A Marriage Between Home and Fashion: Ito Kish and Rajo Laurel Champion Filipino Roots in Recent Collaboration
“It started when you came over to the shop for Christmas in 2022…It was a very casual conversation, “Let’s do a collaboration.” That’s it,” Furniture Designer Ito Kish was telling Fashion Designer Rajo Laurel how their collaboration started during an exclusive interview with BluPrint.
The two designers recently collaborated to create Linen Sets, a tablescape decor perfect for making dining settings more beautiful. The creative collaboration is founded on friendship and an inherent love for design. They have been friends for over 20 years, making it easier for both the designers to work together and come up with something exciting.
Collaboration is something that excites Rajo, saying, “Collaboration is always a wonderful exercise because it makes you also extra creative.” This isn’t the first time Ito and Rajo collaborated on a project. In 2000, Rajo was part of Ito’s program in his store in Greenbelt called “Artists In Residence.”
“That was the very first time. I don’t even remember how we first met. But I know we’ve been friends for over 20 years,” shared Ito. Meanwhile, Rajo explained that they started to become friends because he would always go to his store in Greenbelt. For him, it’s a place where he can escape for a few minutes to get inspired since they both love design. “I always like how you created your spaces,” Rajo told Ito.
To Ito, collaborating with Rajo was very easy. At first, he thought Rajo was not serious about doing a collaboration when the latter brought up the idea given that it was the Christmas season and Rajo was busy. “After a week, I received a whole entire peg of all the things that maybe we can do something which can actually [fill] a whole mood board,” quipped Ito.
“I created a deck,” bantered Rajo. This put pressure on Ito to create a full deck himself in response to Rajo’s ideas. Both designers had plenty of wonderful ideas, putting their gifts of editing into the work until they decided to do tablescape decors.
“We sort of decided to do tablescapes. We wanted something that can be used on, you know, a daily basis. The price point is not crazy, easy to buy as a gift or even for personal use. That was the reason we did the placemats, paper and linen,” Ito explained.
The idea also makes sense as both of them like to entertain. “We both love to have people over our homes. We would like to sort of share that with our friends and our clients,” Rajo told BluPrint.
Finding A Common Ground
Ito and Rajo have different backgrounds in design, the former is a furniture designer while the latter does fashion. Despite their differences, it was easy for them to find a common ground to create something that speaks for both of them.
“Primarily because design doesn’t require you to always be just within your lane. I think that, as a designer, Ito can certainly design clothes and I can certainly design furniture,” said Rajo. They chose to focus on a specific theme and a narrative that reflects their individuality.
“When we’re in Ito’s space, you can see that his vocabulary of design is intrinsically Filipino. And I want to jump off from that. I also want to sort of like use his iconic pieces and I could play with it and arrange it, whether it’s color, whether its placement, or whether it’s the fact that we embroidered the linens, which is also derivative to what dress making is,” Rajo further explained.
This collaboration is also an exciting project for the designers as it allows them to see their works in a different perspective. Ito, for instance, was mind blown when he saw how his candelabras became constellations. “That’s the nice part of collaborating with someone who’s from a different practice, which is fashion. His brain works differently from how I will manage, you know…He kind of exploded the whole thing and everything. Even the way that the Josefina was inverted and played around, came out really nice,” said Ito.
Having a deep sense of respect for each other’s work also played a crucial role in making this collaboration a success. It motivated Rajo to ensure that Ito’s design is celebrated, respected, and treated in a way that is also a little new.
Acknowledging Filipino Roots in Design
Filipino values and culture have always been present in both designers’ work, particularly Ito. “My inspiration, ever since, every time I do design has always been being a Filipino. You know, my culture and tradition. The nice thing about it is when we were working on this collaboration, you could sense that it is Filipino the way it started and everything. There [was] no problem,” said Ito.
Rajo emphasized that Ito’s design language is Filipino. The reflection of Filipino culture in their designs cannot be removed because it is a part of them. To him, every day of being a Filipino affects the way they work and think. “It is nice to champion a design with an intrinsic Filipino core. That’s the way, in my head, we’ll only be able to stand out and rise above the noise. You cannot remove the fact that we are Filipino. That’s the only way we can rise above everything.”
This collaboration between the two designers is a beautiful marriage of home and fashion. Ito and Rajo are always open to doing more in the near future. They highlighted that the way to propagate collaborations like this is that it moves, it sells, and it’s supported.
Photography by Excel Panlaque