Yearning for Old-World Elan
By Walter Ang
Metro Him Magazine
"My favorite piece of clothing is my plain black Bench t-shirt," states DJ Montano in his paced, genteel manner. "It's so versatile. I can dress it up with a jacket or pair it with jeans for a casual look."
DJ credits grandmother, Virginia, for fostering his ability to mix and match. "She was a politician's wife and she was always so elegant. At our home, there was always a constant stream of visitors calling on my grandfather, former Cavite governor Delfino ? the "D" in DJ. As such, she was very particular about what we wore and how we behaved. My sense of style is greatly influenced by her."
Born into a family dedicated to public service (great grandfather, Justiano ? the "J" in DJ, was a senator), DJ's upbringing was steeped in propriety, etiquette and graciousness. It appropriately led to his calling as one of Manila's most happening restaurateurs.
Having had trained in Le Roches in Switzerland, when it comes to style and fashion, he's seen it all. "When I was studying, I traveled throughout Europe. I was exposed to so many different ways of dressing up. I could spend an entire afternoon in a Paris café just looking at what people were wearing. The street was their catwalk. The Europeans have a style that has a certain flair, a je ne sais quoi that I like."
Upon his return to Manila, DJ promptly gave birth to three of the most popular dining venues of the metropolis in the early 2000s. His international verve was clearly infused into Indian-cuisine restaurant Raj and Asian-cuisine restaurant Courtyard. Interestingly enough, it was a passion for water that inspired DJ to create one of the hottest places to be at during those years: the revolutionary chill-out lounge Acquario.
Fearless in pursuit of originality in both work and fashion, DJ's pet peeves are people who look like they replicated everything from a fashion magazine print ad down to the last detail. "Copying is fine, but you have to turn it into something that's your own. I myself am always inspired by film noir, the classics."
The nostalgia for a bygone era is grounded in fond memories of his grandfather. "He would always look so dignified in cream linen suits with a hat. Oh, if we could only bring back the stylish days of old Manila." This seminal yearning is probably the reason why, despite being on the forefront of the "it" scene, an old-world panache seems to organically envelope him.
Don't get him wrong though. Staid and antiquated is something he's definitely not. "I consider my style very, very eccentric. I'd wear an all black ensemble with a pair of snakeskin loafers." He points out, however, that while clothes make the man, how the man wears the clothes makes all the difference. "You have to carry yourself and your clothes appropriately. Attitude is important."
The delicate balance he achieves with his clothes carry over into his work as well. As a columnist for a national broadsheet and occasional stylist for Metro Him, DJ makes sure he finds the time to serve in his family's foundation that provides education for indigent students in Cavite. With regular visits to Boracay to get some downtime, DJ is currently cooking up a new dining establishment slated to open by the end of the year.