Three decades later, Rajo Laurel continues to change his own fashion narrative through focus, openness, and retrospect
This is an excerpt from MEGA’s September 2023 Main Fashion
Rajo Laurel’s epiphany happened on the stage of Repertoire Philippines, during a time when, as a young actor, he became part of the play The King and I. There, he fell in love with the costumes and the very power of transformation.
Like anybody trying to find his identity in terms of his craft, Laurel went through a long creative process before he was able to understand what he resonated with. He needed time, education, and experience to do it. He then realized that design in itself was a strong means of expression where he was able to find the narratives he responded to.
“My design ideology has always been about empowerment and beauty in a sense of ease,” the designer says. “I always like to create clothes that will not overpower my clients. Yet, they create a statement that is natural, effortless, and authentic.”
The dualities and tension expressed in opposite emotions and ideologies also draw Laurel in. With a narrative in mind, he begins working on his creation. He asks himself, “What particular woman lives in that story?” In his Chrysalis collection, he explores the idea of a caterpillar undergoing metamorphosis. This reflects Laurel’s current state of mind: retrospective, experimental, and a state where he wants to truly see what’s going to happen next.
“Essentially, I realized that not all dreams are meant to be and that you are actually diverted into another path, which is better for you,” Laurel shares.”That, in the beginning of my career, was hard to understand because I had big goals and dreams of making it internationally. In a way, I’m glad it directed me to where I am now—to concentrate more on the Philippines, where I made it most.”
According to the veteran designer, the hard truth is that people have to understand that fashion is a business. Foundation is crucial and the reality of inventory, utilities, and rent have to be considered. Knowing one’s craft is also more than just the hype and things seen on social media.
It’s about honing and practicing, about getting down and dirty into actually creating clothes. But above all, Laurel urges young designers to enjoy the process and the freedom that comes with it.
Creative Direction JONES PALTENG. Fashion Direction KAT CRUZ-VILLANUEVA and RYUJI SHIOMITSU. Beauty Direction MIA CASTRO. Photography ANDREI SULEIK. Makeup JR CONSTANTINO. Hair RAYMART ESPINA. Model NIKKI DE MOURA. Shot on location SEFRIYA FARM AND ORCHARD. Sittings Editor BAM ABELLON. Fashion Writer MARIAN SAN PEDRO. Production and Styling BITHIA REYES. Special thanks to RON BERNABE of SEFRIYA FARM AND ORCHARD, and HARLEY TAN of ONE MODELS.