By JOHN ROLAND LEGASPI
Portrait by NOEL PABALATE
One of the most notable fashion designers in the Philippines, Rajo Laurel has shown tenacity and a brave heart in creating pieces that shape the new Filipina perspective. Mixing innovation with the classic, a little humor, and a never-ending pursuit of discovering something that honors the past are some of the creeds the fashion designer upholds to this day.
Nestled in Poblacion, Makati City, the House of Laurel is a chic, modern institution painted in a spectrum of colors through his wonderful creations. Like the fashion icon, the house is a chameleon, as with the birth of every collection, the floor setup also changes.
Fresh from Hawaii, Rajo sits with us to share his vision as he launches his spring/summer collection for 2019. He redefines his brand, this time by looking back on his beginnings.
As he celebrates his 25th year in the industry, Rajo pays homage to his early creations and brings them to the now. This is why his 1990 collection for spring/ summer 2019 collection, succinctly called 1990, is a celebration of colors and textures reminiscent of the ‘90s style.
“You tend to become more nostalgic over where you started or how far you’ve come on your journey,” says Rajo, “And when I was doing my research, I brought out all of my kept sketchbooks from the beginning of my career to do this. I was reviewing all of my sketchpads starting from 1998. And I told myself, you know, what if I redid all of these clothes and all of those ideas I have in my head or in paper and bring them forward to now.”
It’s the ultimate throwback for the fashion house. But without the feistiness and the hunger for advancement in the ’90s, he steered the collection to a more minimalist direction. “I wanted to reprogram the ethics and the mindset of the ‘90s with very streamlined, almost surgical silhouettes,” beams Rajo, “Still, we added a little bit of nuance, rather, with the flounce, and from there we experimented.”
Racks of pieces like dainty dresses in eyelet fabrics, electric pleats forming elaborate silhouettes, easy tops in linen, and cocoon-like dresses with luminescent crushed organza that glows in the light fill the house with a chill resort cabana vibe.
Rajo says, “It being a summer collection, we wanted something that is pure-pure, not really synthetic. So, there is going to be linen. There is going to be silk. And there is this beautiful crushed organza that gives this lovely texture.”
As always, in producing a collection, it is the storytelling that is most important to Rajo. But it is also the way he looks at technique and how he handles every curb he encounters along the creative journey.
“I don’t see hurdles as a bad thing, necessarily. In terms of creation, in terms of creativity, I encourage mistakes,” says Rajo. “I encourage the process of making something and the outcome, perhaps, not exactly what you have in mind, sometimes it’s better.”
For the 1990 collection, he wanted to exemplify the “technique that, in a sense, is a lot of minimalist details in the dress,” looking at the fashion movement as more of an attitude than a craft.
Looking back or looking forward, Rajo has a lot to celebrate. The designer is currently at the culmination of a documentary he is filming for his silver anniversary. He is also conceptualizing a new cruise collection, launching his Hello Kitty line in Takashimaya, and penning his own book.
“Always happiness, always joy, always a sense of excitement,” muses Rajo of the feelings he wants his pieces to generate. “We try very hard to please our clients. We don’t stop until we get that smile on their faces.”
The 1990 collection is a fusion of the summer vibes of the ‘90s wrapped in a study of restraint and simplicity. Whether getting a tan, on a quick escape in an exotic resort or, as the designer prefers, on long afternoons by the beach drinking coconut juice, every piece of the 1990 collection gets you in the right mood for the sunnier days ahead. Its carefree quality and a timeless aesthetic make you long for those days in the sun and prompt you to create happier, shiny adventures to look back on in the future.
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