Showstopping—there's no other word to best describe House of Laurel's crazily intricate creations for fabulous Filipino drag queen Bombalicious Eklaver at RuPaul's DragCon 2019 in New York. And the pair of ensembles certainly had jaws hitting the floor!
Here, we pause for a quick chat behind the scenes with celebrated fashion designer Rajo Laurel to dissect this stunning collaboration and the artistry, process, and inspiration that drove it.
"The inspiration for the 72-headed outfit was essentially based on multiplicity, in a sense that RuPaul always says, 'How's your head?' in the show. I used this as the point of reference to create an almost surreal piece for the drag artist Bombalicious Eklaver."
"[I did it] by casting his actual head and multiplying it 72 times across his bodice and skirt. I thought it was fantastic! Ed Figueroa—that's Bombalicious' real name—is actually a friend of Nix [Alanon]'s, and ever since he started his drag persona, we wanted to really collaborate and help him create a statement, and I thought that multiple heads ensemble would be a great way to really make him stand out at DragCon."
"The process actually normally would have taken more than a month, but because Ed didn't have a lot of time, we rushed it in less than a week, an almost incredible feat! [Laughs.] That's why I'm very grateful to all my artisans and my team at House of Laurel for being able to do this, because it's not easy to do such a thing."
"For the pinwheel outfit, essentially I wanted something based on kinetics, based on movement. It's made from almost 4,500 pinwheels that are made from acrylic material handpainted and airbrushed a fluorescent pink. I really wanted something with movement in a sense that once you apply wind, the pinwheels would spin. You see, at DragCon, there's a lot of queens with fans, and I wanted to use that as an element. So when Bombalicious would go to the fans, he would say, 'Where are my fans at?' And they would fan him, and then it'd become an interactive piece of sorts."
"The pinwheel queen costume also took about a week to do—again, a testament of trying to make the impossible happen at House of Laurel, because normally that would take several weeks. [Laughs.] But, because of time constraints, we were able to finish it quickly. The whole concept was really more about a collaboration between me and Bombalicious Eklaver based on what message he wanted to evoke, and also a desire to be larger than life. That was his message, and I took it and ran with it."
"I'm always very excited to do things like this because it's actually quite out of the ordinary to do projects such as these. I mean, you know, it's not every day you make a gown with 72 heads or a dress made out of 4,500 pinwheels. It's quite exciting. Also, I'm a huge fan of RuPaul's Drag Race, so to be able to do this is like a dream come true. I've always had the opportunity to design costumes for drag artists like Alaska Thunderfuck, Valentina, and Manila Luzon, so to be able to do this for Filipino drag artists is quite an honor. [All of this] just shows the technique and the skill of the Filipino artisan. Not just the artists or the designers, but a whole team of amazing people that were able to pull this off. And I think this is just the start of something big."