A Cinderella Story by John JNL Leon

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.

And makeup.

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.

Want your own fairy tale? Follow John JNL Leon on Facebook at www.facebook.com/johnJNLleon/ and Instagram @johnjnlleon.

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.

Burning Guitars at Philadelphia Fashion Week 2017

We first witnessed Burning Guitars on the runway at Atlantic City Fashion Week a few years back, and immediately knew they are something special. The brand that lets you ‘Live Life Like A Rockstar’ draws inspiration from music, art and pop culture to create a unique image. I bought one of their amazing jackets for my husband and whenever he wears it, there are constant comments and photos taken by people who are impressed by it.

The Burning Guitars team is lead by their CEO and founder Smiley Jonez, designer Saiyd Muhammed, and executive Kenneth Jackson. They are supported by a wonderful team of models who bring their vision to life on runways around the world.

We’ve been fortunate to see their collection evolve since then, but they truly took things to a new level at their February runway show for Philadelphia Fashion Week. From an innovative use of sports jerseys, to some of their most beautiful evening gowns, their collection has become stunningly diverse, ranging from dope street wear to high-end couture.

I asked Smiley about the philosophy underlying the Burning Guitars brand.

“My philosophy is simple. Burning Guitars is for everybody. So each show I try to take the onlooker thru a journey of fashion and subliminal messages. Whether it’s dealing with political issues or just displaying a trendsetting collection, my overall goal is for our runway to never look like any other runway. I believe in breaking the rules respectfully.”

Music is a constant presence in all of their work. Smiley is a talented performer and MC, who sometimes performs on the runway as the models do their thing. They talk in terms of touring, travelling the world like a rock band playing the hits at packed arenas.

“Music is energy in the form of sound and sound sends waves,” Jonez continued. “Those waves can be energy of positivity or energy of negativity. Either way you look at it, sound waves create a feeling. I like to make sure that my collection matches the music so that the onlooker is having a fashion/listening experience as well as viewing experience.”

The hard work is paying off with increasing visibility for their label, a growing list of celebrity fans, including Yazz The Greatest, Tyson Beckford and CeeLo Green, and their first show in Paris coming up later this year. I asked Smiley what such high-profile support has meant to him.

“Celebrity attention means nothing to me if true friendship isn’t attached to it. I am inspired by love and friendships. I truly genuinely want for others what I want for myself. I display that in every gesture. When I meet a celebrity I treat them how they yearn to be treated, which is like ordinary people. The moment I connect with them on that level we automatically become friends.

“In reference to what it means to me for the brand I would have to say it means everything. It wasn’t until celebrities like B.O.B., Yazz and now CeeLo Green started wearing the B.G. brand that everything really began to take off. To go from everybody laughing at me and calling me Mr. Brown to now everybody wanting to wear the clothes is kind of different and scary, but I embrace it and I am thrilled that everybody is starting to represent the brand. It makes me feel like “I’M NOT CRAZY AFTER ALL!”

“My overall goal for B.G. is to change the world through fashion one needle and thread at a time and give everybody in the world the feeling of what it means to ‘Live Life As A Rockstar’.”

Catch the tour when it hits a runway in your town, join their 43.5k followers on Instagram @burningguitars and let’s all watch them change the world!

DJ Siaani Love rocked this special custom Sixers jersey.

Model Elona Hope Mitchell-Strong Nlm is an amazing presence and practically floats down the runway.

Model John Alex Gaines III.

Model Tiffani D. McLoyd absolutely slays every time she walks.

The man himself takes the finale walk.

Conrad Booker Debut at Philadelphia Fashion Week 2017

I loved attending my first Philly Fashion Week in February. It was an amazing event that the producers did an incredible job at putting together. The show started off on a high-note by exciting the crowd, which included the legendary creator of New York Fashion Week, Fern Mallis, by opening up with the innovative and unique creations of designer Conrad Booker.

As you’ll see from the gallery below, Booker offers a fresh and challenging view of fashion, from what it should look like, how it should fit, and even what it’s made of. It was my first time seeing his designs, and I’ve since learned that he works in several different fields, including architecture and interior design. He also works as a muralist, and even his window displays have won awards.

His pieces are so big and bold on the runway, so I asked him about how be selects the materials that he uses.

“I started using alternative materials and methods based on affordability,” he told me. “Francesca Reveitti, the owner of Follicle Studios, approached me after seeing a show of mine about creating clothes for a hair competition she was entering. During our meeting, I pointed to a lamp I had made from skewers in regard to what might be an interesting material to use for a bodice. I soon started going to Loews to source materials for my projects. Now it is the first place I go when I start designing.”

I also asked him about how he constructs his unique styles.

“Many of the methods I use for construction are methods I’ve developed in working with many of the different materials. Over time, you develop techniques that you are familiar with and you adapt them based on which one best fits the situation. I desire to use ordinary materials and elevate them so they are perceived as couture. The end product is very refined, yet monumental.”

Philly Fashion Week featured so many incredible designers and a host of remarkable and memorable styles. It takes a truly special collection to make an impression on the audience, especially at the beginning of a three-hour show.

“Yes, my design style is very bold and fearless. I attribute it to two things, my training as an architect and living in a loft for many years. As an architect, I was trained at how to put a building together using different materials and how structure can affect the shape and style of a building. These principals I apply to my fashion designs.

“Many people ask me: was it difficult to go from being an architect to a designer. My response is ‘no.’ I truly believe that the “greatest piece of architecture is the human body”. After graduating from Temple University, I lived for many years in a loft at 13th and Callowhill Streets that had extremely high ceilings. Creating art for my walls, I discovered that I needed to make the pieces very large. As a result, I became accustomed to working this way. Plus, the women I imagine wearing my clothes and bags are powerful women who are strong and desire attention.”

Wearing any of Conrad Booker’s pieces would be a definite attention-grabber. He presented a lot of looks during this show and I only wanted to see more and more. I asked Conrad if he enjoyed his PFW experience and what was coming up for him.

“The response to my first Philly Fashion Week collection has been incredible and positive. I look forward to next February 2018 as I showcase my second collection, which is in development as we speak.”

I can’t wait to see it! Follow Conrad Booker on Instagram @conrad_booker and we’ll all be seeing a lot of his work in the months ahead.

My girl Samantha Grandy shines as one of the twins in this stunning presentation.

The highlight and finale of his collection. According to Conrad’s Instagram, this piece was his winning submission in the Costume Drama’s Plastic Category in Asheville, North Carolina. The dress is made with about 35,000 black plastic straws and topped with Plexiglass that’s been heated, cut and bent.

Watch Conrad Booker’s finale walk to close out his memorable collection.