Me and my Philippines: fashion designer Rajo Laurel

Rajo Laurel reveals his favorite resorts and the young designers to watch

Photo by Daniel Soriano for Metro Magazine

My favorite things to take on travels are my notebook and pen to jot down my thoughts. For photos, I just use the camera on my phone.

My favorite resorts in the Philippines are Discovery Shores in BoracayHuma Island Resort in Palawan, and Amanpulo Resort also in Palawan. I like Discovery Shores because of their service and the little details—pillows embroidered with my initials and a welcome cake with a photo of me the last time I was at the resort. I was also at Huma Island on the invite of its owners when I was working on the staff's uniforms. There’s something about the whole place that makes you want to stay. You go to Amanpulo Resort for the luxury, solace and peace. I went there for a wedding and the experience was unforgettable. It’s paradise.

My travel luxury is travel itself. I spend on travel because it’s a means to educate myself.

The first thing I do when I travel is research. With the internet, it’s much easier. I try to see as much culture as I can, and my first stop is the market place. It is the soul of the city.

I am an Instagram addict. Find me at instagram.com/rajolaurel#. I like sharing what I see. Most of the photos I post are those of my events, food, families and friends.

I spend mostly on books and art. The most expensive book I bought was a limited edition Valentino anniversary book by Taschen that cost more than a thousand dollars. And one of my favorite artworks is by Chinese artist Lao Yan Bien. It’s an 8ft tall painting with rough textures of gray and black colors, and I paid for it by installment.

I have three tattoos in all and I got the most recent one when I turned 40. It’s a tattoo of a safety pin, unfastened, because it means open to fixing things or putting things together. I got my first tattoo in London when I was 16. It’s a horsefly because I’ve always been fascinated by insects. I think they are one of the most perfectly designed creatures.

I started blogging in 2008 and my first blog was for StyleBible. I wrote about what it was like, preparing for my 15th anniversary gala show. Now I blog on my website

The most interesting person I’ve ever met is Manny Pangilinan. I think he’s not only intelligent but also very compassionate.

My most memorable design/collection is my Optical Illusion collection, which I created in 2001. The collection is avant garde, using geometric shapes, stripes, squares and circles.

My experience as judge in the reality television show Project Runway Philippines is humbling because I saw myself in those young designers. It is hard to create a designer dress in 12 hours but it happens in real life. 

If I weren’t a fashion designer, I’d probably be a theater actor, a rock star, a chef or a photographer.

Filipino designers that people should watch out for are Shaun Samson and Carl Jan Cruz. They are London based designers of menswear.

I am currently busy for the launch of my Holiday 2015 collection which is my most personal collection to date. It is dedicated to my late paternal grandmother, Beatriz Laurel.

Rajo's favorites

Museum: Metropolitan Museum of ManilaNational Museum, and Ayala museum. I’d also like to check out the BenCab Museum

Restaurants: Cirkulo along Pasay Road, Antonio’s in Tagaytay, and Locavore  I’m usually at Cirkulo once a week because it is home for me, and it’s owned by my best friend Malu Gamboa. Locavore always hits a home run with their new adaptations and rifts on the classic Filipino classic cuisines.

Movies: Himala, Oro Plata Mata, Seven, and Sound of Music

Philippine stage Plays: Care Divas, Insiang and Himala. I like stage plays. In a year I watch more than 40 plays, both local and international. I try to fill my weekends with plays.

Clothing brands: BenchUniqloAmerican Eagle OutfittersGap, and Rajo

Shoe brands: Saucony and Church 

About Rajo Laurel
Rajo Laurel  made a name in couture and wedding gowns but later branched out into ready-to-wear clothes now available at his boutique, House of Laurel. Laurel is involved in Rags2Riches Inc., turning scrap materials to stylish pieces. America’s Next Top Model host Tyra Banks, singers Lea Salonga and Jessica Sanchez, and local celebrity Tessa Prieto-Valdes have all worn his creations.

Interview by Cielo Flores

Originally published in InFlight Traveller June to July 2013. Updated October 2015