Why is everyone talking about Rajo Laurel?

“I love you and thank you, Rajo.” — that was Boy Abunda’s parting shot to fashion designer Rajo Laurel, the interviewee at Bottom Line with Boy Abunda over ABS-CBN just minutes ago.

I seldom watch television these days, but I just had to make time for that particular episode because it would, perhaps, be able to define originality, plagiarism and inspiration in the world of fashion, something that interests me since I started meddling with my older sister’s Barbie and Dale paper dolls back when Barbie dolls were not yet available in the Philippine market. After Rajo Laurel’s cobweb dress made the cover of  the February 9 issue of Women’s Wear Daily, or WWD, the journal of the global fashion industry and fashion watchers, instead of celebrating  another success of a  kababayan, a lot of talk about plagiarism surfaced in the very small Philippine fashion community and echoed through the main islands of the country, and who knows where else.  What might have sent the spider spinning was when Cebu-based designer Arcy Gayatin posted her 6-year old cobweb designs and newspaper clippings at her Facebook album, upon the prodding of colleagues, as she said in an interview according to a Philippine Daily Inquirer article.

Eastwood Mall Enviro-Chic bag, a Rajo Laurel-Rags 2 Riches collaboration

The whole interview was enlightening and inspiring. I don’t know Rajo Laurel on a personal level. The only item I have by him is an eco-bag, a gift from my good friend Me-Ann. I got so engrossed that I didn’t have time writing down notes. I remember him saying, “I am happy, wealthy and sexy.” Happy, because of his advocacies, like empowering the poor Payatas community through Rags 2 Riches; wealthy… he meant not material wealth; and sexy because he is into a 4 and a half-year relationship with someone. Candidly, he said  “I’m very gay.” Pointblank, Boy asked him if  he copied Arcy’s design… and he said “No.” “There is not  one iota of reference to Arcy’s design,” he added.  I don’t want to delve into the issue about originality vs plagiarism. Being an avid fashion watcher myself, who did some fashion-sketching once upon a time, I believe anything can inspire a particular design or creation. Every designer has a take on what is hot and current. Even designers, like Marc Jacobs, use vintage items for their designs. It is a cycle, didn’t you notice? Just like colors… one of the current colors, orange, comes in every few years.  This reminds me that back in grade school, I reworked a t-shirt, put cuts to resemble a web or a Christmas lantern (that might be the shredding technique they were talking about LOL) to suit the current boho trend at that time.  It was meant to be worn with my pair of clogs… and now, clogs are back! A real LOL. I thought they’d never resurface, my oh my, just like leggings, shoulder pads, and stirrups!! I’ve always suspected that all the designers would sit down, like a summit talk, and work on what to come up with for the 4 different seasons of the year, because there would be a trend before we know it… like it would be easy to look for a  similar maxi dress by Emilio Pucci (I mean, close to) at stores like Mango and Forever 21, or even at tiangges. Methought sort-of a mafia thing.  The changes, drastic and seemingly synchronized, would send the fashion-forward set into a hot and heavy frenzy. There’ll always be a more affordable version of even the highest-end in fashion. I didn’t mean knockoffs, which are a different breed.

Now, what amazes me was when Rajo, who has a management degree from De La Salle University in Manila and design training from New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology and Central Saint Martin’s in London, answered, “Yes.” when he was asked if he prefers or wants to be known as or called a businessman more than a designer (My apologies for not memorizing the  verbatim question). He also mentioned about getting inspired by other designers. He is not pretentious and arrogant… he is a dreamer, but he works hard to make his dreams happen — that’s what makes him the Rajo Laurel he is today. I wish to extend my congratulations to Rajo on so many things. I love him when he said that he will always be Filipino. It makes me doubly proud of him.

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