Rajo was first exposed to the idea of fashion in the form of his grandmother’s personal seamstress. During those times, it was the norm to have one live among your household, the convenience of whipping up outfits for every occasion under one’s very own roof; and Rajo grew up watching his lola and her seamstress discuss fabric, length, and design to the most minute detail. He surmises his first piece was a collaborative effort with Manang Charing, resulting from suggestions at what he thought would improve on his grandmother’s dress. At the age of eleven, he knew that fashion had its hooks sunk deep within him. He would go on to design many other dresses for his grandmother, for his friends during prom season, each transaction confirming his resolve to clothe people in outfits that made them feel their best self.
It would not be a straightforward road into the industry, however, as with everyone that goes through their pre-adult insecurities, Rajo Laurel, before he became Rajo of House of Laurel, could not begin to imagine himself making an important impression in fashion. He kept the desire of creating clothes at bay and instead pursued a degree in Business.
But his conviction at working in fashion strengthened, and after he received training in New York and London, he began designing everything between ready-to-wear, to classic pieces, to debutant gowns, to wedding dresses. Among his memorable designs are those he created for his siblings’ weddings; but he will always relish the first and last dresses he made for his grandmother, her practical approach to clothing the very vehicle that led him toward the relationship he has cultivated with fashion.
Being a fashion designer in a country that has started importing fast fashion clothing from bigger companies, Rajo admits that working against foreign giants is a daunting task. But he believes in Filipino ingenuity. With the lack of our own fabric industry, local fashion still takes off and gains recognition. To Rajo, one of his best achievements is being part of Rags2Riches, an eco-friendly, ethical line of upcycled handbags and home interiors which was created to give livelihood to local artisans. These projects ring true with his desire to uplift our country as worthy of dominating a global fashion industry.
Now twenty-three years into the business, he asserts that he does not create just clothing, but something more of an armor, something that elicits joy in the wearer, that plays up the strengths and shields the insecurities. This is the personal touch that large-scale productions cannot even begin to capture. In every piece of clothing he creates, he hopes to have the wearer realize the beauty they always have had to begin with. With all these years of experience under his belt, he finds that editing one’s aesthetic is a continuous process, his designs leaning more and more toward minimalism, the desire now to create simple yet timeless pieces, something to utilize in countless pairings, something that the owner would be proud to wear over and over.
Text – Jenette N. Vizcocho
Videography – Cris Legaspi and M Espeña
Interview – Jenette N. Vizcocho and Dane Raymundo
Editing- M Espeña
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