By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – International fashion designer John Ablaza had been dressing up his sisters’ dolls since he was nine years old. Today in his radiant career, which spans 30 luminous years, he dresses up beauty queens and style icons but remains rooted and generous to the hundreds of faceless rural artisans that build up his works of art.
I believe that my passion for fashion was already there when I was child, he said.
Known for his classic elegance and attention to details, Manila-born Ablaza loved dressing up film star Angel Aquino, who he discovered in Baguio City in 1992. Among his favorites were the regal fashion model Tina Maristela Ocampo, Miss Universe runner up Shamcey Supsup and Miss International 2013 Bea Santiago.
From baby dolls to fashion queens, Ablaza continues to make women beautiful in the eyes of the beholder and shares his passion to the younger aspiring fashion designers of the world.
Excerpts of our interview:
1.How long have you been in the fashion industry? What led you to this profession, or passion, should I say?
I have been in the fashion business for 30 seamless but very challenging years. I have never thought becoming a fashion designer but I believe this is destined to happen.
I have always loved gardening since I was a kid that eventually made me decide to pursue a degree in Horticulture. I actually love gardening, first and foremost.
2. As an artist, who influences your stylish creations? Is there someone you emulate in the world of fashion and style?
I believe I always create something that comes out of my heart and mind. I can say that I am.not influenced by anyone, I am highly inspired by the things I see around me and my interaction with people of different races and my travels around the world. But I really admire the works of Christian Dior.
- Your classic artistry and elegant fashion are connected to local artisans who sew clothes and create stunning bead work and embroidery, why is this for art’s sake, or something which comes from a heart that just wants to help women earn their keep?
I have always wanted to put meaning in the things I create and do, not just for art’s sake but for a good purpose too. I make it appoint to incorporate natural and highly sustainable materials in my works. It is my contribution to take care of mother earth and at the same time, create livelihood for less privileged artisans not only in the Philippines but in other places that I have visited.
4. You have a fashion show in Toronto. It is interesting how a Filipino designer gets to be invited in an African fashion show, or any nationality for that matter. How did you land in this project?
It’s truly an honor for me to get invited to do the finale for the coming Africa Fashion Week in Toronto on August 16 to 20. The show organizer found about the project that I did in Harare and Bulawayo in Zimbabwe in June and July 2016 where mentored about 25 aspiring designers and 35 artisans for three weeks.
The project was under the United States Embassy in Zimbabwe and was made possible by US ambassador to Zimbabwe Harry Thomas, and his wife, Mithi Aquino Thomas.
The mentorship inspired the participants. They became so motivated that led them to go to the next level and pursue more exciting things in their career. Some of them did shows in South Africa, Zambia and Morocco. Recently some of my mentored students were granted the Mandela Washington Fellowship grant.
I am really humbled to be able to share and motivate them. You can break barriers through fashion. (Featured photo is John Ablaza with actress model Angel Aquino.)