Rajo Laurel: 1 on 1 interview

Rajo Laurel
Rajo Laurel

Interview by Jenie Chan

He has designed a dress in five seconds. At age eleven, he knew that fashion would be a very important part of his life. Premier fashion designer Rajo Laurel talks about his influences, his work, his advocacy and how he would love to dress up Forevermore star Liza Soberano and see Senator Miriam Santiago on the ramp.

At ten in the morning, Rajo has already met a couple of his clients. In the midst of a busy work schedule, he graciously agreed to do an interview at his well appointed atelier in Makati. He was eloquent and spoke sincerely from the heart.  It was after all for an event of Bantay Bata 163 , an advocacy he has actively supported for years.

Rajo has been a member of Bantay Bata’s  Board of Advocates since 2010. A constant benefactor, he has supported many of BB163’s fundraisers to help sustain its many projects and services. This year, he lends his time, talent and yes, his collection of beautiful creations to Lola, Mommy and Me, a fashion show cum champagne high tea at the Raffles Fairmont Hotel on May 31st at 3PM.  The event will also include a silent auction of art, jewelry and travel packages among others.

Rajo Laurel
Rajo Laurel


Lola Mommy and Me will feature women celebrities and personalities as they model Rajo’s gowns and dresses. They will share the runway with their children and apos dressed in international brands  F&F, Uniqlo and Malvi and Co. Accessories will provided by Oilily.

Rajo gives us a glimpse of his life and a career in fashion that spans for more than two decades.

Take us back to the time you discovered your love for fashion.

I knew particularly that this is the world I wanted to be at 11. I was always stealing the Barbie dolls of my sisters and changing their clothes.  My journey into fashion started when I began to design clothes for their dolls.

Who are your influences? Name three designers you admire and why.

I’m highly influenced by my family.  My grandmother, Beatrice Laurel, was a very instrumental force in my creative journey. The three designers that I admire are Valentino, Cristobal Balenciaga and Azzedine Alaia. Each of these designers brings forth to the creative table a particular aesthetic that I admire. Valentino for his romance, Balenciaga for his architectural shapes, and Azzedine Alaia for his love of women.  All of these things constitute and embody a certain philosophy that I respect and adhere to.

Name the characteristics of a Rajo creation.

The characteristics that would best embody a Rajo Laurel creation would be its timelessness, its reference to luxury and its adherence to romance. Timelessness, romanticism, and luxury. When I design, I always think of those words.

Is there a person you have always dreamed of designing for?

Absolutely. I would love to have an opportunity to design for Cate Blanchett. I really admire her as an actress. I also would love to dress up Tilda Swinton, another fantastic actress.  In the local scene, it would be Liza Soberano. I admire her beauty.  I see her on TV but I haven’t really met her and perhaps, one day, I’d get the chance to dress her up.

Have you ever refused a client? Why?

Yes, I have refused client. I have learned that in life, you can’t please everyone, and you shouldn’t because no one will end up winning in that situation. So once you realize it’s not a perfect match, you just sort of agree to disagree and say, “Thank you very much for this opportunity and perhaps, another person can be better off designing for you”.

Do you ask other designers to design your own clothes?

I am a very big fan of Joey Samson.  Although I’m very simple when I dress up, I just wear jeans and t-shirts almost every day. But given the chance, I’d love to have some clothes made by Gian Romano.

Is there a color which you will never use on a dress?

There is no color I would not use. I love color and I feel that at least, at one point, I’ll try every color in the rainbow at least once. Color means so much to me. By refusing color into your life, it’s like refusing particular taste. It’s the same thing as like, is there something you would not eat ? I would at least try it once to find out whether I like it or not.

Least number of time it took you to design a dress.

Five seconds  (laughs)! I was able to do a wedding dress for my friend Sarah Myer.  Because I know her, I knew exactly what she should be wearing on her wedding. And the longest time? Maybe three to four days? It was for a corporation and I was doing their uniforms. That needed a lot more thought because its several people and I had to adhere to the philosophy of their company, their vision, and think of functionality because people  will wear this everyday… so it’s not just a one occasion thing.

You are part of Lola, Mommy and Me fashion show.  What should and shouldn’t a Lola wear?

That’s very hard to answer because there are different kinds of lola. There are conservative lolas, there are trendy lolas, there are lolas who are a little bit adventurous. I think it’s a matter of appropriateness. I think lolas should always think about what is appropriate for a particular event and adhere to that sense of appropriateness.  And what would look good on any lola ?  Black (laughs) or dark colors.  Ke payat ka, ke mataba ka, ke maliit ka, ke pandak ka, ke matangkad ka. That’s why I’m always in black .

Your creations will be modeled by popular lolas and moms. Who are the women you would love to see on the ramp wearing your dresses ? Let’s start with Lolas …

Oh, my goodness. I don’t even know if she’s a lola. Senator Miriam Santiago. I admire her.  I would have loved to see my grandmother Beatrice Laurel walk down the ramp, sadly, she passed away. My other grandmother Lorna Laurel is so elegant ,  she’d be a lovely person to walk down the ramp as well. And Moms ? Three moms that I would love to see walk down the ramp because I know they will do very well are Lucy Torres Gomez,  Senator Grace Poe and Tina Maristela-Ocampo.

What made you decide to be involved with Bantay Bata ?

Primarily because I love children. I would like to hope and see that every child would have the opportunity to live and lead healthy lives. Unfortunately, there are circumstances that are not admirable for some children. We have to do our best in order to help in what little way we can so these children become better people in the future. To see children  smile is enough to make your heart full.  And a way to also give thanks to the blessings that you’ve received.

Finally, Bantay Bata recently turned 18.  If she were a lady, describe the dress you would create for her on her debut.

I would design a dress for her that would reflect positivity, change, and goodwill. So that she would become an instrument for other people to be inspired from. Because of this, I want something in white. Something that’s pure. And also with touches of blue because I think blue signifies hope and with lots of crystals. So it’s bedazzling, so people would be attracted and to help the cause more. That’s the dress I would design for her.