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Rajo Laurel’s colorful antidote to bleak times

By THERESE JAMORA-GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Mar 31, 2021 5:00 am

Have you had enough of ECQs, pandemic blues and bleakness yet? 

Now that COVID has influenced today’s fashion to the point that we’re all wearing comfy, loose, breathable outfits suitable for WFH and a more simplified lifestyle, Volume Two of Rajo Laurel’s spring/summer 2021 collection is right in step with that.  House of Laurel’s Vol. 2 release “In Color” is like breaking out into sunshine from the drabness and sameness of our quarantine travel bubble.

 In living color:  The Borealis gown from Vol. 2 of House of Laurel’s spring/summer 2021 collection will be available this April at rajolaurel.com.

Whereas Volume One was all about subtlety, soft silhouettes and earth tones, for Volume Two Rajo went to the opposite end of the spectrum, exploring color, manipulating fabrics and creating more structural silhouettes.

“Our first-volume release was focused on two ideas:  for my demi-couture line, House of Laurel, we release comfortable pieces in neutrals,” Laurel says. “On the other hand, my ready-to-wear line, Rajo, reworked pieces from our design archives under the title ‘Re-Edition.’”

 Summer señorita:  Talitha dress from House of Laurel

Rajo has made his highly sought-after style accessible to a wider market via House of Laurel’s demi-couture, which he explains is a mix between couture and ready-to-wear.  “It sums up the ethos of the brand, bridging luxury to the everyday,” he says. “My couture line is under my namesake, but both ideas were conceived with my clientele of strong and beautiful women in mind.”

Rajo decided to do four releases in total for spring/summer 2021, as his team had an amalgam of ideas they wanted to explore. “Dividing the collection into four volumes allows the clothes and its entwined concepts to shine,” he explains.
For its Vol. 2 release, House of Laurel has shifted its direction towards vibrant colors, “as I feel it is what we need during this time.”

Two dresses are as colorful and refreshing as summer rainbows or popsicles, while another is a green so vibrant that draping yourself in it will feel like forest bathing (something I totally need right now).

 Forest bathing:  House of Laurel’s Chuchu convertible top

“My partner Nix and I are into Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangements,” Rajo says about the color story.  “I pulled inspiration from the vibrant flora that blooms around my home in Batangas, which we also use for these arrangements.”

In his ready-to-wear line Rajo, Laurel continues his Re-Edition efforts in the Vol. 2 release “Deconstruct” — taking apart designs from his archives and reconstructing them in new ways — but within the context of menswear through RajoMan.

 Tinker, tailor:  Tomio jacket from Rajo’s Vol. 2 release “Deconstruct”

“We have a mixture of light cotton, breathable linens, and high-quality polyesters for our pleated pieces,” Rajo says.  “Each piece is designed with the wearer in mind. We’ve paid close attention not only to fabrication but also structure and silhouettes.”

When the pandemic hit last year and many businesses were forced to adapt or shutter, the designer admits that there was a bit of a learning curve for his business as well, but they found their footing towards the tail end of last year and have come back strongly with this SS21 release across all brands.

 Cool chic:  Rajo’s ready-to-wear sleeveless Tomio jacket

“Our approach is much more considered now,” Rajo says. “We take into account the quantities of garments we produce and amount of fabrics we consume as we aim to minimize waste from both a business and sustainability standpoint.”

 Let’s patch things up:  Re-Edition Ventura shirt

Rajo has two more releases planned for the next couple of months under spring/summer 2021:  “We’re currently building on the ideas for our holiday collection.” Even if travel is still restricted to a bubble, the ever dynamic, endlessly creative and restless soul of this designer never lacks for inspiration.  “Mobility may be limited but our minds always travel,” he says.  “We have access to so much inspiration right at our fingertips. If you look hard enough, inspiration will find you.”

Rajo Laurel’s SS21 Volume 2 will be available this April. Follow his brands’ Instagram accounts @houseoflaurel and @therajostore for updates. You can shop all three collections and their respective second volumes at rajolaurel.com.