the following article by rajo laurel appeared in yesterday's sunday inquirer magazine. they're little nuggets of wisdom that we think every young designer should read and learn from. rajo has been in the business for over 15 years, but keeps his ear to the ground so he's very much in touch with the times. (btw, rajo, rhett eala, and randy ortiz are going to have a fashion show tomorrow evening titled "face off" at the CCP—that's a big deal, so see you there!)
My Life as a Judge
by Rajo Laurel
EVER since I was asked to be a judge on the reality TV show “Project Runway,” it seems that I’ve been typecast as judge material for all sorts of competitions.
From beauty contests like Miss Fitrum in the noontime show Wowowee, to the Century Tuna Superbods in Boracay and Ms Teen Dumaguete, I’ve branched out to judging this year’s Katha awards for Citem. To my surprise, I’ve even been asked to sit on the nominating panel for the National Artist awards for fashion!
I am deeply humbled and honored each time I’m asked to be a judge.
Just how do I judge beauty contests, people ask. By gut instincts depending on what makes me respond positively, I tell them. I also judge from the given brief, from the rationale behind each competition. If it’s a beauty contest, I look for what appeals to me. I look for balance in body proportion and features that make me sit up and take notice. For the most part I look for personality. Looks can only get you so far, but a fantastic personality and a great attitude can really take you places.
In Project Runway Philippines, where I sit as one of the permanent judges, I keep in mind that we’re looking for the next star in Philippine fashion design. It might be a demanding and challenging show, but the rewards are immeasurable. It’s like a fast track to fame and fortune.
So what do I look for when judging for Project Runway Philippines? Here are some of them:
1. A designer’s strong point of view. The ideas must be fresh and there must be a distinct direction. Sometimes this gets me into trouble because I end up championing the designer with a good idea over one whose clothes are well made, but who makes me yawn. I always look for the great idea in the design. The designer must really stand out above the rest. A lot of fashion folk are really jaded and you have less than three minutes to get their attention. Once you have their attention, the goal now is to sustain that and make it work to your advantage.
2. The taste level of the designer’s target market. Ultimately the designer must speak to the market that he or she is aiming at. This market’s taste level must be in line with the clothes the designer is going to make if he or she wants to translate that taste level into sales later on.
3. The designer’s mastery of the technical aspect of creating clothes. One must know how to make clothes in order to design them. The ability to execute ideas and turn them into reality is crucial because a designer cannot just imagine design ideas.
4. Creativity. What separates the wheat from the chaff is not just the ability to make ideas come alive, but to make them SOAR! This is where a lot of young fashion folk fail because they often forget that ultimately, it’s all about the clothes.
5. Diversity. A designer’s ability to design a wide repertoire is always welcome. One must be able to design sportswear, street wear and evening wear with ease and panache.
6. The fire and passion to succeed. It’s that astute sense of perfection that one is always trying to attain. This is crucial because I need to see designers who are really pushing themselves to reach that level of perfection. In our industry mediocrity is DEATH!
7. Styling. This is the way a designer presents his or her clothes. I feel very strongly about correct styling because this can make or break the fashion presentation.
8. Editing. I belong to the school of “Less is more,” and whenever I am in doubt, I just edit. But editing is something that’s only learned in time. I constantly edit my work and refine my aesthetique. This process is something I try to impart to any young designer who comes my way. The worse thing for me is to see 15 things going on in a dress. You actually just need ONE GOOD IDEA and that’s it!
9. A good attitude. This is really advantageous as the era of fashion bitches is sooooooooooooo dated and passe! What works now is the ability for everyone to get along and work with each other, even in a competition where you are all aiming for the top spot. In my experience, the journey to the destination is really what it’s all about. You learn so much from the people you meet, and with each challenge and hurdle, you really end up not only as a better designer but a better person. I sit there giving scores and points to contestants, but the truth of the matter is, I’m the one learning from them. And for this, I am very grateful.
I always say that fashion by nature is very subjective. What is beautiful to me might be horrendous to the next guy. I have learned to appreciate all kinds of design and I always keep my eyes and mind open to new ideas.
I encourage diversity and I am a firm believer that fashion should remain individualistic. Can you imagine if everyone just looks the same? That would be so dreadful!
I am also a great admirer of the Filipino design talent. I’m glad and proud that in a tiny way, I am highlighting such well of creativity in our country.
(Project Runway Philippines’ next season will air in August on ETC)