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My plate is full – of Rajo Laurel

By MILLET M. MANANQUIL, The Philippine STAR Published Dec 11, 2020 4:00 pm

‘I wanted to create something covetable and collectible. I began to think of plates like it was part of a person’s wardrobe.’

Rajo Laurel is one of our most prolific Filipino designers. He is always doing something new, he is restless, he is limitless, he is unstoppable.

Never a dull moment with this designer, who I first met up close during an Asian cruise some 18 years ago. He was a livewire who made us laugh and listen. He could also sing! 

Then I saw that he had many dreams and visions. And he has certainly done it all. He now practically has a complete lifestyle line, the latest addition being his plates, which he calls his “dinnerwear.” We had a chat on this:

 Rajo Laurel in his atelier: He has designed almost everything for a lifestyle line. He is unstoppable.

What made you design plates?

Because we have all been staying home more, I thought that we all should make our homes as beautiful and as comfortable as we all can. I have always loved seeing or creating beautiful tablescapes. I believe that it all begins with table wear. So when the opportunity came with Casa Juan Manila, I immediately said yes! I wanted to create something covetable and collectible.  I began to think of plates like it was part of a person’s wardrobe.

For my very first collection, I immediately thought of my sketches and fashion illustrations. These sketches are where everything begins. I thought of the fundamental DNA of my design aesthetics and used these images for the plates. You will see nuances of my design vocabulary with each stroke and line.

Next, flatware?    

Perhaps?  I am the type of creative person that likes to take on new things, as this makes me grow not only as a designer, but also as a person.

 “Platuplatuhan”, Rajo says, of his idea of creating tablescapes. He made only 150 sets for this limited edition.

Tablecloth and napkins?

I am currently working on this and I am actually quite excited, as this line is a sustainable and a regenerative concept.

What was your inspiration for your plates?

I really wanted to use my illustrations as a starting point. It’s what I have always done when I create. I put my hand on paper and begin to draw. I wanted this energy on the plate. I wanted something with a handmade feel, as this for me is something special. The dinnerware is of a limited edition and quantity, as we only made 150 sets. I used my favorite pens and brushes to create the designs and from there hopefully it will grow to something more of a collectible item. I have always loved to entertain and my idea of relaxation now is cooking and setting up tablescapes, or #platuplatuhan. LOL! Now that I have my own plates, I think it will be even more fun.

You’ve made clothes, kiddie wear, cloth bags, furniture...

I have also lent my creative energies to corporate uniforms, bed linens for Canadian, mattresses for Uratex, wedding cakes for Red Ribbon, women’s and men’s shoes for SM ShoeMart. I have done Jeans for Bench, as well as perfumes. Various items for National Book Store, which included pens, notebooks and accessories. I designed lingerie for Avon. We were part of the team that produced Rags2Riches. I have done also candles, scarves, wedding rings and fine jewelry.  Oh… I also designed a hamburger for Brothers Burger. LOL! 

What was your concept behind these? 

I ask several questions, such as: How does this make me feel? Does it make me smile? Does this make me interested?  Do I like how it tastes, looks and smells? All these have to have a positive affirmation to my senses. I must fall in love with the product in order for me to fully be inspired. I am generally quite inquisitive and I love learning, so I feel so grateful to be able to share my design aesthetic and vocabulary with several disciples.

You’re going the way of global designers who now offer the complete lifestyle line: Ralph Lauren, Armani...

...Calvin Klein, Issey Miyake, Tom Ford. I believe that one can live and lead a well-designed life if you begin from what you love and it gives you much joy.

Banner photo:  Rajo Laurel created three items for his “dinnerwear” in collaboration with Casa Juan Manila: a salad plate with different fashion sketches, a dinner plate with a simple, unfinished brush circle on the rim, and a plate charger with a silver fabric net design.