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EXCLUSIVE: Designer Mak Tumang Shares How Intricately Created Catriona Gray's Ibong Adarna-Inspired Dress Was!

As the Miss Universe 2018 prelimenary competition takes place, everyone couldn't stop talking about the Philippines' bet—singer, model, and beauty queen Catriona Gray.

The 24-year-old landed international headlines this week as she stunned the crowd in an intricate national costume that represented the Philippines' 3 major islands. She also captivated the judges (and the entire Internet community) with her signature slow motion turn (also known as the 'lava walk') during the swimsuit segment. To top it all off, she sashayed on the stage in a jaw-dropping Ibong Adarna-inspired evening dress that went viral on social media overnight. Embellished with thousands of Swarovski crystals, together with layers of feather-like gold thread embroidery, the Mak Tumang creation fit the beauty queen like a glove.


IBONG ADARNA ?????? The Blazing Siren by @maktumang My preliminary gown was inspired by the 'Ibong Adarna': a prominent Filipino folklore that is a mythologicalnous bird. Story goes, the Ibong Adarna's enchanting voice can enable complete healing to anyone who hears it. Some artists liken it to the mythological Phoenix where it recurrently regenerates itself by arising amidst a spectacle of flames and candescence. This makes it a fitting symbol of resilience, rising and rebirth. ?????? My earrings were designed by me and executed by @tesserajewelry as another ode to the Philippines with the Philippine sun and golden South sea pearls, our national gem. ???? Thank you to @maktumang for his amazing craftsmanship and exquisite execution of this gown, to @justine.aliman19 and @ton_lao for styling in @bragaisjojo heels and @tesserajewelry. Thank you to mamang @hairbybrentsales and @jellyeugenio for teaching me to slay my hair and makeup! And to @carlosbuendiajr, the man behind my walk ?? I love you all!!!

A post shared by Catriona Gray (@catriona_gray) on


"It was destiny," shared the designer when he found out he would be creating gowns for the country's representative. "Working with a passionate queen is very challenging—you need to understand and immerse yourself in her vison. But the challenge brings out the creativity and artistry [in you] as a designer."

In an exclusive interview with Metro.Style, Mak gave us the lowdown on everything you need to know about the fiery dress that everybody couldn't get over with. Scroll ahead!


1.  The prelimenary dress is named 'ADARNA: The Blazing Siren'—and was designed in March, four days after Catriona's finals gown was born.

The concept of the prelimenary evening dress was conceived on March 30, four days after Mak sketched the queen's gown for the finals. "We took it step by step, from the research to the [execution of] the actual gown."

Mak explained that several prototypes were created before they began working on the actual dress. "We experimented with a lot of materials and techniques, [and went through] numerous editing and revisons before [beginning] the fastidious process of executing it." 

Photo: Mak Tumang


2. Catriona's prelimenary gown was inspired by the popular Filipino literary piece, Ibong Adarna...

The pieces Mak created for Catriona were inspired by Philippine arts, culture, and literature. As aforementioned, the beauty queen's prelimenary dress was influenced by the Ibong Adarna—a 16th-century Filipino epic poem about a magical bird whose voice can bring healing to anyone who hears it. "[It's] a fitting symbol of resilience, rising, and rebirth," the designer quipped, adding that ""Catriona has a resilient, tenacious, and unwavering spirit."

Mak underscores that just like the Ibong Adarna, the singer and beauty queen has a voice that is truly captivating—literally and figuratively. "She uses it to influence and advance her timely causes. [Her voice] both melts and heals hearts. Her willpower and burning passion make every Filipino proud—she is the blazing Adarna! Watch her rise in glory along with our hopes and dreams for our beloved country."



ADARNA: The Blazing Siren The 'Ibong Adarna' is a mythological pulchritudinous bird that could change in several fascinating guises. Its enchanting voice can enable complete healing to anyone who hears it. Some artists liken it to the mythological Phoenix where it recurrently regenerates itself by arising amidst a spectacle of flames and candescence. This makes it a fitting symbol of resilience, rising and rebirth. Catriona has a resilient, tenacious and unwavering spirit. Her voice is truly captivating literally and figuratively. She uses it to influence, advance her timely causes and both melt and heal hearts. Her will-power and burning passion drive her to make every Filipino proud in whatever she does. She is the blazing Adarna! Watch her rise in glory along with our hopes and dreams for our beloved country: the Philippines! Inspired from the Philippine Adarna Bird, Phoenix & Mikimoto Crown #MissUniverse2018 #Philippines #PreliminaryGown

A post shared by Mak Tumang (@maktumang) on



3. ..and it was also inspired by the Mikimoto crown.

Aside from the magical bird, the dress was also inspired by the famous Mikimoto Phoenix Crown—a diamond-and-pearl-embedded worn by Miss Universe title holders. Just like the dress, the concept of the iconic crown was also derived from a mythological bird—the phoenix, which is known for regenerating and obtaining new life by arising from ashes. 



A moment that will be remembered forever. ?? . . Who will take home the 2018 crown? ??

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The designer's moodboard for Catriona's prelimenary outfit

Photo: Mak Tumang


4. Aside from the Ibong Adarna, Mak and Catriona also worked on other concepts for the prelimenary gown. These included Pearl of the Orient, Bandila, and Warrior.

During the planning stage, Mak created a total of seven concepts and shortlisted three beforing bringing them into life. "I first presented the Finals gown (which has yet to be revealed). Then, I showed the Prelimenary gown, which is the Ibong Adarna concept. Catriona then presented her ideas, and asked me to develop her concepts—Warrior and Pearl of the Orient. I then created other options like the Las Islas Filipinas, Region Del Sol, and Bandila." 

The dress that didn't make it! This is the sketch of Bandila, another option for Catriona's prelimenary gown.

Photo: Mak Tumang


5. Sourcing for the gowns' materials was their greatest challenge.

Mak revealed that material sourcing was their greatest challenge in executing all the concepts. "They are not readily available locally and other requirements are very difficult to execute."

Photo: Mak Tumang

Photo: Mak Tumang

Photo: Mak Tumang

6. Catriona's gown for the Miss Universe finals was sketched as early as March 26, 2018.

Yes, the finals gown was designed before the prelimenary dress! According to the designer, the initial concept for the finals gown was imagined and sketched on paper a week after the Binibining Pilipinas coronation. He also secretly executed the concept before showing it to Catriona. "I couldn't contain my excitement when I presented it to her. She loooooved it, and said it was love at first sight!"


7. After the Miss Universe pageant, what is next for Filipino couturier Mak Tumang?

"There will always be something new to learn and create for someone who is passionate about what the Universe has to offer," the designer answered when we asked him what exciting things come his way after the pageant concludes this December 17. "Perhaps one of those is to showcase the rich heritage and culture of the Philippines through the clothes I create. Should the universe conspire, I would be able to share [my art] to the world."

Photo: Mak Tumang


Congratulations, Mak Tumang, for your beautifully executed creations—and best of luck to our queen Catriona Gray!

For more photos of the making of the iconic dress, swipe through this gallery.