FILIPINO fashion designer John Ablaza, recently attended a fashion show in Bulawayo with make-up and hair stylist Pierre-Lyn Arcega and Medjy Mezilus of Meme Designs in Haiti.
Ablaza is an international eco-fashion designer, renowned for his use of sustainable local materials in his couture designs. He has done shows in Manila, Taipei, Shenzhen, Bahrain, London, Brussel, Los
Angeles and New York. Ablaza (JA) spoke with NewsDay (ND) Life & Style reporter Sharon Sibindi on his work. Here are the excerpts…
ND: Zimbabwe is currently on the international spotlight over its endless political and economic problems. What has attracted you to do business with Zimbabwe?
JA: I have been hearing a lot of news on the situation here in Zimbabwe, so in the beginning, I was hesitant to come. I had to double check with my friends from Zimbabwe. I think that challenges me a lot because I am thinking of probably to be an instrument and help the people around to lift their morale.
ND: What exactly are you looking at in Zimbabwe?
JA: My main purpose of coming here is to mentor Zimbabwean artists. The first time I came here, I found out that Zimbabwean fashion designers had an amazing talent and can compete globally. My intention of coming here was to share what the Americans like as I have been in the fashion industry for the past 30 years.
ND: Do you see any opportunities for fashion business here?
JA: The people have vast, amazing talent here. They just need exposure to the international market and they should really work hard and continue to come up with something new every time. There are works by Zimbabwean designers that can compete globally. Zimbabwe has a very big potential in the international market.
ND: What would you say about the fashion designers in the country compared to your home country?
JA: I don’t want to compare. All I can say is they are equally talented, equally creative and equally hardworking. Somehow, I think the Filipino designers have already made it onto the international scene. I have the ambition to see more Zimbabwean designers make it globally on the fashion scene. So, I want to be an instrument for their success.
ND: Have you partnered with any fashion designer locally?
JA: I did a very important fashion show in New York City and I pitched the works of Bulawayo designers. I brought their works to New York and showcased them in my show. They were amazed with what they saw and how much I embraced the African culture. So, doing a show in New York is not easy, but I am glad that they appreciated what I did.
ND: How has been your experience in Zimbabwe so far?
JA: I feel very much welcomed here, and I feel like this is my second home already. It’s very peaceful here and the people here are very nice. They are organised as well. So I want to thank Samantha Tshuma and Sherine Taylor for organising everything. This trip is very special, and I am delighted as well as looking to come here every year and do the mentorship programme. We went to places like Makokoba where we distributed some gifts, and we will visit another charity in Harare.
ND: How has been the response so far from the artistes after doing several workshops?
JA: We had very limited time, so the participants are looking forward to more exchange programmes. I promise them to do another exchange programme. We will have much longer time frames so that everybody can have the opportunity to experience a real mentorship programme.
ND: Your parting shot
JA: For the designers, I say they have to continue to work hard and should be inspired and motivated.