How Rajo Laurel used maps and indigenous weaves in his new collection

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 11) — Fashion designer Rajo Laurel is celebrating 25 years in the industry with a fresh new collection.

"Archipelago" is a line-up of dozens of dresses, which will debut at the Red Charity Gala on October 27. Making use of textiles and motifs from across the Philippines, the collection aspires to be "an essay on defining contemporary Philippine style."

"I'm very proud because 75 percent of the collection is made from Philippine modern indigenous materials. The entire collection is made in the Philippines," Laurel told CNN Philippines' The Source. "I wanted to celebrate our heritage, history, and show to everyone that we are amazing designers and we have so [many] things to say about our culture."

Laurel, a household name in the fashion business, is a multi-awarded designer and was a permanent judge on four seasons of Project Runway Philippines.

 

Included in the collection is the "Mapa" series, a repertoire of dresses which borrow from Philippine landscapes. Laurel has shown off three pieces from the collection, particularly a beaded green gown called "Tuguegarao," a cool blue ensemble with patches of black and yellow called "Taal," and a warmer counterpart called "Mayon."

"This is inspired by topography and geography... I looked at maps and saw how we can translate this into a pattern, into a dress," said Laurel.

 

"Tuguegarao" borrows from the landscape of the Cagayan Valley, and is carefully embroidered and hang-beaded. The 250,000-bead dress took thousands of hours to make.

Both "Taal" and "Mayon" are inspired by the movement of volcanic lava.

 

There are other pieces in the collection, such as the "Ugnayan," which Laurel said is an ode to Cordilleran weaver and fashion icon Narda Capuyan. She passed away in 2016, and was credited with introducing her region's culture to the global stage.

"I was able to learn... different techniques [from her]," said Laurel. "I wanted to honor her legacy by showing how we can use the Cordilleran highland weaves in a modern context."

 

On Instagram, Laurel also showed off the "Sarangola" — a digitally woven silk gown inspired by kites he would fly as a child.

 

The designer shared that he spent a year and a half visiting provinces like Quezon and Abra to outsource workers for his dresses.

"You'll be seeing things like embroidery from Bulacan, but in a modern context," said Laurel. "I tapped several weaving communities to actually create the fabrics for this particular collection."

The Red Charity Gala, now on its tenth year, is founded and organized by Tessa Prieto-Valdes and Kaye Tinga. Its beneficiaries are the Philippine Red Cross and Assumption High School Batch 1981 Foundation.

But this year, it will also partner with Meridian International (MINT) School of Fashion for a scholarship program.

"It's a way of paying forward by giving talented individuals a way to learn," said Laurel. "I believe there's also seed money so after the university, they can start their own business. It's a wonderful way to be giving back."

Laurel said this is one of his biggest shows to date, but he is still looking for ways to raise the bar for himself.

"To be honest, I don't think I'm at a crescendo yet. If this was a music composition, I'm in an interlude," he said. "I'm at a position to fulfill my own dreams, and that's wonderful. At the same time, I want to figure out where can I take this."

 

The Red Charity Gala will be held on October 27 and the Marriott Grand Ballroom in Pasay City.