Apart from winning the Miss Universe crown, Catriona Gray has succeeded in many ways: For one, she triumphantly put the spotlight on local textiles, not to mention its ethical and proper use for modern wear. Catriona is admired for taking that extra step and for tapping local designers to exemplify through clothes the richness of our culture. One of these local designers was Jearson Demavivas, who created the beauty queen's iconic and now-historic national costume for the Miss Universe pageant.
Jearson tells Preview in an interview that it was Catriona who initially reached out to him back when she joined Binibining Pilipinas. "She asked if I could make her national costume for Binibining Pilipinas. I believe it was because of Elizabeth Clenci's national costume in the previous year that got her interested in me. She even congratulated me for it," he recalls.
However, Jearson feels that Catriona's national costume should not be solely credited to him. "It was a product of a series of brainstormings," he says. In fact, it was Catriona's idea for her costume to represent the whole country. From this, her dream team turned her idea into a piece of art within five months—from conceptualization, to research, to actual production. "We picked from every main island (Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao) an element that will comprise the whole ensemble," Jearson shares. "Pampanga's parol for Luzon because Cat wanted to show how joyful and fun it is to be in our country. Pintados for Visayas because Cat wants to share the story of Yolanda victims' bravery and resilience. T'boli of Mindanao because of its rich and interesting culture."
But other than the national costume, Jearson also provided Cat daily outfits that she wore throughout the competiton. According to the local designer, Cat was determined "to bring Philippine tapestry to Miss Universe." Jearson was given complete reign over all the designs with just one stipulation from Catriona: The garments should have "rich cultural value and representation." And looking back, Jearson delivered more than what was expected for Cat's wardrobe at the pageant, considering "all the daily looks she wore were last-minute creations."
Below, Jearson breaks down the stories behind Cat's proudly Pinoy wardrobe.
"This is a simple modern t'nalak dress. I just infused t'nalak fabric to accentuate a dress she could wear in her daily appearances. Nothing really fancy but my intention is just to showcase the t'nalak fabric and invite curiosity from people." The fabric is "made by T'boli tribe from my home province, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato."
"T'nalak fabric is created by weaving abaca fibers. The patterns in the fabric are taken from the dreams of the weavers, hence, South Cotabato being the land of the dreamweavers. The weavers inhabit Lake Sebu, a municipality that is named after the lake found at the mountain of South Cotabato. Its waters are supplied by seven falls surrounding it."
Jearson also got creative in using colors and texture to update the t'nalak fabric. Here, the weave was artificially dyed and ostrich feathers were added to serve as accent.
According to Jearson, this look was inspired by the Barong Tagalog and is also his favorite piece. "The top is made of callado cloth from Batangas. Callado cloth is made with intricate embossed embroidery by people of Batangas. The skirt is adorned by a hand-painted detail done by Jeffrey Catuira."
Meanwhile, this outfit was Jearson's take on a modern terno. Cat wore this terno made from Ilocos' Inabel cloth during her closed-door interview for Miss Universe.
While this gown was made from commercial fabric, the hand-painting detail done by Jeffrey Catuira was inspired by Anahaw, our national leaf.
Meawhile, the other dress she wore post-Miss Universe was inspired by the waling-waling flower.