Friday, March 7, 2014

Rajo Laurel, Cherie Gil, and Bart Guingona to Bring the Late Great Fashion Visionary Diana Vreeland Back To Life.

“I’m not talking about lots of clothes,” clarified the late great Vogue editor Diana Vreeland shortly after she said that “You gotta have style. It helps you get down the stairs. It helps you get up in the morning.”
Still, apart from those keen on getting up close and personal with the larger-than-life character, it is people interested in fashion who will troop to the Carlos P. Romulo Theater at the RCBC Plaza, as actor Cherie Gil transforms into Diana Vreeland on March 14 at the gala premiere of the one-woman play Full Gallop written by Mary Louise Wilson and Mark Hampton, a joint offering in the Philippines by Cherie Gil’s My Own Mann Productions and Actor’s Actors, under the direction of Bart Guingona.
While the lead’s acting chops can keep the play from turning into nothing better than a memory, a vague recollection of more glamorous days, it was godsend that barely a month before its run, Full Gallop sprinted toward Philippine Fashion designer Rajo Laurel, to whom Vreeland was “a great influence.” It would be interesting to see our generation of designers interpret that D.V. style, whimsical, capricious, a little over the edge, and madly original.
The run is limited, with a gala night premiere on March 14, regular performances on March 15 and 21 at 8 p.m., and matinees on March 16 and 23 at 4 p.m. But this constraint is a challenge that Rajo has turned into a great opportunity. “In the play, Mrs. Vreeland does not actually have any costume changes,” says the designer. “I felt a wee bit bad about this as I prepared so many options so the director and I decided to have a different costume each night. These costumes will represent a different facet of Mrs. Vreeland and give everyone a fresh feeling during every performance. We have Mrs. Vreeland coming from work, dressed for a relaxing evening at home or something more extravagant and dramatic.”
When Rajo was a design student, he was “completely obsessed” with Vreeland. “I feel connected to her love of paradoxes and the dramatic flair and yet she was quite proper and restrained,” he says. “I love her confidence and her commitment to her vision. I love her love for the color red and that, although she was not ‘traditionally’ beautiful she used this to her full advantage. I am also quite fascinated by her hands and the way they moved as she punctuated her statements. For the play, I tried to fantasize what Mrs. Vreeland would be thinking and feeling at any given point.”
Because Cherie Gil is just as larger-than-life as the character she is poised to portray in Full Gallop, does Rajo have any difficulty deciding whether she is dressing one or the other? “In the play set in 1971, Mrs. Vreeland was considerably older than Cherie is now, so we had to think about what would be appropriate given the difference in ages,” he says. “That’s basically it. Apart from that we just had a blast referencing Mrs. Vreeland’s iconic key pieces like her boar tooth pendant and Verdura cuffs. I think Cherie would give an amazing performance! She is a genius on stage and I think she would make Mrs. Vreeland very proud!”
On this page are some of the sketches with which Rajo worked to capture the strength of character as well as the savoir-faire and the joie-de-vivre that makes both Vreeland and Gil tick as public figures charged to tickle the imagination of the great many.
“Mrs. Diana Vreeland is very relevant today because she created a strong awareness of fashion and how this was important to everyone,” says Rajo. “It was her verve and fearlessness that gave us these powerful images that have remained in our minds and defined not only the era she was in but also our world today, as she saw it then. Her vision created a modern mind shift [that led to] what we have today.  In my mind and heart because of Mrs. Vreeland’s work, her legacy of fashion and art is still very much alive.”
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