Rajo Laurel's S/S2021 Collection Was Shot In The Kudan in Tokyo, Japan
In a peaceful hilltop neighbourhood in Tokyo, Japan stands the Kudan, a historical mansion built in the 1920s by an heir to a Japanese financial empire. Many consider the mansion an architectural enigma, for its eclectic interiors showing a mix of Nippon, Spanish, Gothic and Renaissance styles.
Most people might know the Kudan as the official residence of the Philippine ambassador to Japan. To designer Rajo Laurel and his family, however, it is “home”.
In 1994, the designer’s great grandfather, former President Jose P Laurel, bought the Kudan for the Philippine government. For years, it had housed many noble residents including Rajo’s grandfather, Jose H Laurel, who also served as a Philippine ambassador to Japan. Now, his father, Jose C Laurel V, is the official resident of the house being the current Philippine ambassador to Japan. His parents even got married here.
Adding to the many fond memories Rajo has collected in the Kudan is the photoshoot for the House of Laurel’s spring-summer 2021 collection. “That was [a special experience] I will cherish forever,” he says.
It all came about by coincidence. Rajo shares, “Since the [start of the pandemic, my father] has not been able to come home and has been living alone in Tokyo. I was tasked to keep him company and was with him for the holidays. [I] stayed there for over two months.”
Without his usual team, Rajo had to take on various roles during the photoshoot. “Because of the pandemic, we only had a skeleton crew: the photographer, the model, the stylist and me. I had to practically do everything—from ironing to [styling] the hair and [applying the model’s] make-up.” But the multi-tasking designer didn’t seem to mind this, finding the experience fun.
He decided to have the photoshoot at the grand abode as the venue echoed the qualities of his new collection.
He wanted to create pieces that defined quiet luxury “by way of truly luxurious materials and creating pieces that one would keep, cherish and love. Not just for now but hopefully forever”
According to Rajo, each piece is personal, essential and evokes a sense of refinement. He wanted to create pieces that defined quiet luxury “by way of truly luxurious materials and creating pieces that one would keep, cherish and love. Not just for now but hopefully forever. [The collection is an] inner reflection of what is truly special and relevant in our lives. Away from the glaring eyes of others”.
The new normal has ultimately changed people’s perspectives especially when it comes to fashion. In the past year, there had been a significant drop in sales as people began to seek functionality, practicality and comfort in a pandemic. Which only makes quiet luxury’s gradual return important.
Quiet luxury began long ago as renowned designer brands like Celine and The Row released luxury pieces that are neither flashy nor loud. It is an aesthetic that centres on elegance and timelessness, qualities valued by clients who wish to keep the pieces for a lifetime. With his spring-summer 2021 collection, Rajo joins the movement.
As someone who has consistently shown care towards the Filipino community ... Rajo also encourages everyone to think of the community, to help and support local businesses and the like
— Rajo Laurel
The collection includes hand-dyed pieces which Rajo enjoyed making, employing shibori, the oldest manual-dyeing technique in Japan. For this designer, true luxury is achieved by this meticulous process that makes every garment distinct and personal.
Most of the pieces are long and flowy dresses and skirts. “We listened intently to our clients and ourselves [then] reflected on what we need the most now which is comfort and a sense of security. In a way, [the clothes are] an expression towards freedom as the silhouettes allow flow and movement,” he explains his choices.
Past fashion trends including frills, puff sleeves and flowy dresses seem to still be some of the most coveted styles today. However, Rajo sees potential in the growing interest for fashion sustainability during the pandemic. He is delighted, wishing for responsible consumption to remain embedded in the fashion industry. He adds, “I hope [we will] only acquire what we truly need and love. [We must] rethink sustainability towards that of a more cyclical and circular model.”
As someone who has consistently shown care towards the Filipino community—seen in his previous collaborations and projects that give back to the people—Rajo also encourages everyone to think of the community, to help and support local businesses and the like.
Compassion is what drives Rajo and his team. He shares, “[Creativity with compassion] is our company’s mindset. Kindness is one commodity that everyone needs, and one must constantly strive to have an abundance of it. We try to instil this in every possible way for in seeking happiness for others, you eventually find yours.
Read more: Rajo Laurel Collaborates With Pacific Traders For His First Ever Furniture Line
- Photography Noam Levinger and Arieh Rosen