By JOHN LEGASPI

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What will happen to fashion weeks? That is a question many ask as the world finds its way to work around the challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic. For some fashion capitals like Milan and London, fashion week will be moved to a much later schedule. Shanghai and Moscow are bringing the runway to the digital realm. But would it work? Would it feel the same? Here in the Philippines, this system is put to the test.

Noted Filipino fashion designer Rajo Laurel leads the local fashion scene into the future by doing his first virtual runway show on his birthday.

Together with Saga Events, #RajoLaurelRunwayOnline brought more than a thousand of fashion enthusiasts to witness a show directed by Robby Carmona. The digital runway show featured Rajo’s spring/summer 2020 collection “Hacienda,” which he describes as “a vision of his dream life.”

The idea of doing the show started with Robby and his friend, model Ria Bolivar, sharing messages one morning. Robby immediately called Rajo and asked if he’s ready to do a show online. The designer quickly jumped onto the idea.

It took two weeks of preparation for it to happen, with people at Saga Events working together and remotely to piece every aspect of the show.

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Robby Carmona, Issa Litton, and Rajo Laurel (screen capture from #RajoLaurelRunwayOnline)

The team also tapped beauty and hair professionals to help them build the looks. Hairstylist Jing Monis played with soft curls and an easy bun for the ladies’ tresses, while he opted for a clean, brushed up look for the gents. Makeup artist and sister of Rajo, Gela Laurel, formulated the perfect dewy, rosy beauty look.

For Rajo, the show is one way to bring people together. As Covid-19 hit the pause button on industries such as fashion, beauty, and events, this show is a symbol of the united spirit of Filipino creatives during these trying times.

“The story behind Rajo Laurel Online is essentially a way to start strong. It is a way to communicate, to keep in touch, with our colleagues, our friends, our clients,” the designer says. “The creative process of this project wasn’t easy. You have to realize that our industry relies heavily on communication. But nothing good was ever easy.”

ADAPTING BY GOING DIGITAL

The most special events in the fashion industry usually happen on a runway show. It is the equivalent of a theatrical performance, where the designer is the head artist and stylists and beauty experts collaborate to make a look that will resonate with the audience. A runway show is where people first see the clothes. It is like a baptismal rite for the garments before hitting the store shelves.

With the current state of the world, shows going digital could be the saving grace that will keep the industry running.

“The entire fashion industry is basically on hold. This is deeply dangerous as our industry is responsible for hundreds of thousands of individuals who rely on our work for their livelihood. We must continue because life must go on. Perhaps for now this [virtual show] is the way,” the designer shares exclusively to Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “We have to think out of the box and push our industry forward. We have to find ways to begin, and begin strong. We have to believe that as creatives, we will find new ways to tell our stories and share experiences.”

DURING CRISIS, WE SEW TOGETHER

During the online forum Fashion Forward Dialogues: Change, Rajo pointed out the fact that everybody in the industry has a role to perform in helping one another as we fight the pandemic. Due to its effects, the industry can’t just operate on the “rat race” it used to do before.

“Now more than ever, we all need to be sort of like band together, share resources, and figure out what to do next,” he says. “We really need to support one another from the smallest mananahi in the corner to the biggest conglomerates like Roxanne Farillas and Ben Chan. We need to start figuring out how we can all help one another.”

In the past months, the coronavirus pandemic brought out the spirit of the industry. Designers from all over the country rallied together to produce personal protective equipment to help frontliners combat the coronavirus pandemic. Rajo continued this philanthropic act by giving a portion of the sales, and donations collected through the virtual show, to the Philippine Red Cross.

“This is a big opportunity for us to utilize the greatest challenges in the world and shine,” he says. “Perhaps this is going to be the defining moment of the Philippine fashion industry.”

Check out more of Rajo’s “Hacienda” collection:

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Source: Manila Bulletin (https://lifestyle.mb.com.ph/2020/05/21/virtual-runways-and-other-predictions-about-the-future-of-fashion/)