Farewell, Pitoy (25 February 1930- 15 January 2018)

  • January 15, 2018

Lifestyle Asia Editor in Chief Anna Isabel C. Sobrepeña bids farewell to fashion icon, Fashion tzar of Asia Pitoy Moreno (25 February 1930-January 15 2018). 

Margie Moran-Floirendo went to Pitoy Moreno for special occasions.  She modeled for him and, thereafter, would come to the prominent fashion designer for special clothes, particularly the Filipina dress. “His terno fit beautifully,” says the former Miss Universe. Pitoy was Jose Moreno, known as the fashion czar of Asia. He was on the forefront of promoting formal Philippine national dress and used local fabric extensively. Pitoy was the designer of choice for many of the country’s prominent women.

An international roster of high profile women had his couture designs in their wardrobe including Queen Sirikit, Princess Margaret of Britain, Cristina Ford, Queen Sophia of Greece and First Ladies of the Philippines. Men would go to him for their custom barong tagalog, the embroidered formal men’s shirt that is the counterpart of the women’s Philippine national dress. I recall a short exchange with him at a dinner some years back. The embroidery of an old barong had been cut out and applied to new jusi fabric and was reincarnated into a comntemporary short sleeve shirt.

A Frat Man

I would hear Pitoy’s name from my mother, who belonged to the University of the Philippines sorority, the Sigma Delta Phi. Their brother fraternity is the Upsilon, of which Pitoy was a member. Pitoy became popular with the sorority sisters, for whom he would sketch designs and make clothes for. His talent for making clothes was apparent even then.

His love for fashion and design became a career and he went on to become the designer of society women. Among his clientele was Imelda Ongsiako-Cojuangco, who was among his favorite people. He was inspired to make clothes for Mrs. Cojuangco at every turn. She wore his designs with elan and quiet elegance, and considered him a friend.

Costume Designer, Too

Pitoy was patronized by generations. The children of his clients became his clients.  The grandchildren would also have their prom dresses made by him. He was an icon in the fashion industry.

Pitoy’s advocacy for Philippine fashion found further expression as the costume designer of the Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company. The dance troop traveled the world and performed in clothes made by Pitoy Moreno. His Filipiniana also received international exposure when the Karigalan’s high society women, under Conching Sunico, modeled abroad wearing Philippine fashion designed by the Philippine Couturier Association, of which Pitoy Moreno was a member, together with a few others like Ben Farrales and Aureo Alonso, also prominent Philippine designers.

Boy from Tondo

A few years ago, Lifestyle Asia published a tribute to Pitoy, written by Arlu Gomez, son of Dandy Gomez who had clothes made by Pitoy. Pitoy was already mostly keeping to his bed, debilitated by his failing health. Arlu was able to interview Pitoy’s sister, poetess Virginia Moreno who shared about “how a boy from Gagalangin, Tondo grew to be a man whose fashion creations earned the admiration of the rich and powerful the world over. Entering her brother’s atelier, Virgie stops by an antique birdcage with ceramic ornaments. It reminds her of their childhood spent in the house along Juan Luna Street in Gagalangin. The Morenos trace their roots to Sevilla, Spain, where the family was involved in the maritime business. Their father, Jose Moreno Sr., was a Captain and was oftentimes away from the family at sea, leaving Pitoy and his Ate with their mother, Felicidad, who ran a successful rice trading business.” (LifestyleAsia, September 2012)

Virgie walked Arlu through the atelier where Pitoy’s seamstresses were still sewing, by then for his nephew Jaime Carlos Cruz. The atelier revealed Pitoy’s love for art, owning an extensive collection of Philippine paintings. There were several statues that intimated his religiosity, which Virgie confirmed.

Farewell to a Friend

Pitoy published two books, one on Filipino weddings entitled Kasalan. The other coffee table book was Philippine Costume on traditional Filipina dress.

His demise is a cause of great sadness for those who knew him intimately.  His close circle of friends are distraught by the news despite knowing of his deteriorating health. He had been confined at the Manila Doctors Hospital for the last four years and a month before expiring today in the early afternoon.

By Anna Isabel C. Sobrepeña