The Perfect Fit

(The Philippine Star) - September 12, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Rajo Laurel isn’t one to rest on his laurels. And even with a growing fashion empire that is extending its reach, the renowned, multi-awarded designer remains humble and even more driven.

After more than two decades in the business, Rajo has proven his longevity as a designer; but what he aspires for is to build a legacy, turning his name into a brand that will live beyond him.

Keeping up in an industry that moves at lightning speed, Rajo shares the reality of what it takes to be on top. “It’s a race. You can’t afford to slack off. You can’t rest. You have to be constantly on your toes, and be in the know of what’s in and what’s now. Otherwise, you fall behind. You have to reinvent and grow as well. But while you evolve, you must be able to remain authentic to who you are,” explains Rajo, who further honed his craft at the New York Fashion Institute of Technology and Central Saint Martin’s in London.

His impeccable eye for detail has made Rajo one of the country’s most celebrated designers today. From reigning queens and rising stars to even society’s most powerful political players, Rajo has styled them all. To wear a gown by Rajo is to acknowledge the artistry of thoughtful design and exquisite workmanship.

But his name is not one simply favored in the exclusive fashion circles or society’s elite. Rajo has endeared many, most especially the fresh crop of young designers who look up to him in awe and inspiration.

For the past seasons of Project Runway Philippines, Rajo has graciously lent his wisdom as a mentor. But even beyond the runway, Rajo has offered a guiding hand. Rajo was pivotal to the success of Rags2Riches, a social enterprise launched by Reese Fernandez-Ruiz that has transformed the lives of hundreds of underprivileged women. “I do what I can to uplift the Filipino. My business is not only about dressing them up, but empowering them,” he shares.

But what sets this humble, soft-spoken designer apart from his peers is his steely determination to be better, to grow stronger, and dream bigger. While others are content with having a stable, loyal clientele, Rajo has gone beyond the comforts of couture (where he first started), and has successfully grown his brand to include ready-to-wear and corporate uniforms for hotels, restaurants and casinos.  

But he has even grander dreams. “The ultimate goal is to go global, to become an international brand,” he beams. “We’ve taken baby steps to do that. Our pace may be slow, but it’s sure-footed. The plan is to slowly put up the brand regionally, then reach out to Southeast Asia. And we hope that in 10 years, we’ll be able to establish presence in North America and Europe,” he shares with eyes gleaming.

But as his brand widens its reach, extending its shade, Rajo’s roots grow deeper as a designer, grounding his success in gratitude and humility.

To sustain his passion and to keep a fresh perspective, Rajo never forgets to set aside time in solitude to re-energize. “It doesn’t have to be abroad, but I try to travel every three to four weeks,” he reveals, touched by wanderlust. “I like exploring and travelling, enjoying the adventure of seeking the unknown. But I also appreciate sitting still and staying put. It is in being still that you can reflect and enjoy the power of pause.” His work has taken him to the most exotic, thrilling corners of the world, but the Philippines will always be home.

“I believe that with every creative endeavour, you need to have a place where you can stop, pause and reflect.  As much as you want to work nonstop, you can’t, or else you’ll exhaust yourself. It’s like breathing. You need to both inhale and exhale, in order to be more effective. You can’t keep exhaling and expect something good to come out of it,” shares Rajo on the necessity of rest.

And his place of rest, his home base of over 15 years, is Rockwell. Rajo was one of the first residents of the community, and his boutique in Power Plant Mall will be celebrating its first anniversary. “I love it here. It’s literally just a walk to work!” he laughs. “What I love about Rockwell is that it has essentially created and designed a well-thought out community that meets my checklist for a hassle-free life. I already have so much on my plate now, and so I truly appreciate the convenience that Rockwell offers,” adds Rajo. 

Renowned couturier, creative visionary and well-rounded entrepreneur, Rajo Laurel has, indeed, designed a beautiful life, one that is tailor-fit to accommodate his growing dreams. 

Photography by RITA MARIE • Creative direction and overall styling by Luis Espiritu Jr. • Grooming by PIA REYES • Hairstyling by DAVE LOPEZ

• Associate styling by TARA SUBALDO • Shot on location at ARUGA

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