FILIPINO DESIGNER RAJO LAUREL CRAFTS COUTURE WITH COMPASSION

BY RHIANNA JONES

Though 2020 truly put the fashion industry to the test, some designers rose to the challenge, getting creative and welcoming their clientele into a community of care. Filipino wunderkind Rajo Laurel is one of these aesthetic angels, designing to inspire through his three lines: Rajo!, luxury womenswear; Rajito, children’s party wear; and RajoMan, elevated menswear. He sees his collections as “windows for special memories,” and this year those windows envisioned a brighter and more beautiful tomorrow.

Famed for his exquisite eye for elegance, romance, and luxury, Laurel’s designs juxtapose hard and soft elements with Asian influences while maintaining a global appeal. From brocade gowns with matching capes to pleated tops billowing over sculptural modern pants, the mission is always to give couture a ready-to-wear accessibility. He honed his worldliness at NYC’s Fashion Institute of Technology and London’s prestigious Central Saint Martins, but rather than building abroad he brought his foreign training back home to Manila, where he’s established his brand for over 20 years. Laurel became a local celebrity as a permanent judge on four seasons of Project Runway Philippines, sharing his wisdom with the next generation of Filipino fashion talent.

Don’t let the celebrity fool you; humility is just as interwoven into Laurel’s ethos as haute couture through various charitable and community oriented avenues. An advocate of shopping local and supporting small, his #filipinofashionfriday initiative invites his many fans to celebrate their favorite Filipino designers as he shares his spotlight with other local artists. His company swiftly transformed its factory to fashion for the frontlines, donating thousands of PPE suits, and encouraging masking à la mode with custom masks saying, “Underneath I am smiling.” His frequent “Give Back” sales benefitting local charities also encourage a message of community before consumption. In Laurel’s world, “There’s a sense of fearlessness in terms of creativity, a sense that everything is possible. No walls; we’re there to dream, create, perform.” The future is full of walls and obstacles, but as Laurel proves, staying grounded, gracious, and glamorous is an armor on its own.

 

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