Just recently, I came across this video of Anna Wintour being interviewed as she went through the daily motion of run throughs at the Vogue HQ. One thing that caught my attention was when asked what one fashion word everyone should stop using, she replied (or wrote, rather) “journey.”
Now, as much as I adore Anna, I’d have to let this one word pass. As a former design student, I feel that “journeys” play an integral part in learning and finding your muse. You always have to go out on adventures, big or small, to find something new to bring to the table. Case in point, Rajo Laurel, one of the most distinguished designers locally, recently launched his latest collection for the holidays, De Chine. This of course, was inspired by a journey to China, nonetheless.
We caught Rajo a day before he embarked on another journey (to Indonesia) and asked him what he picked up from his recent travels and how fast word can travel via the mouth.
Click to the gallery to see his latest collection.
So tell us, what do you find most beautiful about Asian women?
The most attractive quality about Asian women, apart from their luminous skin, is their absolute grace. There is this effortless grace about Asian women that makes them quite alluring and mystifying.
We know for a fact that “journeys” are of great importance to designers as it helps keep the creative juices flowing. Any interesting journeys lately?
Creative people have various creative procedures as to how and where they lead to. In my case, there is always a story. I begin each collection with a story in my head. And from there, I see it unfold until it becomes complete. De Chine began when my team and I were working in China. While we were doing our work, I asked myself, wouldn't it be too obvious if we do a collection about China? I mean we’re always here and we’re always surrounded by all these arresting experiences both challenging and amazing.
So, we began with that idea. I also wanted to explore the idea of the '40s and my muse as a woman from that time period. But like all energies and ideas these evolve into its own creation and what we have now is something in my mind, quite covetable and desirable.
How does travelling play its role in your career?
Travelling is integral for me as this is my escape. I need to escape because I’m often over loaded with creative output. I don't want to feel burnt out, so I take the time to get out just to breathe. You must realize the importance and the power of taking a "pause". I use this time to purify, cleanse and recharge. It is the time when I begin to dream again.
Trade relations between the Philippines and China date back to ancient times. Any trade secrets you’ve picked up from your travels?
Trade secrets will remain as secrets otherwise they lose their importance and power.
You’ve been in the industry for so long, where do you get your staying power?
I get my staying power from the fact that I LOVE WHAT I DO. It is not work to me. I find joy in every little aspect of it and therefore, I look forward to doing it every day. I find joy and fun in my work. Therefore, it's always fresh to me.
Not all designers are religious enough when it comes to creating new collections every season. How important is it for you to release new collections and how often?
It is important to create a brand new collection every season because this is how the business works. If you don't have an internal schedule to follow, you lose track of the business and people end up not having a sense of stability. We create the collection for our clients and our client base. It's like you tell someone to stop eating or to stop sleeping. I don't know if that makes sense, but if we don't come out with a new collection, it's like we are not working. [Laughs]
We have three collections per year. Spring/ Summer, Transition or Resort collection, and Holiday. We tailor the collections based on what our clients will be needing and wanting.
Managing two shops, meeting with clients, and building a collection can be quite a handful. How do you balance it all?
I try to manage my time wisely and I am big fan of multitasking. Plus, I really don't do this all by myself. I delegate accordingly. I have a very strong and able team with me. And together, we create goals. Then we happily get to reach those goals as a team.
A number of designers rely heavily on fashion week to market their designs. For someone who doesn’t show regularly, what kind of marketing strategy do you find most useful?
I am very interested in brand new ways to market our brand. I began my career through word of mouth but many things have changed since I started two decades ago, and there are so many other platforms to market your work. Social media is huge, plus and I am addicted to it! I am happy that I have reached quite a number of followers to express what I want to say. However, the strongest way to market yourself is truly through your work and the integrity of the product. Once you have a very good product marketing this is naturally effortless. I also work with some of the brightest and best stylists in the land, who continually work with me to share my collections with their clients, and this also helps spread the word.
How do you make use of social media to promote your work? How much should a designer rely on the power of social media?
Social media helps as it's a great tool to get the information out. However, you should not rely on this completely. One must concentrate on the product first and the images second.
They say your network is your net worth. What kind of people should a designer associate himself with?
Always associate yourself with authentic and good people. Hang around with positive individuals who are winners. These will influence you not only to be a better designer but to be a better person as well. It's always healthy to have a good mix of friends because it keeps things fresh and always interesting.
What’s next for Rajo Laurel?
I want to concentrate on finishing my home. I have been putting that in the back burner for quite a while and I have been living in an apartment for so many years now. I think I deserve a house. Nothing extravagant but a place I can come home to and not think completely about work. That is what is next for me.
Be sure to catch the full collection by heading over to the gallery!