Bobi Rodero, One of the Last Designers to Work With Princess Diana: His Fashion Story

By Cecilia Ibardaloza

Bobi in London with his Petrof piano

Bobi, an accomplished pianist and writer, started working in the fashion industry in the 1980s. From the Royal House of Saud, he moved to London in the ’90s to work for Catherine Walker and in the mid-2000s, commuted between the UK and Norway to work for Nina Skarra. He maintained an atelier in London for almost two decades. He is now based in Bacolod.

Fashion tells a story with flair. Whether it’s the history of the Western world, one’s cultural identity, a political statement, someone’s social standing or your personal evolution, it is a tale in flounces and seams. It’s different for everyone. For Coco Chanel, “[it] has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” Whereas Oscar Wilde saw it as “a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”

At the center of it all is the fashion designer who creates new meaning and a set of new aesthetics with every piece of clothing. A master storyteller in his or her own right, he or she is at the heart of the world’s greatest houses of fashion. Each house a veritable empire, employing millions in the design, production, merchandising and in the marketing of the clothes on our back.

Fashion is a very complicated business. It’s about branding. For a brand to endure, it has to be unique and evolving, timeless but relevant. Behind Audrey Hepburn was Hubert de Givenchy, who famously pronounced, “The little black dress is the hardest thing to realise, because you must keep it simple.” And where do fashion designers get their inspiration? The streets, for one. Or your rebellious teen, in many cases. If you’re very lucky, the designer would listen and be inspired by your story.

“Diana: Her Fashion Story,” a Kensington Palace Exhibition celebrating the People’s Princess’ fashion legacy, opened in London on February 24. Iconic and universally adored, Diana was the epitome of timeless elegance and luminous simplicity. The evolution of her style has been scrutinized and chronicled a number of times since her death in 1997, referencing in particular the influence of designer Catherine Walker. And inside the House of Catherine Walker in the days of Diana, Princess of Wales, Filipino product developer, Bobi Rodero, actively participated in every aspect of couture construction from taking the Princess’ measurements and brainstorming with the head designer, to deftly interweaving technology and tailoring techniques.

At the Bespoke Tailors’ Benevolent Association Dinner, London, February 2013
Hand woven sleeves for Mette-Marit
Fuschia gown for the Crown Princess of Norway

Retired now, what made Bobi Rodero a great fashion designer? His career had been about following the rules and breaking them and ultimately, making them. After the sewing and hemming and countless hours of consultation, he would disappear in the background. Next thing you know, haute couture is made. Unless you’re his very good friend, you probably would not have connected him with the late Princess Diana or Crown Princess Mette-Marit. Until now, of course. And somewhere in some house or palace, I can guarantee that the clothes he made endure, like true works of art.

CECILIA IBARDALOZA is the illustrator and co-author of Blue, an illustrated poetry book recently released by Paloma Press. Her work has been anthologized in Finding God (Anvil, 2009) and 1,000 Views of ‘Girl Singing’ (Leafe Press, 2009).