Esteemed Filipino designers share some of their design studies and their journey that shaped their vision and style now.
We have seen their masterpieces grace the runways and galas, worn by esteemed figures across industries and glittering members of the social set. We have witnessed the exquisite beauty and the fine craftsmanship that goes into making their collections. Beyond admiration and awe, one might wonder how these divine designs were first conceived. We take a peek into the creative minds of seasoned Filipino designers Lesley Mobo, Rajo Laurel, Len Cabili, and Maureen Disini. We take a look at their illustrations and explore the inspiration behind some of their remarkable pieces. Their design sketches speak volumes about their creative vision and their journey that make the designers deserving to be celebrated.
The London-based designer came from an art college background and spent the early years of his fashion career doing corporate fashion. However, recent collections exhibited he can do more than that, greatly astonishing us with every piece. From his sleek, film noir-inspired gowns in the Red Charity Gala in 2019 to the glamorous dresses telling Philippine history and myth in TernoCon 2020, Lesley’s collections never fail to enthrall fans and the hungry-style crowd.
The design sketches above are from his archive in his first interview with the House of Dior under John Galliano in 2001. These depict his take on Les Années folles, the social and artistic collaborations in Paris in the 1920s. Since then, his journey shaped him into a well-rounded designer. Working for luxury and high-end street brands allowed him to “balance creativity with business,” he says. He learned to do technicalities like manufacturing, marketing, and sales. “Working in a fashion brand is all about teamwork,” he explains. Leadership, ensuring quality work, and using each person’s expertise—all these are crucial to “achieve growth for the brand you work with.”
Having spent 25 years in the fashion industry, it is no question that Rajo has learned and allowed his style to evolve. “I have grown and developed a voice and enough experience to express myself in my own distinct voice,” he muses. He now heads his own design-driven enterprise, reflecting his sensibilities of elegance, sensuality, and luxury. Of course, he never forgets to champion his Filipino heritage in his creations while maintaining a global perspective. “[My aesthetic] is a study on balance and an astute passion towards romanticism and a constant conversation on fashions dualities,” he clarifies.
A look into some of his design studies shows he takes inspiration from the materials found in the country’s regions as well as styles depicted in television series. Although Rajo has witnessed, incorporated, and bid goodbye to these trends over time, he remains a dreamer, albeit he claims to be more grounded now. Nevertheless, his vision will always be “rooted in specific narratives that are in tune with my clients and the women that I dress.”
Growing up with the rich culture of the Philippines inspired Len to start the now globally-known clothing line, Filip + Inna. She refused to have an eponymous brand as she wanted to push the country’s heritage to the forefront of the fashion world abroad, firm in her resolve to honor and celebrate Filipino artisans—embroiderers, weavers, and bead workers. When a New York-based friend first wore her pieces, the beautiful indigenous fabrics and weaves caught the attention not only of future business partners but of ordinary people. This brought great encouragement to Len.
“When I started the business, I was a one-woman show, so I was quite impatient when it came to sketching,” she recalls. In the early years of her design career, she would get too engrossed in the envisioning part. “I often would skip the sketching part and go straight to working on the fabric,” she reveals. However, after years of working with artisans and developing the brand’s style, she learned to take time to conceptualize. “I am more relaxed, appreciating each step of the creative process,” she shares.
Well-known for her signature feminine pieces, Maureen had always been enthused to make it in the industry. As a former fashion magazine editor, her experiences, passion, and resiliency enabled her to fulfill her dreams. As an avid traveler, she takes inspiration from her trips like when she visited the ancient ruins of Syracuse, the historic center of Florence, and the fascinating Temple of Philae in Egypt. Apart from her travels, she looks into timeless trends and incorporates these into her designs. She has done everything—from wedding gowns, terno dresses for the State of the Nation Address (SONA), to versatile pieces that can be worn either at a day or night affair. With clean lines and effortless sophistication present in every piece, these became the true marks of a Disini creation.
Photos from Lesley Mobo, Rajo Laurel, Len Cabili, and Maureen Disini.