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Heritage On Trend: Tesoros’ “Maong Tagalog” Pushes Handicrafts Into The Fashion Scene

Aliw-awardee Merjohn Lagaya serenades attendants with an amazing violin performance


Ever heard of non-traditional handicrafts? Admittedly that does sound contradictory, but that’s how Tesoros likes to push the boundaries of Philippine crafts. With the release of their special capsule collection ‘Maong Tagalog’, Tesoros is going strong with their commitment to promote local artisans and heritage crafts. But more than that, as they raised some eyebrows and piqued some interest with their denim tunics, shawls, hats, tsinelas and fans—all of which, usually comprised of traditional textiles—they are out to prove that heritage crafts can be hip, hot and cool.


Beng Tesoro welcomes eager buyers


“It’s not easy to market and convince Filipinos that the best things are really what is Filipino.”, says Maria Isabel “Beng” Tesoro, Group CEO of Tesoros, who assumed the helm of the Filipino treasures retail house after her parents. Mass produced items and foreign imports tend to dominate the retail demand; and while there’s good reason for that, admits Beng, our homegrown wares are more than typical consumables. “We have our heritage, and you know what, that’s part of our history. And history informs identity.”

In its rich 73-year history, Tesoros has championed the retail of traditional crafts since its inception, with iconic locations in Mabini and Intramuros. Yet, for the longest time, aloof buyers have associated the brand as ‘the shop my lola went to’, a claim that occasionally frustrated Beng: “My heart would break, because I knew we had great stuff! So I said, the only way is we have to aggressively push it, and the only way we can is to innovate.”



And what an innovation ‘Maong Tagalog’ is. In some sense, it does align itself with the greatest, global fashion movement at the moment, that of the growing influence of street style and pop-culture. But at the same time, it also feeds the surge of interest in locally-made goods—another big trend we’ve eyed and predicted for 2018. The choice of material, denim, is also not accidental; but a calculated, gut-feel trend forecast.

Denim is all the rage in 2018, comments Monchet Olives, the fan man of Monchet Y Compania, who also helped conceptualize the capsule collection. “You know, denim is actually a very social fabric”, he points out in his speech. “It cuts across all demographics, and it’s a staple in everybody’s wardrobe. The new dispensation brought to fore the rugged style of jean-on-jean, which I think is chic. It’s done well, and it must be done by Tesoros.”  


Monchet Olives talks about the denim trend 


Is ‘Maong Tagalog’ then an attempt to lure in the younger generations to handicrafts? At this, Beng laughs; while it is perhaps true, it’s also not the full story. “We decided thankfully to professionalize with younger people, to reinvent and reboot Tesoros. It’s still Filipino, but it’s young—it’s hip. In fact, you might say it’s a little risqué. Why not?”, she challenges delightfully.

Whatever it takes to keep the spirit of Filipino heritage, there’s nothing Beng won’t give a go. Nothing is too traditional, nor too hip for Tesoros’ innovation. “As long as Filipinos are creative, artistic and can maintain their quality to deliver, there will always be Tesoros. There is no end in sight.”




For more updates, follow @tesoroshandicrafts