Home » FEATURES » Feature: Dissecting Design with John Ablaza From Manila, The Philippines

Feature: Dissecting Design with John Ablaza From Manila, The Philippines


Couture creations by designer John Ablaza

Couture creations by designer John Ablaza

 

 

 

Stitching history.

 

By: Hina P. Ansari

 

During PLDT Canada Philippine Fashion Week, I was able to sit in on an afternoon of fittings where each designer had their clothes on full display on an endless stream of racks. All were busy tweaking, steaming and prepping their couture gowns for the big Fashion Premiere Night which was held at Roy Thomson Hall a couple of days later. I had a few minutes with each designer which was plenty because in that few minutes I was able to delve into the history of their collection, their culture as well as relish in some key points of inspiration enough to last me the rest of the day and beyond. Noted fashion designer from Manila, John Ablaza, presented his collection which was clearly buoyed by his determination to ensure that he create designs that come with a promise of a livelihood for the artisans that he teaches and employs. Designs that also proudly possess an important eco-friendly and organic appeal which makes perfect sense for a horticulturist (yes he’s that as well). Ablaza was responsible for his very own flourishing fashionable full-circle moment.

 

 

 

Designer John Ablaza

Designer John Ablaza

 

 

What inspires you like everyday?

 

Of course, the environment and the people. The things that I see around me everyday. When I get to work with the [Mangyantribe. They really inspire me [when] they come up with something really great. It  [inspires me] to create more exciting designs that will connect with them in such a way, that I could create jobs for them. So when I design, I make sure that I incorporate techniques & designs [so they can use them] to give work to these people.

 

 

The fabrics that you use and the colors are so rich. It’s a beautiful rainbow of jewel tones.

 

At the beginning I believe it’s my weakness in choosing colors. I figured out at the end that actually it’s my strength. I think from being a horticulturist, because I graduated with a degree in horticulture.

 

The intricate beading and workmanship in the corset of this dress.

The intricate beading and workmanship in the corset of this dress.

 

 

Close up shot.

Close up shot.

 

As shown at Fashion Premiere Night held at Roy Thomson Hall

As shown at Fashion Premiere Night held at Roy Thomson Hall

 

The fringe work in this corset is actually made of a special blade of grass when hardened become tube like structure.

The fringe work in this corset is actually made of a special blade of grass when hardened become tube like structures.

 

As shown on the stage at Fashion Premiere Night at Roy Thomson Hall

Same fringe work as shown on the stage at Fashion Premiere Night at Roy Thomson Hall

 

Gorgeous embroidery work by the Mangyan tribe

Gorgeous embroidery work by the Mangyan tribe

 

As shown on stage at Fashion Premiere Night at Roy Thomson Hall

As shown on stage at Fashion Premiere Night at Roy Thomson Hall

 

 

 

Your entire collection here as well as your fashion vision is completely comprised of natural fibres, all from the earth and organic, correct? 

 

Exactly. These are the materials are highly sustainable and indigenous. Something that we can produce over and over again. It comes from the environment.

 

 

You have an mini-economy with this industry of artisans, designers and people who have a successful livelihood because you’re giving them opportunity to create.

 

I have this collaboration with one of the respected family of  Cebu (a province in The Philippines), The Ayalas. They help the Mangyan tribe. I got to know their project and I volunteer to teach the women [of the Mangyan tribe] how to do embroidery and how to design properly and make use of what they have there. I go [by] a chopper to a yacht to a bangka (outrigger canoe)  (laughs).

 

I saw great potential in them when it comes to embroidery. Very world-class, very fine embroidery, very detailed and with a lot of precision. Each one is done by hand.

 

Corset of gown also made by coconuts which are hammered into flattened rectangles all dyed using natural materials.

Corset of gown also made by coconuts which are hammered into flattened rectangles all dyed using natural materials.

 

Closeup of the flattened coconut squares.

Closeup of the flattened coconut squares.

 

As shown at Fashion Premiere Night held at Roy Thomson Hall

As shown at Fashion Premiere Night held at Roy Thomson Hall

 

"Maranao Collection” drawing inspiration from the Southern part of The Philippines.

"Maranao Collection” drawing inspiration from the southern part of The Philippines.

 

Part of Albaza's “Illustrado Collection” inspired by the Illustrado Era of The Philippines. Made from banana fiber.

Part of Ablaza's “Illustrado Collection” inspired by the Illustrado Era of The Philippines. Made from banana fiber.

 

 

 

Wow there is so much work!

 

That’s actually what I want. [This] work can give people a lot of work. The people who grow the coconut, those who harvest them, those who work on them to become like this. That’s my mission. Not just to design. I design with a cause.

 

 

How long does it take for the tree bark to become fibre?

 

This is also one of the thing that I discovered that the Mangyan [can do]. It’s fun and amazing to see how do they [create] cloth out of tree bark.  [To create] a single piece,  they spend about an hour. That’s so long.(laughs).  But they are used to doing it. [If I did it] it would take a week to become a fabric. (laughs). The dye is natural. No chemicals.

 

The scallopped designed fabric is made out of tree bark.

The scallopped designed fabric is made out of tree bark.

 

Same treatment (tree bark fabric) in ravishing red naturally dyed of course!

Same treatment (tree bark fabric) in ravishing red naturally dyed of course!

 

As shown at Fashion Premiere Night held at Roy Thomson Hall

As shown at Fashion Premiere Night held at Roy Thomson Hall

 

As shown at Fashion Premiere Night held at Roy Thomson Hall

As shown at Fashion Premiere Night held at Roy Thomson Hall

 

To take a look at John Ablaza’s collection as part of the “Manila Chic” segment of Fashion Premiere Night, click here!

 

 

Photography of John Albaza by Adrian Alconcel; fittings photography by Candice Kaye and runway photography by Alan Flores all for CPFW 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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