Finding A Place For Pineapple (Ind) the Big Apple
Ryan Letada, co-founder of Next Day Better, taking the Pineapple Ind barong to the streets of New York
“Pen pineapple, apple pen…”
You may hate this song or (secretly) like it.
You may hate pineapple chunks in your pizza (or burger) or love it.
Whichever side you choose, one thing is certain: the pineapple seems to be getting attention these days.
In New York, there’s another pineapple that’s making a name in the world of fashion: Pineapple Ind. They take inspiration from the piña, the silken fiber used to create high-quality Philippine barong; while Ind is a shortcut for ‘industries’ which refers to their partners in Laguna where some of the best barong makers and embroiderers in the Philippines can be found. We reached out to Randy Gonzales, its founder, to know more about this brand and how they’re letting the spotlight shine on the Philippine barong.
Four years ago, Gonzales participated in the Philippine Independence Day Parade in New York and wore one his father’s custom-made barongs that were handed down to him. Aside from the fact that it fit him perfectly, he says that he instantly fell in love with everything about it – the embroidery, the quality of the fabric, etc. Sadly, these barongs were too old and brittle that he accidentally ripped them off after the first use.
Founder Randy Gonzales just before his old barong got ripped apart
“I wanted barongs of my own to be made”, he was sure of it. This prompted him to search for custom barong makers in physical stores in the US and marketplaces online. Sure, there were barong sellers but none of it fit his style and preferences. “At that point, I discovered that the world did not have anyone making barongs the way I wanted them to be made”, he said. This eureka moment triggered the idea of starting Pineapple Ind.
Pineapple Ind wearers are taking it to the streets of NYC
In Gonzales’ words:
“New York City certainly is the place where the best of the best come. Some people say it is the center of the world. So, it feels great to be able to champion the Barong Tagalog because the best barong makers are Filipino and are in the Philippines and nowhere else.”
Gonzales, who was born and raised in Jamaica, Queens, New York City, says: I want to connect Filipino children (like me) who grew up in the US to their culture and to their people. I want to create a community. I want barongs to lead people to other parts of our culture and people. I want the people making my barongs in the Philippines to be able to support themselves, their families and their communities. I want interest and demand for barongs that are HAND MADE IN THE PHILIPPINES to increase.” You can read about his touching letter to our Motherland here.
Partly a product of chance, partly a way to satisfy a want, but with no background in fashion or design (he’s a lawyer by day!), it took him multiple cycles of trial and error to search for the best partners in the Philippines who helped him realize his vision.
Some of their latest designs (L-R): Chrissi, Ricky, and Audrey.
There’s definitely a barong that matches your style.
They’re showing the world what real barongs are made of.
Although his main customers are mostly Filipinos based in the US, Pineapple Ind has been getting inquiries and requests from other countries as well. Gonzales says, “It really surprises me how many messages I get from Filipinos in other countries that love what I am doing with the Barong Tagalog and want to buy my barongs. I get messages from Filipinos in Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and even the Philippines (which really surprises me). It’s all very gratifying and encouraging, which helps me to continue with this venture when things get difficult.”
There have been challenges along the way. Aside from balancing the demand and the culture of having to deal with the way businesses are being done in the US which can be ”fast, rough and unforgiving”, he also has to find ways to be able to communicate effectively with his barong-makers in the Philippines especially since he’s not that fluent with Filipino/ Tagalog. He adds that oftentimes people are surprised with the way they price their products. Although he understands them, he says that he isn’t willing to compromise on quality and authenticity.
A fresh take on the barong by Pineapple Ind’s proud wearer, Sarahlynn, in Washington, DC
So we asked him, what does one get when you order a barong from Pineapple Ind?
First, you can choose a style among their made-to-measure options which are available in their website. Wherever you are in the US (at least for now), Pineapple Ind flies or sends someone to get your measurements. But if you’re feeling fancy, you can request to have a barong from their bespoke collection that’s custom-made for you.
Second, you can be sure that your barong is embroidered and ‘hand made in the Philippines’ by artisans in Laguna who have been doing this for generations.
Third, guys get a complimentary camisa de chino that goes perfectly well as an undershirt to their barong. You get a garment bag to carry and protect your barong and yes, you don’t need to pay for shipping because it’s all part of the package!
Pineapple Ind’s line of Barong Tagalog, prices and other information may be found at their website. Their barongs may be purchased via credit card.
Bringing sexy back with the Philippine barong
”I have reimagined the fit of the Barong Tagalog for men. I have repurposed the Barong Tagalog for women. I’m trying to change how the barong is worn, seen and thought about.”
– Randy Gonzales, founder (Pineapple Ind)
Gonzales shares, “The Barong Tagalog just may be the most underappreciated part of Filipino culture. I wish Filipinos cared more about the Barong Tagalog. It is our national garment, and it was created by our own people. We have a lot to be proud of. The history, technology and craftsmanship of the barong and how it is made is unique, resourceful, innovative and beautiful. I want to make the barong accessible to everyone – men, women, everyone in between, Filipinos and also Non-Filipinos. It is my goal to have every Filipino person own at least one barong.”
Love (for country) in all angles
What if the 100+ million Filipinos (and non-Filipinos) started owning a barong? Surely, this Pineapple will not be just another fad or viral post. And it’s not just about Independence Day celebrations or weddings anymore. It’s about time that our generation gets re-acquainted with it, fall in love with the craft, wear it with pride, and find ways to make it last.
All photos courtesy of: Pineapple Ind