I admit, I’m a total Elona Mitchell fangirl. I’ve seen her work as a model, where she always kills it with a true natural presence on the runway. However, her modeling work is only a precursor for where she really shines. She’s an accomplished visual artist, and she brings her talent to the runway, as a fashion designer showcasing a diverse range of looks.
When she kicked off the Saturday night show for Atlantic City Fashion Week Season 12 at the Showboat Hotel in Atlantic City on Saturday, February 17, they couldn’t have picked a better collection to start things off in a big way. Her hand-painted work, unique way of cutting fabrics, and the edgy vibe she brings to everything she does, is always memorable. In her third collection, she mixes both cute urban styles for young kids, along with gritty, hardcore takes on music, comics and pop culture. She’s so creative and has an amazing energy that’s great to be around. I always love it when I see her, and she picks me up two feet in the air!
I’m especially excited to now have my own Elona Mitchell original! She took one of my denim jackets, and designed the most perfect teddy bear holding a heart, to transform it into a work of art that I’ll treasure forever. Now I need to figure out the best place to wear it so I can take photos, photos, photos! Thank you, Elona!
Here are some of my photos from this collection. The work is amazing and it was a pleasure seeing it live!
My one-of-a-kind Elona Mitchell teddy bear jacket!
I told you she picks me up when she sees me. She can hold me up there forever!
It’s no secret that Robert Greco is one of my favorite designers. I was super fortunate that he was the top name at the first “fashion week” I ever attended. At the time, it was wild just to be able to talk with a real fashion designer and see their work up close and personal. He was incredibly friendly and made me feel welcome in the fashion world. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t had such a positive experience at that first runway show.
I began to visit Robert at his wonderful Montclair boutique (which has now partnered with That Little Black Dress), and am proud to now call this brilliant designer a good friend. I’ve worn his styles on and off the runway, and it’s still a thrill to see his collections when they are showcased. He is a regular at Small Boutique Fashion Week, and his latest collection, which includes pieces from designer Carmen Bury, was part of Season 13, held at Studio 450 (450 West 31st Street) on Sunday, February 11.
There are several qualities that mark Robert’s work, such as the use of vintage and reclaimed fabrics, the sculptural quality of many of his pieces, as well as his ability to combine the classic with the wholly original. As you’ll see from the photos below, there are diverse styles that manage to still work well together.
I absolutely love this full-length coat. I’ve seen it on a mannequin in his studio, where you can really admire the fine details.
This is Robert Greco’s most popular and well-known piece. The silhouette is so distinctly his.
I’ve heard so many stories about how Robert helps models, other designers, and anyone else in the business who wants to learn and become part of this crazy industry. This blog probably wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t met him. Definitely check out one of his shows when you can, especially if he returns to Small Boutique Fashion Week next season.
I had so much fun returning to Small Boutique Fashion Week in New York City on Sunday, February 11. Billed as Fashion’s Top Event for Indie Brands, Season 13 of SBFW took place at Studio 450 (450 West 31st Street). This season’s event had a full schedule of three shows that drew packed crowds to the spacious 12th floor event space. We attended the 8pm show that headlined the event.
I hadn’t been able to attend many shows last season, so it was such fun to catch up with members of my fashion family before the show. It’s thrilling when interesting and creative people get together to share their love of fashion.
Seen in the crowd: “Fashion Avenue News” publisher Sofia Davis, one of the few people on the scene who can out-bling me. Lord Logan creative director Logan Hendricks and her husband Quincy with their new baby! Design prodigy Egypt Ufele and her amazing mommager Reba Renee Perry-Ufele, who had us rolling with stories of filming their successful commercial for Ford. Super diva and fashion coordinator Andrene Ladydoves Williams. Mwah! Pop singer Aaron Paul, who was a great host for the evening, and told us about his soon-to-be-released book and CD. Author and host Delvon Johnson, with copies of his new book “Mirror, Mirror”. Super publicist and host Yvonne Forbes, who always produces wonderful events. Legendary model and fashion curator Catherine Schuller, who ended the show dancing down the runway for the photographers. So wonderful to see them all having a perfectly fashionable evening in SoHo.
The designers who showcased their collections included: Preston Walker, Joy Echo, Vinyett Clothing, Doein, Planet Zero MotorSports, Perfect Population, Afrika Umuri, Meredith Gill, Studio by Alexandria, Omari’s Closet, Crystal Robinson, Lord Logan, and Robert Greco. I’m going to feature collections from some of my favorite designers in future blogs, but here is a taste of some runway highlights. On with the show!
Watch for upcoming Small Boutique Fashion Week shows in Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, New York City, and Philadelphia throughout 2018.
This past year, Ellen’s Stardust Diner in New York City has becomes one of our favorite spots in midtown. Ellen’s is located on Broadway, a few blocks away from Times Square. What makes this place special is its famous singing waitstaff, known as Stardusters. The servers are all talented aspiring performers, many of whom take time away from Ellen’s to join national tours, cruises, and even Broadway shows.
We decided to spend our New Year’s Eve at Ellen’s, and loved the entire experience! The singers were entertaining and amazing as always. Because it was New Year’s Eve, they were all dressed up and stylish to welcome 2018! I wanted to share some of my favorite Starduster styles.
I don’t have all of these wonderful performers’ names, so please let me know so I can update and tag everyone properly.
Here’s the famous Ellen’s Stardust Diner marquee.
Our server (and, therefore, the star of the evening), was the wonderful Liz Davies (@lizdaviez). She has a great voice that’s perfect for jazz or smokey blues.
Courtney has a great cool and retro style. He brought a lot of energy to his performances.
Yes, bling! My favorite dress of the evening. Singer, dancer and actor Kayleigh Brennan (@misskayleighmarie) looks stunning, and agreed with me that you can never have enough bling!
Actor Zach Snyder (@zachallensnyder) had the coolest silver bling bow tie. He has a great stage presence puts everything into his performances.
Liz looks cute and festive. I love her ankle boots and flair skirt.
It was quite a party! Everyone was dancing and having a great time. The show lasted about four hours.
Here’s actor and writer Marrick Smith (@marricksmith) looking suave and sophisticated.
Sarah Jessica Parker is a fashion icon. Her Carrie Bradshaw on “Sex and the City,” is the embodiment of a New York fashionista. When I heard about the new pop-up store for her SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker line, I knew I had to check it out. On Saturday, I made the trip to 52nd Street and was immediately struck by the bright, colorful space. The warm feel of the store drew me in. Then I saw the shoes, which are amazing. Sarah Jessica Parker loves bling!
I spoke with one of the sales associates, who told me that Sarah Jessica has been in the store almost every day it’s been open. The line was originally launched in 2014, but this is the first store dedicated to SJP in New York City. The pop-up is scheduled to be open for about 10 days, but hopefully it will lead to a permanent location in the city.
I love this wallpaper. Everything about the store is so cool and distinctive. I was told that Sarah Jessica is very hands-on with everything and the attention to detail really shows.
I love bling! All SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker shoes are handmade in Italy. Holding these shoes, I am impressed by the quality of the craftsmanship. Sarah Jessica designs all of the shoes herself. Beautiful style, high-quality construction, and they are so comfortable! I was pleasantly surprised by the prices as well.
I love the fact that these shoes don’t feel like a celebrity line, but a really high-end designer brand. One of the sales associates told me that since she launched the line, Sarah Jessica has been very active in soliciting feedback about what her customers want. I really wasn’t expecting to buy something when I visited the store, but after a few minutes I wanted everything!
I tried on these bling boots, and was thrilled that they sell Size 5! Since they are Italian made, they are sized perfectly, which is difficult for me to find. It just keeps getting better and better!
In addition to shoes, SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker also includes these super cute clutches.
When I walked into the pop-up store for #SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker, I was greeted by Jake. I was looking at a pair of bling booties that were on the shelves. I asked him if you have a size 5. He said, sorry I have a 5.5. I was bummed. Then, the magic happened! He showed me another pair of bling booties that were on the shelves. Eureka! They were a size #5. I told him “I want them!” This must have been the fastest sale he ever had.
SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker also features fragrances.
Here is another look at the clutches. I just love the bright, bold colors. These are products that will make you feel good when you are wearing them. When fashion can brighten your day, you know it’s special.
I love that the collection has bold, stylish bling shoes that aren’t only stiletto heels. These are shoes that any woman can wear, dressed up, or when in jeans. They are adaptable to any look, and really flexible so they can work in lots of different situations.
More bling! I still can’t get over how high quality everything is.
SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker
I’m thrilled to have discovered the SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker line! I have some new favorite shoes. Being in the store and having her retail experience, I can feel how much she loves what she does. When a designer puts their passion and personality into their work, it reflects on the person who wears it.
The pop-up is scheduled to close on Sunday, December 3. My visit was extremely memorable, and I can only hope that this experiment is a huge success. If I can have a Christmas wish, I’ll be attending the grand opening of a brand new SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker store somewhere in midtown Manhattan in 2018!
Do you have a little princess at home? Would she like to have tea with Cinderella, Belle, Sleeping Beauty, Anna, Elsa, Ariel, and Moana? Would she like to become more confident, and learn how to handle herself on the runway, or while doing an interview? She can do all of this in a friendly, fun atmosphere while raising money for an important cause at the Shop. Sell. Strut! Tea Party this Sunday, October 22, in Manasquan, NJ.
Shop. Sell. Strut! was founded by two amazing young women, Alyssa Lego and Amanda Witkowski. They are very socially-conscious people who have been using their time and talents to raise awareness and money. Their event in April was a tremendous success. I had so much fun being involved!
After their success with Shop. Sell. Strut! Season One, Alyssa and Amanda have turned their attention to a new cause, The Morgan Marie Michael Foundation.
“Our mission is to create awareness and encourage respect for children with special needs,” Alyssa told me. “We have developed programs such as the iCan iPad Gifting program and PURPOSE – Life after 21. Our Shop. Sell. Strut! event series serve as fundraisers to support the foundation and its clients.”
“A simple iPad can make the difference for an individual on the autism spectrum,” adds Amanda.
Sunday, October 22
Their next event, which will take place at the beautiful Atlantic Club in Manasquan, NJ, will be the Shop. Sell. Strut! Tea Party, on Sunday, October 22. Little girls ages 4-12 who attend will take part in a high tea with seven Disney-inspired princesses. They can get all dressed up in formal attire, and they’ll be involved with photo shoots, a personal animation video, as well as runway and interview coaching, plus a dance party. Guests will also be included in the Shop. Sell. Strut! 2018 calendar.
I’m so honored to have been invited to be a social media ambassador for the afternoon, so I’ll be there! Who doesn’t want to meet princesses? I hope the Morgan Marie Michael Foundation will raise a lot of money. I’ll be following their programs and continue to support!
Sit down and listen to a story of a fashion blogger who went to the ball. Oh, goodness, there is a very special event taking place in New York City. It’s the Pinoy Weave Fashion Show and Gala, honoring three amazing designers from the Philippines. It’s a formal event! Whatever will I wear?!
I know! I’ll find an amazing designer to make me a beautiful gown. So I went off to a wonderful and magical land, called Philadelphia, to meet with John Leon. I had met John and seen his work at Atlantic City Fashion Week and love the flowing quality of his designs. I asked if he’d like to make me a gown, and a few Facebook messages later, we were invited to his studio to make our own magical ball gown.
I knew I had made the right choice when I saw the first sketch he came up with, just based on his initial ideas. It was beautiful!
It was time to take some measurements.
… and more measurements.
What color should the gown be? Would you like a train? How high are the shoes? Questions and decisions! I told John to run with it! Pick the colors, find an amazing fabric and be sure that the magic will last until midnight!
We left the studio filled with excitement. A few days later, John said he was ready for the first fitting. The gown was coming to life! We rushed back to Philly and …
… it was amazing!
Such a beautiful royal purple color, fit for a princess. It flows, it glides, it was everything I was hoping for.
More fittings. It has to be just right.
It’s almost ready.
It’s amazing what a skilled designer can do, transforming a roll of cloth into something so elegant and beautiful. With the final fittings complete, we left John to finish his work. When he was done, we picked up his wonderful creation. Then it was time to get ready!
Hair is done.
Nails, of course.
A quick preview while driving into the city. Then…
Ta-Dah! Don’t you love it? I truly feel like a princess.
I think one of the best things a designer can do is make the person they are styling feel special. That’s what fashion at its best can achieve. It takes more than just skill with a sewing machine, or an artistic touch, it’s understanding what makes someone feel a certain way.
After the fashion show, which was an amazing event I’ll cover in another blog, it was time to hit the town! Here I am at one of our favorite spots, at Supernova NYC (www.supernovany.com) above Times Square.
A few drinks and time to hit the streets, with some New York attitude!
I just love how the gown flows. When I first saw the fabric, it looked stiff, but amazingly it is really smooth and caught the breeze perfectly while walking through Manhattan.
This Brooklyn girl had to take a photo in front of Junior’s!
Finally, we reached the heart of Times Square! There is such energy here, a million people all around me.
But, it’s almost midnight! The carriage will turn back into a pumpkin soon. Will the magic last?
Quick, off to bed!
But, this gown is so amazing, and so comfortable, that I never want to take it off.
Thank you for sharing my fairy tale with me, and thank you so much to John Leon of John JNL Leon Fashion Designs for his special vision and incredible talent, making my Cinderella dreams come true. With John Leon, it’s not just a gown, it’s a fairy tale.
Remember that black and white sketch that started it all? Here’s the finished color drawing that John prepared, and I’m honored to share it with you here.
I’m excited to announce that John Leon will also be showing his Spring/Summer 2018 Bridal Showcase at Philly Fashion Week on Saturday, September 23! More information and tickets are available at www.phillyfashionweek.org.
There have been long journeys for designer John Ablaza. Growing up in the Philippines, he found two of the great joys of his life – horticulture and fashion – at the hands of grandmother. In their family garden, he is inspired by the the sweet fragrance of the sampaguita (Jasminum sambac), the national flower of the Philippines, that he learns to sew together with her. The love of the natural beauty he sees around him, and the skill to turn it into something magical, have been creative gifts throughout his life.
Fast forward many years. John is standing in a different garden thousands of miles away: at the beautiful estate of the Amar family in Stony Point, NY. He is surrounded by family, friends and supporters, celebrating a 30-year career in fashion. The breathtaking runway show they’ve just witnessed, featuring models framed by fountains and fire, showcases a designer at the height of his creative energy. The polished stones that border the reflective pool graced by high-couture gowns and other creations that have traveled the world. It’s every bit the fashion spectacle any celebrity fashion designer would relish, soaking in the adoration of an appreciative crowd. But John Ablaza isn’t an ordinary fashion designer.
It’s a couple of weeks after the “John Ablaza: 30 Years Behind The Seams” celebration. I’m sitting with John in a quieter setting, at the home of Ronnie and Mayette de Dios, where he’s staying while here in the United States. I’ve learned that John is someone who puts everything he has into the things he really cares about. When he’s working, he doesn’t even think about eating. The passion to create takes over his entire being.
“It’s about seeing the world differently,” he tells me. “Everything I do has a meaning behind it. It speaks to me, and to the people who wear my clothes.”
From a very early age growing up in the Philippines, he loves nature and its beauty. He goes to school and studies horticulture, garden cultivation and management, hoping to build a career for himself. His talents earn him the attention of Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos, who hires him to manage her legendary gardens. It is his first break and he takes advantage of the opportunity to set out into the world. Marcos is one of the many women who helped shape his life and he still has a great affection for her.
From Flowers To Fashion
Eventually, his work in horticultural design leads him to move to Taipei. He works for several years at a major hotel handling their floral arrangements. The hotel hosts frequent international fashion events, and John meets the designers who hold shows there. He looks at the clothes, examines how they are made, marvels at the craftsmanship and elegance.
“I began my career in fashion as a wardrobe assistant at those fashion shows. I would hang around and help out where I could, just to learn. I would ask the designers if they thought I could become a designer myself. They said that if it was something I really loved to do, I could do it. They offered to help me and teach me about fashion. I went back home and started travelling to fashion shows around the world, learning about the industry.”
A Passion For Charity
At the finale of John’s Stony Point show, he speaks to the audience and explains that he will not do any events that do not benefit charity. When speaking with him about the causes he cares about, he lights up. Clearly, his passion for helping others runs deep.
“From the very beginning of my fashion career, I wanted my work to support others. I’m not in this for the money, or fame, or anything to do with the fashion industry. If it was just about all of that, I wouldn’t be able to do it. I would have walked away. It is what’s in my heart that matters.”
His heart is with the people of the Philippines. Look at a John Ablaza creation, and you’re seeing a virtual economic stimulus policy for tribespeople in his home country. As we examine one of his gowns, he explains.
“I look for sustainable materials that we can use. The gowns and bow ties that you’re looking at are made with seeds, bark reeds and coco beads, all of which grow around the Philippines. My clothes support the people who grow and harvest them. Other people will polish, carve or otherwise prepare the materials. I show people how to create the products. I am very hands-on with everything I do, and get very involved with every step of the process.”
He works extensively with the local Mangyan tribe, indigenous groups found on the island of Mindoro, creating economic opportunities they would never have otherwise.
“I’ve had so many struggles. There were times when I had no money, and had to figure out how to keep going.
“Four years ago, my home burned down and I lost so many material things. But, I did not question why that would happen to me. I only knew that there were others with a greater needed and I had to figure out ways to carry on.”
I almost start crying when I think about that contrast. People on a tribal island, on the other side of world, cutting up coconut shells or peeling bark off trees, being able to feed their families through their labor. Then, those simple gifts of nature being used to create beautiful high-couture gowns that would be comfortably worn by the richest, most famous women in the world, on any red carpet or gala ball. The beauty on both ends of that equation is equally astonishing.
Le Petite Couture
“This has been a dream of mine for many years,” John says as he gently touches the small mannequin, which is about two-feet tall. “I feel it is the next step in my career.”
VIP guests arriving for the Stony Point celebration were greeted at the entrance foyer of the estate, and then escorted around back for cocktails. What they may have not realized is that they were being welcomed by one of the most important parts of the evening, the debut of John Ablaza’s Le Petite Couture collection.
Surrounding the foyer, on little pedestals, were nine miniature gowns. These are not mere doll dresses, or small reproductions, but exquisite gowns made with all of the care, detail and craftsmanship as their full-sized counterparts.
“I made 30 of these miniatures in about 100 days, almost all of the work done by hand. Each one of them is named for a woman who has made a difference in my life. They are all one-of-a-kind and will not be reproduced.
“I have received offers to display these pieces around the world. I hope to showcase them with my pride for Philippine culture and fashion.”
“John Ablaza 30 Years Behind the Seams” wasn’t just a distinguished designer looking back on his long career, seeking a retrospective or nostalgia. It was the beginning of a new chapter, a way to show where he is going by reflecting on where he’s been.
Last year, John was offered an opportunity by the U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe to conduct a mentorship program for aspiring fashion designers. He calls it one of the most rewarding experiencing of his life.
“When I started working with them, they seemed so hopeless. They would sit with their heads down. I told them I understood their situation, the challenges they faced living in that country. But, they are so talented, so creative. In the time I spent with them, they were so receptive to what I had to say to them. It gave them hope that they could achieve their dreams.
“I want to replicate that around the world. I want to mentor designers who may not have the same opportunities that I have. I want them to learn from what I have done, understand my creative process, and be able to achieve great things.”
His dream now is to inspire aspiring designers around the world, especially from areas that may not typically offer the right opportunities, to follow what is in their hearts. He doesn’t just want to inspire people to be creative in their designs, but learn from his example to work in sustainable materials, to create jobs and economic opportunities, and to promote cultural awareness.
“I hope to find places around the world where I can begin mentorship programs. Find people who can learn from my example, and then be an example for others. It is what I want to spend the next few years focusing on. It’s exciting to think about the possibilities, to continue to tell my story and inspire so many more people.”
And The Story Continues …
I felt so grateful after spending a few hours with John for this interview. Being around John is an experience in being grateful, appreciating others. I asked if he had any final thoughts about the “John Ablaza: 30 Years Behind The Seams” celebration that first brought us together and, of course, he immediately thought about everyone except himself.
“Oh, please be sure to include how grateful I am to Raj and Manju Amar for being our hosts for the evening. Without them, it could not have happened. They have given me a wonderful gift. Please also mention how much I loved the speech that Mithi Aquino-Thomas gave to begin the show. I read it afterwards and it brought tears to my eyes. So many people worked so hard to make this a special celebration. There were too many who really helped and their names are etched in my heart and mind.”
But, what about himself? What did he take away from the show?
“I was at a crossroads in my life, about what my place is in the fashion world. Part of me wondered what I should do next. Creating Le Petite Couture and seeing the excitement around it has given me a new motivation. I want that to travel the world, maybe showcase at the Smithsonian or The Met, and bring lots of attention to the Philippines.
“I am excited at the idea of mentorship. It is something that can be my legacy. I hope that you will help continue to tell my story.”
It is clear that John Ablaza is about to start another long journey, and I cannot wait to see where it takes him.
There is so much to tell about the once-in-a-lifetime John Ablaza 30 Years Behind The Seams celebration we attended in Stony Point, New York this past weekend. One small, yet special surprise that some people may have missed was this exquisite and breathtaking collection of miniature couture John Ablaza gowns that welcomed visitors into the entrance foyer of Mr. and Mrs. Amar’s spectacular estate where the event was hosted.
Each of these special gowns measures about 12 or 18 inches and is made with the same skill and loving attention as John puts into his spectacular full-sized pieces. The photos don’t do justice to how delicate and beautiful these works of art are in-person, but I am happy to share them with you here. They were just the first of a night filled with surprises, memories and beauty. Thank you, John, for creating these and sharing them with us. Here is his Le Petite Couture.
This last photo shows the sizing of the mini gown next to a full-sized version.
I loved my first visit to Bronx Fashion Week! From the cool, underground vibe at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, to the beautiful poetry of host Caridad de la Luz, to the great Blox TV videos, the entire event was a cultural happening and a love letter to the borough known as the Boogie Down. Everyone involved should be incredibly proud of what they’ve put together.
The first part of BxFW – Couture Cuisine & More – was held on Saturday, May 6 and featured five designers showcasing a stellar range of styles and fashions. My favorite was the joint show put on by the Avadora Mimouni Collection, featuring one-of-a-kind, eco-friendly accessories, and Sofia Davis’ Bling Darling Couture Sunglasses. As an added plus, the collection was styled by The Boss Lady Wendy Issac, who also walked in the show. Who wouldn’t love these wonderful people all on one runway, just dripping with fabulous bling?
Model Chrissy Jackson kicked off the show with super glam tasseled bling sunglasses. Work it!
Model Gioffre Vincenzo.
Model Svetlana Kramar.
The Boss Lady Wendy Isaac shows that she can do it all!