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Tuesday, September 30, 2014         

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Party with a purpose

A local fashion designer guides hard-working interns in putting on a benefit fashion show

By Nadine Kam

POSTED:


The world of fashion is fun, beautiful, glamorous, sexy.

Not always.

Sure it can be, but that's just the surface. The rest, like the notion of an all-powerful Oz in "The Wizard of Oz," is just an illusion.

PINC PREMIERE PARTY

With Fresh Fashion Show preview:
» Place: Paparazzi, Ward Centre
» When: 9 p.m. to midnight Saturday
» Admission: Free before 11 p.m., reserve at www.ValerieJoseph.com; donate school supplies for Community Helping Schools for a chance to win a grand prize
» Call: 942-5258

FRESH FASHION EVENT

Third annual benefit for Community Helping Schools with fashions by Valerie Joseph, Rachel Pavlis, Jennifer Fukino and Kristen Domingcil:
» Place: Rumours, Ala Moana Hotel
» When: 4 to 8 p.m. Aug. 29
» Tickets: $20, includes pupu buffet, available at Valerie Joseph, Ala Moana Center, or www.valeriejoseph.com
» Call: 942-5258
Behind the curtain you'll find a lot of hard work, sweat, stress and heavy lifting. That's the part Valerie Ragaza-Miao, owner of the Valerie Joseph boutique, wanted to show starry-eyed interns when she started her PINC (Partners Inspiring Nouvelle Concepts) program.

Even though I should know better, when I meet up with Ragaza-Miao to talk about her PINC launch party Saturday at Paparazzi, I mentioned, "You don't look stressed at all."

"Well, it always looks very pretty. That's what we work at behind the scenes so the audience can have a seamless experience," she said. "Students enter an internship thinking, 'Oh, it's really cool. I can work with Valerie.' But what they learn is it's a lot of work that's not very pretty."

The PINC team was formed to assist her in producing a benefit fashion show. The students were selected in spring and started working on the project in May. Along the way, one dropped out, leaving only two to carry on, putting in 200 hours toward earning four credits at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

What it amounts to is a boot camp for budding community-minded entrepreneurs, event coordinators, fundraisers and public relations professionals in the guise of a fashion internship. All the skills are necessary components of making a business work today.

During weekly meetings, Ragaza-Miao invites professionals, such as Joni Redick-Yundt, author of "Million-Dollar Attitude," to speak to the students about their paths toward success. The students are also coached in public speaking and writing press releases.

"What they've realized are the skills that are needed to produce a charitable event," Ragaza-Miao said. "They've never solicited for donations before. They've never done cold calling. Everything is new to them. It's pushed them to develop skills they never had before."

In classrooms, students deal with theoretical concepts, not the realities of who's going to provide labor, contribute gifts and prizes or fund their fantasies.

"In the beginning they had all these ideas, so I would have to step in and ask, 'Who's going to pay for all this?' The reality of working for a nonprofit is there is no money," Ragaza-Miao said. "They also wanted to charge $500 for a ticket. Now it's $20. They had to learn to be realistic and pay attention to what's going on in the community, in the economy."

After researching various charities, the students elected to donate funds raised from the Fresh Fashion Event on Aug. 29 to Community Helping Schools. Tickets are on sale at the Valerie Joseph boutique.

During the PINC Premiere Party on Saturday, leading up to the Fresh Fashion Show benefit, there will be free Nail Candy embellishments by Salon Cookie Couture and body art by Dr. Wiz, raffles and free PINC gifts while supplies last. Attendees are invited to bring in school supplies for Community Helping Schools for a shot at a grand prize.

Then, if all goes well on the 29th, the organization founded by Kathie Wells will get a cash infusion toward its aim of matching community donors with classroom needs, such as computers, file cabinets and other necessities. And the audiences will be treated to an eyeful of fabulousness via a fashion show of Valerie Joseph designs, as well as the work of three young designers: Rachel Pavlis, Jennifer Fukino and Kristen Domingcil. Also showcased will be the work of Nolan Robert, celebrity makeup artist and Lifetime's "Blush" reality makeup show winner, who hails from Hawaii.

PAVLIS' interest in fashion developed when she started working in the Valerie Joseph boutique during high school. Prior to that the 'Iolani School graduate envisioned a career in nursing.

Her "Metamorphosis" show will be an autobiographical depiction of her journey and coming out as a designer. "I was always interested in fashion, and working in the store steered me in that direction," she said.

Now attending school in Portland, Ore., she still comes home summers to work at the boutique. Heading into her senior year at Oregon State University, Pavlis said she finally feels ready to work on a complete collection, and since coming home has been hard at work creating pieces seven pieces for the Fresh Fashion Show.

Exposure to Pacific Northwest style has provided some influence in terms of eco-thinking and winterwear.

"I found out I love winterwear and layering, and it's something I want to do more of. Here it was like, 'Why do I need a coat?' I'm also more attune to seasonal trends, while in Hawaii everyone dresses the same all year."

She'll be showing a range of separates, dresses, coat and gowns made with rich silk chiffons, silk charmeuse, couture beaded lace, Italian wool boucle and metallic brocade.

Also in the show is Kristen Domingcil, who will be a senior at UH-Manoa this fall. She'll be showing her "Watercolor Tea Party" collection of feminine printed, ruffled tea dresses, plus hats and her handcrafted accessories.

Compared with her contemporaries, Domingcil considers herself a romantic whose design sensibilities veer toward ruffles and old-fashioned femininity.

"I consider myself offbeat. My idea of fun is drinking tea and reading," she said.

The ideas for her collection came to her while en route back home from studying abroad in London, where a class in architecture increased her comfort level in working with space and proportion. She also found inspiration in the streets, where both young and old displayed their sense of style.

"I always felt so underdressed there," Domingcil said. "The American mentality is to wear whatever's comfortable. For the British it seems to be wear whatever you want, but make it interesting. There's always something off about what they wear, but in a good way. Like, I was on the Tube (subway) and there was an older woman dressed head to toe in different shades of red.

"It seemed like every time I saw someone, I would be thinking, 'Wow, where did she get that piece?'"

The only overlap, she said, was in the abundance of leggings and skinny jeans. "But even the jeans were interesting. There was always some detail to them, or they were paired with a nice belt."

In spite of all the extra work involved in staging a charitable event, Ragaza-Miao has plans to introduce a similar internship program at the high school level someday.

"It's an important fork in life, when kids have to start thinking about their next steps. I see how people spend so much time and money in college and end up working in completely different fields because they didn't find their passion or heart. I think if you truly do what you love, you won't fail."

She said she was lucky enough to know at a young age that she wanted to work in fashion. In grade school she'd stay up late -- not doing homework, but sewing new outfits for classes the next day.

"I couldn't wear anything from a store or anything anyone else would have," she said. "A lot of young people are afraid to be unique, but I always felt a need to be different."

Her immediate goal is to present two Fresh fundraising fashion events a year, although she said her husband, Joseph, worries that she's working too hard.

"Maybe it's because I don't have children," she said. "I believe you can parent in any capacity."






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