A BARRAGE of Assumption Old Girls filled Tesoro’s in Makati earlier this month for the launch of a collaboration between Tesoro’s and Veloso by Malu and Letlet, a storied fashion house founded in the 1940s, with a legacy stretching three generations.
Violeta “Letlet” Veloso, granddaughter of Veloso founder Marina Antonio, updated BusinessWorld: “I’m third generation, and there’s already a fourth generation.” She turned to her friend and said that a niece of hers has a full scholarship to the Fashion Design program of the De La Salle College of St. Benilde.
Her grandmother, Marina Antonio, was the wife of National Artist for Architecture Pablo Antonio. Mrs. Antonio learned to sew from her own mother, Adelina del Rosario. Mrs. Antonio’s business flourished right after the Second World War, her romantic visions serving as a palliative for the scars of conflict. Some of those gowns, preserved by her family, were on display in Tesoro’s during the evening of Oct. 17. Basing by Mrs. Antonio’s designs, soft fabrics, ruffles, lace, and embroidered flowers had once been all the rage, and these were snapped up by presidential daughters and other members of the same set.
In any case, the business continued on to the 1960s, with Mrs. Antonio’s daughter, Malu, joining it. School friends of Malu’s daughter, Letlet, greeted the younger Ms. Veloso with kisses and recalling skirts and dresses they had worn that were made by their classmate’s mother. The senior Veloso is still active in fashion to this day. Ms. Veloso, in turn, with her sister Vicky, joined the business in the 1980s.
BusinessWorld asked if the legacy of generations ever weighed on Ms. Veloso’s shoulders. “We always had our look. My mommy has stuck to her embroidered flowers since the ’60s. People still come to her.”
“When people ask how I stay relevant… we have that look, all embroidery. With me, I’m always on the internet. I want to see what is in fashion right now,” she said. “I like to be with the trends, but I also want to have my identity.”
For example, Ms. Veloso had to attend a ball which had an avant-garde theme. She broke up a bunch of butterfly brooches and scattered them over a black dress, recalling Italian avant-garde designer Elsa Schiaparelli’s own explorations with insects.
Its collection with Tesoro’s, featured in the store’s “Disenyo at Talento” talks, is not avant-garde. It’s a very romanticized vision of the Filipina, with lace, glitter, and flowers; recalling perhaps a debutante in the 1950s (a lace overlay over a certain terno looked like a ’50s Dior dress, albeit with the famed terno butterfly sleeves).
Ms. Veloso pointed to racks of lace panuelos (fichus), and then at a seafoam green lace kimona, which might look dated, but frankly, would go nicely with denim shorts and sandals. “It’s the way you cut it,” said Ms. Veloso about shifting the focus of Filipiniana from grandma to girl. “This is more modern, right?”
The world that Ms. Veloso’s forebears designed for has long gone. Does this country still have room for flounces and flowers? For a certain group of people, apparently, there’s always something in bloom.
“You know, you’ll be surprised,” said Ms. Veloso. “The women who go to my mom, they’ll say, ‘we still want those flowers.’ Some of these women are in their 70s.” — Joseph L. Garcia