Monday, August 29, 2016

African Art Meets Philippines Eco-Couture

Harare, Zimbabwe – US Ambassador to Zimbabwe (formerly to Philippines), Harry K. Thomas invited world-renowned Filipino fashion designer, John C. Ablaza to conduct workshops in Zimbabwe under the 2016 Fashion Entrepreneurship Exchange program sponsored by the US Embassy Harare and in partnership with cultural champions, KUSIKA Design Centre, Zimbabwe International Film andFestival Trust, Mustard Seed Africa, Zed LabelHunnar Management Agency and National Gallery of Zimbabwe.

Images credit Luke Molai and Jhenny Morales Evans of Jhenny Evans Photography

US Ambassador Harry K. Thomas congratulates John Ablaza for
a successful Fashion Entrepreneurship Exchange workshops in Zimbabwe.

With Zimbabwe being rich in many organic substances, Ambassador Thomas immediately recognized the opportunity to tap and leverage Ablaza’s expertise in eco-conscious production, local sourcing and sustainable natural materials utilization to help support the nation's fashion industry and economic growth.  Ablaza’s classes were initially held in the cities of Harare and Bulawayo, though with words spread fast and by popular demand, it had extended to an impromptu seminar in majestic Victoria Falls, as well as a guest lecture on Design and Business of Fashion at Harare Polytechnic University. The overall initiative that ran from July 19th thru Aug 17th also included a photography group practicum facilitated by US-based Filipino photographer extraordinaire Jhenny Morales Evans, models networking and meet-ups joined by US-based fashion journalist/model Sheila Vidamo-Vertuno, an orphanage visit for future charity fundraiser and several meeting consults. The impact of this joint program did not go unnoticed as it headlined Zimbabwe’s major magazines and periodicals for weeks.  

L-R: Ambassador Harry K. Thomas and wife Mithi Aquino-Thomas with
Jenny Morales Evans and John Ablaza at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe

The strong collaboration between Ablaza and the local artisans and designers resulted in custom masterpieces that were featured in the concluding fashion show, a first showcase event for many of the artists, at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe on Thursday, August 4th 2016.

Harare and Bulawayo artisan and designer creations in collaboration with John Ablaza:

Model: Pretence Gonyesa

Model: Floret Chikomwe

Model: Mithi Aquino-Thomas

Model: Samantha N Tshuma

Model: Michelle Wallace

Model: Sheila Vidamo-Vertuno

Model: Michael Steve Reks Jacobsen

Model: Kate Jailos

Model: Lungani Mkhwebu

John Ablaza Couture and Culture masterpieces:

Model: Nesta Kanemeyer

Model: Tich Maruziva

Model: Mithi Aquino-Thomas

Model: Alisa Adams

Model: Sheila Vidamo-Vertuno

Model: Samantha Tshuma

Model: Michelle Wallace

By-invitation-only, the event was attended by no less than the dignitaries and cultural and community influencers of the country.

Ablaza’s interactive and hands on approach fostered deeper relationship and teamwork amongst the participants. In sharing their visions and creating art together, the local artisans were in awe and touched to realize how much their ideas and crafts complemented each other’s work. Uplifted with joy, many shed tears upon seeing their modernized and innovated products after only a few days of collaboration. Truly inspiring!

John Ablaza during the 2016 Fashion Entrepreneurship Exchange Program in Harare

John Ablaza during the
2016 Fashion Entrepreneurship Exchange Program in Bulawayo

Jhenny Evans teaches during the 2016 Fashion Entrepreneurship Exchange Program

Shamiso Ruzvidzo and Sheila Vidamo-Vertuno rehearsing with male models
during the 2016 Fashion Entrepreneurship Exchange Program

In his 30 years of career in arts and fashion, Ablaza is grateful that he is able to give back and make a difference. “I am thankful and blessed to be able to do and share what I love. Four years ago, I committed to educate and train the indigenous community of Puerto Galera Oriental Mindoro Philippines, where I mentored the tribal women and local artisans to hone their skills utilizing natural materials. Now, I am thrilled for the opportunities to extend that work and pay it forward in the global arena. My month-long work in Zimbabwe, thanks to Ambassador Harry Thomas and his wife Mithi Aquino-Thomas, was very humbling and heart-warming, and I hope that it is only the beginning,” says Ablaza.

John Ablaza, International Eco-Couture Designer based in the Philippines.

Forget the shallow cosmetics, John Ablaza fashion is deeply couture and culture sophistication, a brand admired for its advocacy to protect the environment and help preserve Mother Nature’s bounty.

Kudos to Ambassador Harry Thomas, John Ablaza, Jhenny Morales Evans and all advocates for this successful endeavor, and best wishes on future undertakings.  Definitely more to look forward to! 



Thursday, May 12, 2016

2016 SMoCA M!x: Fashionably Avant-Garde Gala, An Affair to Remember

(Scottsdale, AZ) – On Saturday, May 7th, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Arts (SMoCA) opened its doors for the annual 2016 SMoCA M!X fundraiser and presented contemporary avant-garde fashions by the international couturiers Rocky Gathercole, Elie Madi and Albert Andrada of For The Stars Fashion House, Fouad Sarkis of MNM Couture, and local designers Galina Mihaleva and Antoaneta Balabanova of Galina Couture.

Staying true to “Expect the Unexpected” theme, a battalion of shiny aqua blue skinned mannequins draped in black tulle bordered the valet driveway leading to the red carpet where distinguished guests were welcomed by Fashion Icon and Influencer Oscarde las Salas and Emmy Award-winning Journalist Carey Pena, to its 4th annual event to raise funds to benefit the museum, as well as celebrate arts and style.

Oscar de las Salas and Carey Pena

With SMoCA M!X Ambassador Mrs. Billie Jo Herberger

With Paradise Valley former First Lady Patsy Lowry

With Avant-Garde Knight Rocky Gathercole

The red carpet etiquette is a show in itself! SMoCA philanthropists and supporters did not disappoint in their eveningwear and obliged the strict color codes of black, white, red, silver and gold.  Some shined in their daring yet tasteful attires and some took risks and channeled their inner McQueen, whilst mostly donned no less than a cocktail dress for women and coat and tie for men.  Even more eye-catching are the gorgeous couples in complementing ensembles.

Delectable gourmet bites by Binkley's and Posh, champagne and cocktails were lavishly served (I’m sure I ingested some of the glittery appliqu├ęs on my lips) amidst all night of shoulder-rubbing and entertainment choices, including: outdoor exhibit of Rocky Gathercole’s creations (A-list celebrity garments), indoor fashion jewelry exhibit by Theresa Harness, non-stop alternating dance performances and fashion shows in all galleries via 4 connecting runways, open air live music band, international DJ, cello/concert soloist, photo studio by Jam Sani Photography, cocktail bars, and much more.

A-list Celebrity Garments by Rocky Gathercole 

By the numbers:
10,000 – cost in dollars of an exclusive luxury lounge for 10 guests
400 – guests (and more) who graced the occasion
250 – cost in dollars of a single ticket
200 – red carpet length measured in feet
75 – Rocky Gathercole garments presented on exhibit & the runway
23 – number of private luxury lounges
6 – contemporary dance performances (ASU's Movement Syndicate)
5 – open hydration bars
5 – international avant-garde designers
4 – galleries with interconnecting fashion runways
3 – music genre (live band, DJ Miss Mixx, and cello soloist Matthew John) 
2 – local gourmet chefs (Kevin Binkley and Joshua Hebert)
1 – uber posh and most exclusive evening of the year

Congratulations to SMoCA M!X Creative Co-Chair Oscar de las Salas, Committee Chairs Tracy and Christian Serena and the rest of the community leaders and volunteers for a very successful and fabulous event. 

Photo credits:
See runway photos HERE.

The highly anticipated 2016 SMoCA M!X, ala-MET Ball, lived up to the hype.  It is the first of its kind in Arizona… definitely an affair to remember.  I had a fantastic time with friends...

L-R: Sheila Vertuno and Rocky Gathercole

L-R: Lucena Silang, Pamela Tanedo Tidalgo, Sheila Vertuno, Rocky Gathercole

L-R: Sheila Vertuno, Jacob Meir, Mel Melanie
L-R: Jhenny Morales Evans and Rocky Gathercole

And I had an equally fabulous time collaborating with my art and fashion circle and getting ready for this occasion. Many thanks to Michelle, Stacy, Raquel and are the dream glam team!!!

Gold Evening Dress Designer: Michelle N. Hebert 
Clutch Crown Designer: Stacey Eden of Clutch Jewelry
Hair and Make Up Artist: Raquel Buitizon
Photographer: Jhenny Evans

Let’s connect online! Visit, LIKE and message “Chasing Sheila” on Facebook/Instagram! ‘Til the next ish dolls. In the meantime, get your FASH on, keep styling and make a fashion scene!