By Vennette Lailani Seprado
The Filipiniana or the traditional Philippine dress should be on every Filipino designer’s design repertoire regardless of his or her style and aesthetic. The traditional Philippine dress, may it be a classic Terno or a more relaxed Baro’t Saya, is experiencing a fashion revival thanks to well-publicized events such as the recently concluded ABS-CBN Ball which centered on the theme “Modern Filipiniana” and the annual State Of The Nation Address (SONA) with attendees at their best Filipiniana garb. What was once strictly traditional is now considered on trend with more designers pushing for innovations in silhouette, construction and materials making the national dress more accessible and appealing to the younger set and yes, modern brides.
One of the notable players in elevating and propelling Philippine fashion to a wider audience is Jo Rubio, a Bulacan-born designer skilled in bridalwear, formalwear, and menswear. Rubio, whose works have graced the red carpet at the SONA for many years have been dazzling his clientele ranging from politicians to young women making a cultural statement at their prom with his romantic, sophisticated and modern take on the classic Filipiniana.
Drawn to the elegance and romance of creating custom made garments like wearable art, Rubio first got his start creating formalwear for the affluent families of Bulacan. His impeccable taste and eye for detail (often conceptualizing full looks keeping in mind his client’s hairstyle down to the color of her nails) soon caught the interest of Manila-based clients and meticulous overseas brides. His breakout design was a pristine white tea-length terno worn by Heart Evangelista–Escudero at the 2017 SONA. The very creation sparked inspiration and countless features highlighting Rubio’s fresh approach to making the Filipiniana more contemporary without losing its innate dignity and modesty.
Rubio’s strength isn’t only in his creativity but in his continued pursuit of perfecting craftsmanship. To innovate and become experimental with anything that’s considered a classic requires skill and mastery of traditional and time-tested techniques. Rubio firmly believes that his creations shouldn’t just look good; it should also be well- crafted. Butterfly sleeves, after all, aren’t just distinctly stiff components of a dress; it’s a study in precision and proportion. It is symbolic of our unique cultural identity and collective histories, therefore, construction should be handled with the utmost respect and finesse.
His mastery of techniques from draping, embroidery and even hand-painting has made him the go-to designer of discerning brides with a clear vision in mind. His versatility and flexibility are evident in his ability to switch from designing dramatic maximalist wedding gowns to creating streamlined minimalist frocks.
In fact, his signature style of incorporating structural flounces shaped like real-life roses doesn’t feel redundant or tired mainly because he doesn’t rely on them just to broaden his portfolio. Rubio doesn’t just design for his personal satisfaction or sense of achievement. He is passionate about making his muse feel they’re most beautiful by getting to know their personality and designing to enhance their body type. He has a love for infusing Filipino elements into his designs while challenging himself to present them in a manner that’s current, artistic and elegant.