zulueta-Lagdameo, we were not surprised he went justifiably overboard with this head-sized flower on her sleeves.

6. Grace Poe-Llamanzares


Rajo Laurel described Senator Grace Poe’s outfit to be hand-painted with a palay motif topped with yellow and black beading when we asked him about it before yesterday. All we could imagine were endless rice fields and how magnificent it would be. So we were a bit confused when she first came out in a Paul Cabral number, which didn’t have the best fit, by the way. Thankfully, she changed into the Rajo piece and yes, it was everything we imagined.


5. Heart Evangelista-Escudero


How do you top yourself when you raised the bar so high last year? Such is the case for Heart Evangelista-Escudero. Lighting up the halls of the Congress in her Inno Sotto white ensemble, she came in a feathered-sleeve ensemble, of course! She looked sublime as she always does. But all we can see still is last year’s Joey Samson’s white cage-sleeved dress. It’s a fashion hangover, still.

4. Kris Aquino


A long-time fan of Cary Santiago, Presidential sister Kris Aquino took a break from tradition and opted for young designer Michael Leyva this year. Kris looked regal in her Tiffany blue piña callado dress with embroidery done in Quezon. Interesting but right choice to switch, perhaps?

3. Cindy Ejercito


Designer Paul Cabral got it right with Senator JV Ejercito’s wife, Cindy Ejercito. Who doesn’t love a breath of fresh air on the red carpet? Cindy came in a simple, straight-cut, stark black beaded number with a sunny smile. If Cindy proved anything, it’s that the best looks don’t come in complicated packages. That was her strength—straight up, clean silhouette and innate radiance does the trick.

2. Lucy Torres-Gomez


Maybe skewing towards a little bias here but when is Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez not breathtaking? Though running a little late for the SONA, the Gomez family (with husband Richard Gomez and daughter Juliana) made it looking picture perfect. Fashionably late is forgivable when you come dressed in an understated white Randy Ortiz piece with gentle yet ornate embellishment. He has made her dresses for the last five years so this one’s no miracle. Thanks for bringing us the immaculate Lucy Torres.

1. Tootsy Echauz-Angara


The wife of Senator Sonny Angara went from standing by the sidelines to actual red carpet superstar at lightning speed! Out of the 30 looks Rajo Laurel made for the SONA, this modern boxy, cropped top paired separately with a full pale dove-gray skirt is a runaway hit. It might be an ornate way of interpreting the ever-ubiquitous terno but what a way to modernize it. The pale pink and silver crystals could have been hated by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago (who wanted to pass a resolution in 2013 over people “obsessed with bling”). But maybe not this year, Senator, as all eyes are on Tootsy.


Art by Dorothy Guya