Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Haute OC - Runways for Fashion and Destination

Orange County, CA – It didn’t take much time for me to get re-acclimated with my old stomping ground OC, especially with its beautiful beaches, perfect weather, diverse word-class dining, ‘did I say beautiful beaches already’ and a posh community… definitely a bigger pond!

I was especially excited to meet the Orange County Fashion Week (OCFW) family, grateful for their warm welcome and thrilled about future collaborations and opportunities.  It was such a treat to discover that OCFW is only one facet of a multi carat rare coastal gem. 

Enter Kathryn Miclat Marino, CEO of HAUTEOC Inc., President of Orange County Fashion Week, and Founder of OC Fashion Council.  Whether it is jetsetting, trendsetting or genuinely connecting people live or via alternate channels, and doing so while simultaneously learning and having great fun, this Filipino American entrepreneur (Kathy’s mom is from Zamabales and her dad is from Olongapo) has it all covered.  After interviewing Kathy, I’m pretty sure I just found my “new” long lost twin sister, hashtag BFF =) 

Kathy Marino in "Florals" resort wear by Charmaine Joie Couture
Photo credits OCFW and Jack Lungu 

Sheila: Before taking on OCFW in 2013, you were and still are in specialized travel business.  Tell us about it.
Kathy: Absolutely! I have always loved travel because of the global inspirations available to us, and the overall luxury hospitality industry. There is something so liberating about leaving the familiar to venture into the unfamiliar and to learn about new cultures and new people. I believe travel inspires people to grow and learn more about themselves. 

S: I agree, just like seasonal style trends and innovations bringing new appreciation to the past, I think that travel and fashion compliment each other well.
K: Very true! In fact, during OCFW, we promote travel in-bound, which advocates for our tourism here in California, then the remainder of the year we do fashion tours on the outbound, which is great because it allows for us to grow in more ways than one.

S: I cannot argue that “The OC” is a ritzy tourist attraction. Living just 3 miles away, it is hard for me to miss the South Coast Plaza, an enviable suburban answer to New York’s 5th Avenue and Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive. I did my research, trademarked as the “The Ultimate Shopping Resort,” South Coast Plaza is the largest west coast upscale shopping center bringing in an estimated 24 million visitors per annum. Its 250 stores (oh wait… 280 stores strong as I learned from stylist/designer Rachel Zoe during her Live the Look fashion show last week at South Coast Plaza, no less!) represent the highest concentration of designer brand retail nationwide, to no surprise generating sales of well over $1.5B annually, the highest in the United States. On the other hand, the idea of “fashion tourism,” especially outbound, is more of a niche market I'd imagine.  How do you reach your potential clients?
K: We actually produce a digital TV show called “Fashionista Now Boarding” that is broadcasted in Southern California on an MTV affiliate. We began last April 2015, it’s actually how I got started when I met the original founders of OCFW promoting a fashion tour. We now air to 16 million households in So Cal with our most recent trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands. It was great as it allowed everyone to experience fashion on their islands, while at the same time promoting a liberating fashion experience. I like to say our international OCFW language is #WeSpeakFashion and that is what makes our world go round, when we aren’t producing OC Fashion Week.

S: OCFW has been around since 2005, how would you describe its earlier years compared to where it is now?
K: That is a great question! In the past the event was grassroots and more college-based and passion-driven, but now we have an incredible OC Fashion Council advisory board with new programs, over 600+ local models and we have all new global media partners and fashion alliances from Virgin Islands to Dubai and incredibly supportive returning sponsors.

S: What is the role of the OC Fashion Council in all these?
K: The OC Fashion Council nominates the charity beneficiaries and determines the vetting process for fashion designers. We decided to launch the OC Fashion Council as an organized way of having an advisory team, made up of our own local and global retail buyers. It was important for us to remove the social bias of a shopping mall or singling out a fashion designer who was organizing a show to their marketing advantage to be a fashion week. It was important to recognize the collections we were debuting to the B2B trade industries six-eight months in advance; as to not confuse the public of our goals, which was to have these designers sold to buyers into stores (as before-market collections), as opposed to marketing a fashion show directly for the consumers  (after-market collections) at least not yet.

S: Have you worn any creations by OCFW emerging designers and could you tell us who?
K: Yes, Dawn Nguyen, a local OC Fashion Designer. I love her work! I would describe Dawn’s collection as a colorful array of luxury and bohemian wear that can go from cocktail to resort. It’s a very special occasion to wear her line. I have also worn Charmaine Joie Couture for photo shoots, her collection is not only beautiful and elegant but at the same time stretches and gives where you have curves so its very much appreciated in both beauty and functionality for cocktail dresses.

Kathy Marino wearing a piece from Dawn Sunflower Collection by Dawn Nguyen 
Photo credits OCFW and Jack Lungu

S: Before I give the highlights of OCFW SS 2016, quickly tell us…
-   Favorite Fashion Decade – 1960s
-   Morning or Night – Morning! Starting at 4am, working EST
-   Coffee or Tea – Chai tea latte with almond milk
-   Champagne or Wine – Veuve Clicquot
Iphone or Android – Once you go Mac, you never go back!

Talk about a whole other level… Orange County Fashion Week®, legitimately backed by a strong buyers’ market of double digit billion dollar retail sales, emerges as a leading player in the metropolis of fashion. In addition to the 3 million locals, OC welcomes a remarkable 42 million visitors annually!

A global fashion destination indeed, Kathy said,Orange County independently makes up the fashion retail consumer power at some $37 billion in retail sales.  This incredible buying power exceeds that of some fashion capitals.  In addition, we live among a great number of buyers who travel to NYC, London, Paris and Milan for fashion week then come back here to live. Orange County is undisputedly a buyer’s market, and it shows in the U.S. census data.” With a big heart for the community, the OC Fashion Council nominated not 1 but 3 charity organizations to spotlight in OCFW SS 2016, namely:  The Teen Project, Working Wardrobes and The OC Ballet Theatre. In line with its retail spend, Orange County also surpasses the nationwide average in charity support and recognized as a leading giving community.

Not exclusive to retail, Orange County Fashion Week kicked off Day 1 with its 2nd Annual So Cal Master Stylist Competition. Adding mystery and fun to the event, “Follow the Rabbit Hole” location was revealed just a few days prior and was hosted by Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) on Thursday, September 17th.  Recognizing the best in beauty, hair and make-up artistry, it was a high energy, 2.5-hour contest to create live art celebrating the whimsical theme of “Alice in Wonderland,” definitely my favorite segment of OCFW this year.  While models strut the catwalk in less than a minute, the ingenious behind-the-scenes preparations by the pros is another long story.  Hats off to Team Mad Hatter led by Lesley Feliz, who will be sent on a challenger event in 2016 to the U.S. Virgin Islands, for winning the Best Technical and Best in All Categories awards of the master stylist showdown. The amazing transformation of Chloe Pasquini (model) by Lesley and crew also won the People’s Choice Award for the most money raised to benefit The Teen Project, a non-profit organization working with young teens as they transition from foster care to adulthood.

The Mad Hatter in the making...

The Red Queen
Photo credits OCFW and James Giovanni Pan

Photo credits OCFW and James Giovanni Pan

OCFW Day 2 on Friday, September 18th showcased SS 2016 Couture and Resort Wear ensembles in a new breathtaking venue SOKA University in Alison Viejo.  Adjacent to the world-class Peace Lake, guests gathered at the Founders Hall and savored an assortment of gourmet hors d’oeuvres and cocktails served by the jewel of Persian cuisine, Darya (located at South Coast Plaza).

Benefitting the Working Wardrobes non-profit organization which empowers men, women, veterans and young adults overcoming difficult challenges to confidently enter the workforce and achieve success, Day 2 of OC Fashion Week® featured the finest in couture, resort-wear, and intimates by the following emerging brands: Coral Castillo, Charmaine Joie Couture by Charmaine Joie Rodriguez, BGR Design by Berenice Gonzales, Jonathan Jimenez, Yesenia Hernandez, Marc Aaron Bright, and Cheri Elizabeth.

A "must see" Silence Collection designed by Carol Castillo
Photo credits Ragz The Bear Productions

Charmaine Joie Couture, a recently launched brand, by NBC’s “Fashion Star” Manila-born designer, Charmaine Rodriguez (2nd from right), boasts Hollywood glam evening gowns and cocktail dresses.
Photo credits Jack Lungu

Evening wear by Riverside, CA based young designer Yesenia Hernandez (center)

A brand that offers limited edition evening gown and  bridal wear designed  by Cheri Elizabeth (center)
Photo credits OCFW and Stanley Productions & Photography

Located in the heart of entertainment, arts and sports district, the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC) opened its doors for OCFW Day 3 finale night on Saturday, September 19th.  For the first time, this 188 million dollar venue hosted Orange County’s finest music, fashion and art in an all-new innovative runway for West Coast Street Scene and showcased the following designers: Amanda Wolf Designs, Candy Cat Collections, Ren Rock, Kathryn Brown, Raphael Cole, and DeeDub Collections. On its closing night, OCFW chose to benefit the OC Ballet Theatre, which offers education, cultural awareness and scholarship programs to its community.

West Coast Street Scene Runway Show
Photo credits OCFW and HauteOC

Now, that’s how you do it!!! Orange County Fashion Week SS 2016 of 3 glamorous nights, at 3 amazing venues, and for 3 charity beneficiaries! Major kudos to Kathy and team for putting up a very successful affair.  Can’t wait to see what’s in store for OCFW AW 2016 show.  For now, let’s pop that bubbly bottle of Veuve Clicquot and raise a glass for #WeCanFly as #WeSpeakFashion.

Let’s connect, send me a message or tweet me at  “Chasing Sheila” on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

‘Til the next ish dolls. In the meantime, get your FASH on, keep styling and make a fashion scene!


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