Tropical formal wear AKA The Barong has always been a staple when it comes to social functions and celebrations. Often perceived as uptight and too formal, the Barong is often seen as an age group specific garment for very specific events.
Galán, The First Sartorial Barong and Guayabera aims to change that public perception. Breathing a fresh contemporary approach with the best tailors that he can find, Founder and Creative Director, Kevin Yapjoco created the brand with the vision of elevating and changing the public perception on what the barong is. A painstaking process with fruitful results. Let us hear it from the man himself by way of this interview.
First off, what propelled you to create a modern take on the traditional barong? What was that moment that led you to say “I’m doing this!”
In my previous work I met many tailors from France, Italy and Japan. They created beautiful garments largely by hand. When I looked at barongs I saw that the fit and make could be much, much better. That was when I realized that I could make barongs to the same high standards of foreign tailors.
I wouldn’t say we are making “modern barongs” in the sense that most of barongs that you see now are usually tight and short. Rather, we are making barongs the way they should be: loose but not baggy, relaxed yet with a flattering silhouette.
Comfort is king and I read somewhere that it is one of your major selling points for Galán. Why is the barong your chosen medium for modernizing traditional formal wear?
I love wearing suits and sport jackets but I believe we can all agree that it’s really hot in the Philippines to wear it frequently.
On the other hand, the barong is more suited to our tropical climate and is widely worn in formal and business occasions that it made sense to focus on making it better.
Being the symbol of stature and style, do you believe that it’s high time we rock more barong outfits to social functions?
I believe that barongs stand toe-to-toe with suits and events should be more flexible to accommodate people who choose to wear either garment. A beautifully made barong doesn’t make you look like a mall security guard or personal driver at all!
Bespoke is a very nice take on a traditional medium. Can you let us in on the process if say, I want my own barong made?
We start by taking your measurements and then create a personal pattern for you. For the Ballroom Barong, we start by making a bespoke camisa de chino first then do a fitting. During the fitting we will take note of the adjustments to be made such as a lower shoulder which can affect the straight bottom hem of the barong or the height of the side slits so that you can easily slide your hands into your trouser pockets. We also make sure that you have a flattering silhouette such as adding shape to the waist and elongating the garment to make you look slimmer and taller. Contrary to popular belief, making garments tight does not make you look slim.
After we perfect the camisa de chino, we make your barong for the second fitting. The barong is based on how your camisa de chino fits but ever so slightly larger. During the second fitting we make sure that the camisa and barong work seamlessly together. This is necessary as fabric drapes differently on the body and is the only way to ensure that it looks cohesive. Once everything is final, we finish the garment and deliver to the client.
For our Boardroom Barong and Backroom, the process is the same but without the camisa de chino. We do one fitting with the client before finishing the garment.
About the materials, can you give us the lowdown on what materials make the perfect bespoke barong by Galán?
For our Ballroom Barong, we use piña-silk. Pure piña is laborious to make and extremely delicate so the industry has moved to using a combination of piña and silk fibres thus piña-silk.
For our Boardroom Barong and Backroom Barong, we use linen made by Italian mill Canclini. Linen comes in different grades and the one we use is quite fine and feels amazing to the touch.
Both our Ballroom Barong and Boardroom Barongs are embroided by hand in Lumban, Laguna.
What age groups have taken interest in your products? Are we getting a more aware younger barong audience?
It’s mostly people in their late 20s to early 50s. These are people who are exposed to a lot of international brands and tailored garments and they expect the same quality in barongs.
Amidst the mass produced barongs out there, do you believe that it is a diluted artform already? Is that Galán’s purpose? To bring back the craft and mastery to Filipino formal wear?
Actually, we have the craftsmanship. The problem is the race to the bottom in price so quality is sacrificed along the way.
Our purpose is to make great handmade garments. But the larger vision is to include barongs in the international language of menswear rather than just a national costume. When I say “international language” I mean that it can be worn by anyone and that it can be worn with other garments such as a rain coat or safari jacket.
Any message to your followers and This Is Hype readers?
If you’re looking for your next barong give us a try!