RA­MON VALERA, THE FASH­ION ICON AND SNOB WHO HATED COPY­CATS

The Philippine Star - - FASHION & BEAUTY - Text & pho­tos by FRANNIE JAC­INTO

nat­u­ral bon vi­vant, RaA­mon Valera (1912- 1970) was al­ways fas­tid­i­ously dressed and ex­pected his clients to be like­wise. As a young man, he was al­ready in­ter­ested in de­sign­ing clothes, prob­a­bly in­spired by his al­ways beau­ti­fully dressed mother, Pi­lar Oswald, and his old­est (half) sis­ter, Juanita Valera, who was well known for mak­ing dresses for so­cialites who were their fam­ily friends. Never fin­ish­ing col­lege, he opted to fol­low his pas­sion for fash­ion, quickly mak­ing a name for him­self not only in the Philippine­s but also abroad. He was be­stowed the ti­tle “Dean of Philip­pine Fash­ion” in the hal­cyon days of Philip­pine fash­ion and was posthu­mously named the first Na­tional Artist for Philip­pine Fash­ion in 2006.

It was in the pre-war days when he in­no­vated and sim­pli­fied the then Maria Clara and

baro’t saya by tak­ing out the panuelo (a folded shawl par­tially cov­er­ing the top bodice of a woman) and stream­lin­ing the saya or skirt, so it was less bulky. Zip­pers were used in­stead of hooks and small but­tons, and with less fab­ric used, the terno evolved into a mod­ern­ized and sim­pli­fied ver­sion of our na­tive dress. Rapidly be­com­ing pop­u­lar be­cause of the sleeker sil­hou­ette, these were read­ily worn for so­cial and of­fi­cial state func­tions.

Ev­ery fash­ion­able lady had to have a Valera with the chicest of so­cialites stand­ing out in his styl­ized de­signs. He was a dear friend of my mother, Nati

Oso­rio Aguinaldo, whom I would ac­com­pany to his Quezon City ate­lier for fre­quent fit­tings and they would con­verse in flu­ent Span­ish. He would take of­fense when a younger cou­turier would try to copy his de­signs, de­ri­sively call­ing the lat­ter a copi­ador or copy­cat. Known to be a snob, he would automatica­lly re­ject a prospec­tive client, no mat­ter how much she was will­ing to pay for a Valera dress, if he did not like her (too chubby or fat, too short, too dark-skinned, ill-pro­por­tioned or not at all his “type”). Since Tito Ra­mon­ing could de­sign, cut and sew, he was metic­u­lous with the out­come of the gar­ments. If the cloth­ing didn’t look or fit prop­erly, he would im­me­di­ately start from scratch.

It was in one of those fit­tings of my mother that he in­formed his beader to start anew be­cause he wanted a more in­tri­cate de­sign with an al­most 3D ef­fect. Never mind if this en­tailed more work and cost, the dress had to be made of the high­est qual­ity and work­man­ship since it was car­ry­ing the Valera name. I even learned a few tricks of dress­mak­ing and one of them was his mas­ter­ful way of drap­ing — holding the fab­ric in one’s hand (usu­ally the light­est of chif­fon or the finest of silk) and care­fully sus­pend­ing it right on the client’s bodice or waist where the in­tended flow­ing fab­ric would fall nat­u­rally. Then, care­fully pin­ning the ma­te­rial where the ac­tual drape would com­mence so that it falls grace­fully on the woman’s body.

He also made sure that the terno could be a con­vert­ible gar­ment by adding spaghetti straps so that the but­terfy sleeves could ei­ther be eas­ily sewn on the thin straps or taken out and re­verted to a reg­u­lar gown if need be.

One of Valera’s best friends was art pa­tron and con­nois­seur Luis Araneta, to­gether with the vi­va­cious Elvira Mana­han, Chito Madri­gal, Chona Ys­mael

Kas­ten, Con­chita Su­nico and their clique. El­e­gant balls and par­ties were hosted in each other’s homes. With his keen eye, he en­joyed look­ing at and be­ing with beau­ti­ful, charm­ing women who had the style and elan to carry his dresses well. Niece and model Pech­ing Zu­lueta Gomez speaks about the Valera cre­ativ­ity and Imelda Mar­cos, “Tito Ra­mon was in­spired by Imelda (as the First Lady), and for ev­ery gown he made for her visit to a spe­cific coun­try, he would re­search and in­fuse in his cre­ations the cul­ture of that coun­try she was vis­it­ing with ours. She al­ways stood out in her Valera ter­nos and got the at­ten­tion of the in­ter­na­tional press.”

Co­in­cid­ing with his 45th death an­niver­sary, it is for­tu­nate that De La Salle-Col­lege of Saint Be­nilde has pop­u­lar de­signer Lulu Tan

Gan men­tor­ing their Fash­ion De­sign and Mer­chan­dis­ing class and with the sup­port of a good friend, Rus­tan’s pres­i­dent Ze­naida

Tantoco of the Tantoco-Rus­tia Foun­da­tion, it is but fit­ting that the first fash­ion ex­hibit should fea­ture the life and work of the famed artist and La Salle alum­nus. Ti­tled “Valera and the Mod­ern,” the fash­ion ex­hibit is on view un­til Oct. 14 at at the School of De­sign & Art DLS-Be­nilde, Manila. The show fea­tures beau­ti­ful ter­nos, wed­ding and for­mal gowns worn by for­mer first ladies Luz Ban­zon Magsaysay and Leonila Gar­cia, so­cialites Elvira Mana­han, Chito Madri­gal and Gretchen Co­juangco, Cherry

Pie Vil­lonco Lazatin, movie star Glo­ria Romero, as well as Valera’s fa­vorite clients Nedy Tantoco, Fe Dolor Ser­rano, Maritess Pineda, Mar­garita Ro­mualdez, So­nia Oli­vares, Car­men O. Lichauco, and

his nieces Pach­ing dela Fuente and Chit Zu­lueta. In fact, some of his beau­ti­ful wed­ding gowns have out­lived the mar­riages of his bri­dal clients. *** For com­ments and ideas, please email the au­thor at: jac­[email protected]

A col­lec­tion of for­mal wear and ter­nos de­signed by Ra­mon Valera for his fa­vorite clients is fea­tured in “Valera and the Mod­ern,” which is on view un­til Oct. 14 at St. Be­nilde’s School of De­sign & Arts.

Skirt de­tail of a fuch­sia pink satin gown em­bel­lished with au­then­tic tam­bourines and glass beads on the skirt

Kar­i­la­gan mod­els Mon­ina Lac­son, Yogi Zaragoza Mar­i­lyn Re­cio, Jojo Zabarte, Pech­ing Gomez, Elsa Payumo and Baby­girl Fricke

Co­in­cid­ing with Ra­mon Valera’s 45th death an­niver­sary, De La SalleCol­lege of Saint Be­nilde mounts “Valera in the Mod­ern,” which fea­tures the life and work of the famed artist.

Luis Araneta, Chloe Ro­mulo, Tito Mana­han, Chito Madri­gal, Ra­mon Valera, Elvira Mana­han and Chi­chos Vazquez in one of their el­e­gant par­ties, circa 1960s

St. Be­nilde fash­ion stu­dents Bet­tina Ha­gad, Mi­uc­cia Oli­vares, Abra­han Guardian, Ma­muro Oki and Ren­zel Gal­leta rein­ter­preted Valera’s de­signs for the ex­hibit.

Tina San­tos, Cherry Pie Vil­lonco and Tina Zu­lueta model in Valera’s Quezon City gar­den for Sun­day Times Magazine, 1967

Maritess Tantoco-En­riquez and Lulu Tan Gan

Third gen­er­a­tion Valeras: Bil­lie and Pia Kasi­lag, Dedette Aruego, Bow and Ting Valdez

Younger gen­er­a­tion of Valeras from the Ga­bal­don, Cam­pos, Lac­son, Jimenez and Reinoso fam­i­lies

Valera so­bri­nos: Tony Valera, Bambi Zu­lueta, Aton and Car­l­i­tos Pel­licer, Goya Reinoso, Serge and Pach­ing dela Fuente

Vi­o­let de Borja, Di­tas Lerma and Maritess Pineda

Au­thor Frannie Jac­into pos­ing in front of Elvira Mana­han’s gown that she wore dur­ing the 1972 “Homage to Valera” show by Con­chita Su­nico

T ats Man a han, Ra jo Lau­rel and Jaime Ponce de Leon

Chit Paraiso Zu­lueta poses in front of her el­e­gant 1968 wed­ding gown when she mar­ried Valera’s nephew Bambi Zu­lueta.

Third gen­er­a­tion Valeras: Bil­lie and Pia Kasi­lag, Dedette Aruego, Bow and Ting Valdez

So­nia Oli­vares and grand daugh­ter Mi­uc­cia pose in front of So­nia’s Valera terno

Nati O. Aguinaldo in a Valera white satin terno for a 1964 rigodon de honor in Mala­cañang

Bro. Den­nis Mag­banua, St. Be­nilde pres­i­dent and chan­cel­lor

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