By Alex P. Vidal
LOS ANGELES, California – While the US Olympics team uniforms were provoking much amusement, discussion, outrage, and eye-rolling in one of the United States’ largest apparel design and manufacturing hubs here over the fact that outfits were made in China, the small Philippine contingent is set to parade in the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games opening ceremonies on July 27 proudly behind the made in the Philippines Barong Tagalog uniforms.
The Philippine Olympic team composed of track athletes Marestella Torres and Rene Herrera; swimmers Jasmine Alkhaldi and Jessica Lacuna; boxer Mark Anthony Barriga; BMX rider Daniel Caluag; judo practitioner Tomohiko Hoshina; shooter Brian Rosario; and weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, will wear the barong Tagalog designed by one of Manila’s top fashion designers, Rajo. Laurel.
Josephine Cuneta reported in the Wall Street Journal Southeast Asia that Laurel has been chosen by the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) to design and create clothes for the Filipino athletes during the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics.
His plan is reportedly a modern-world makeover of the traditional Philippine barong Tagalog which is an embroidered formal shirt, typically worn untucked, and commonly used at Philippine ceremonial events. It is widely seen as one of the more distinctive visual elements of Philippine culture.
Laurel said the typical barong is steeped in tradition dating back to the 1600s. Some say the shirt – which sometimes uses a sheer, see-through fabric made out of pina fabric (a textile derived from pineapple leaves) – was forced upon locals by Spaniards during the colonial era so that any hidden weapons could be kept in plain sight. Others say it stemmed from a desire to have loose, breathable and comfortable garments in the Philippines’ tropical heat, with the fine embroidery coming later.
Laurel invoked “simplicity and elegance” for choosing barong Tagalog, it was reported.
“I want to pay great respect to the tradition of the garment. I’m just going to give it a more tapered fit, a slightly cropped length and small fabrication changes. Headwear (inspired by Filipino tradition also) will feature in the design,” Laurel was quoted in the report.
Cuneta said Laurel, whose work has been worn by American supermodel Tyra Banks, said he’s using black, gold and mocha as primary colors for the stylized barong Tagalog, in a rayon fabric to give it a more modern feel (and to help keep the athletes warm in London’s cooler climate). The embroidery will feature a modern design with dark cobalt and blue threads symbolizing good fortune and luck. The barong Tagalog will be paired with weight wool flat front trousers, he said.
The main accessory for the small contingent of nine Philippine athletes and 13 officials will be a salakot – a traditional wide-brimmed hat, often made with rattan or reeds – with gold leaf that Laurel hopes will catch the light as the Filipino representatives enter the stadium.
Here in Los Angeles, the decision of American sports authorities to have the red, white and blue uniforms manufactured in China has provoked a storm of criticism in Congress, where “made in America” is always a popular election-year theme, according to Los Angeles Times.
“The issue has rippled across the nation with frustration, resignation and understanding as the preppy outfits unveiled this week drew some unexpected attention,” LA Times reported.
In response to the controversy, Ralph Lauren Corp. has announced that it was committed to producing Team USA uniforms for the 2014 Winter Olympics in America.
The company announced: “Ralph Lauren promises to lead the conversation within our industry and our government addressing the issue of increasing manufacturing in the United States.”
Saying she was “appalled” that New York-based Ralph Lauren did not manufacture at least a part of the Olympic uniform in America, Galina Sobolev, the designer of high-end Los Angeles clothing line Single, quipped: “It’s unpatriotic, and it really speaks very poorly for what we represent as Americans if we send our Olympic team to London wearing garments made in China.”
She added: “The Italians would never have their uniforms made in China, they would make them in Italy.”