Saturday, November 15, 2014

Designer Sharlene Borromeo makes in big in Fashion Week San Diego

I just re-read the entry title and it does sound like an article heading. Actually, I'm blogging about my latest article on The Philippine Online Chronicles, and, for the lack of creative juices at the moment, allow me to retain the title.

Check out my article here.

For this entry, I'll share this Q&A with Sharlene Borromeo, the Pinay designer behind the brand A'doreus. She happens to be Fashion Week San Diego's first and only plus size designer for 3 years in a row! And she'll be back again next year. Read on to get to know her and her journey in the fashion industry so far.

Lornadahl: Congratulations on being the top designer for Fashion Week San Diego this year! How does it feel?
Sharlene: It is definitely an honor to have been voted Top Designer of Fashion Week San Diego 2014. Truthfully, I have mixed emotions. It was heartwarming to see people literally shed tears of happiness when the announcement was made. I knew people could feel the love and passion I put into my craft. In some ways it's a victory and I'm enjoying my moment of glory - breaking so many barriers, personally and within plus size/fashion industry. On the other side it's extremely daunting. I'm receiving a lot of pressure from so many different angles. People want me to branch out and showcase in New York, offer straight sizes, or mass produce and sell online. It's not impossible but it is costly and I don't think people quite understand that. Whichever direction this journey takes me, it will be one of purpose.

Sharlene Borromeo's winning moment at the recently concluded FWSD 2014.
Photo by Jon Naugle.

Lornadahl: You've been representing us plus size women in the Fashion Week for the past 3 years. Can you describe your journey to make it to this prestigious event? What does it take to maintain your presence for 3 years?
Sharlene: I have been representing the plus size community all my life because I've always been plus size, yet confident in my own skin. Encountering criticism and seeing the lack of plus size fashion in the industry didn't make me want to change who I was. I wanted to understand and "fix" the stigma that plus size women face because of the social pressures of the fashion industry. I earned a degree in Fashion Business and Technology in 2007 and a degree in Fashion Design and Technology in 2009. It's ironic because I never considered being a Designer when I was younger. I didn't know how to sew and I surely didn't follow fashion trends (I still don't). I'm not about the bells and whistles, fame and glamour. I'm about simplicity and fashion that accentuates a woman's assets.

It was through business internship with world renowned Designer and Fashion Icon, Zandra Rhodes that I discovered my creative side and was encouraged by Rhodes to pursue Fashion Design. As my Mentor, Rhodes instills in me the concept of "paving my own way". I strive to model her tenacity and determination to go against the grain and not conform. I've made my mark at FWSD as the first plus size Designer. As the winning Top Designer, I automatically get to return for a 4th year. I've ben able to maintain my presence for 3 years because of people like Rhodes who continuously push me and because people appreciate my transparency about my journey. I may not have the largest following, but those that do follow me know my worth and potential.

Mentor Zandra Rhodes has all praises for Sharlene. Watch the clip here

Lornadahl: Please describe your fashion brand A'doreus and what makes it different from other plus size brands.
Sharlene: My brand, A'doreus, is a direct reflection of who I am. A'doreus is a lifestyle of a'doring and embracing diversityand size acceptance through the many facets of fashion. What sets me apart from other plus size brands is that I use my craft as a way to build meaningful connections. My brand relies on the foundation of "purpose". Many plus size Designers showcase amongst other fellow plus size Designers at events that are tailored to the plus size audience. Fashion Week San Diego is primarily a mainstream fashion event with thin models and a lot of swimwear. Showcasing a collection at FWSD is a way for me to change people's mindset of what plus size fashion looks like and understand its relevance in the mainstream fashion industry, especially because 70% of all American women wear a size 14 or larger. I view my efforts as a social movement to embrace diversity and size acceptance.

Lornadahl: What are your best design pieces and why?

Mullet skirt made of 100% silk

Sharlene: This hi-lo dress, made of 100% silk fabric with black piping was the finale piece to my first collection I showcased at FWSD in 2012. Its elegance brings about a sense of sophistication and grace to be a'dored.

Vintage key-inspired pattern design printed on organic cotton sateen fabric

Sharlene: I collaborated with local San Diegan Artist, Rebecca Berenson from Urban Fish Designs. We created a vintage key inspired pattern that we had printed on organic cotton sateen fabric. This dress is truly one of a kind and cannot be replicated. The print was used throughout my collection showcased at FWSD 2013.

Sequin maxi dress

Sharlene: I've never worked with sequins before because I always thought it screamed "plus size" but with the right kind of sequins it can look very chic and contemporary.

Sharlene's creation for a petite plus size model

Sharlene: I designed this dress for a petite plus size mode. The silhouette is classic with a sweetheart neckline and a hi-low circle skirt. However, the chevron fabric with the sheer eyelet chiffon overlay, pinstripe bow, and gold trim detail makes the dress magical. The drape and movement of the dress is breathtaking!

 Party dress

Sharlene: This dress is a signature style of mine. I tend to use several fabrics for my collection. I then like to use all of the fabrics within one look. That particular look then becomes more fashion forward for those looking for something unique and trendy.

Lornadahl: Awesome designs! What's next for your brand? Any grand plans we need to know?
Sharlene: I have treaded the waters of the fashion industry very strategically because I am a realist and would rather take my time mastering my craft and creating fashion with purpose. I plan to use the next year to promote A'doreus, possibly seek a manufacturing company to begin production, and complete another collection for FWSD 2015 to complete my commitment with them. What happens next? I'm not sure. It really depends on what doors open for me within the next few months.

A'doreus will be recognized at the Silayan Filipina National Organization's "Honoring Filipinas in the Arts" on December 20, 2014. I will be specifically recognized for my "outstanding achievements as an artist in Fashion Design".

I recently had the opportunity to meet blogger Crystal Coons (@sometimesglam). We are throwing ideas around about a future collaboration regarding a styling book for the plus size woman. She was impressed with my collection and did an impromptu photo shoot with some of the pieces. You can follow her blog at to see more of the looks.

Lornadahl: Where do you get your inspiration for your designs?
Sharlene: I don't follow trends. I really don't even have a favorite Designer. I'm not a brand snob and I rarely flip through fashion magazines. I really do create from the heart and for the body I plan to clothe. Fashion is so subjective anyway so I don't create to appease the masses. I utilize classic silhouettes, simple style lines and focus on the details of the garment. I love piping. using different trims, and combining different fabrics and textures for a luxurious, one of a kind piece. Often times, I am my own inspiration. I create clothes that I would want to wear. I'm 5'2", wear size 18-20, have big arms, a round belly and thick thighs. You won't ever catch me "hiding" under clothing nor will you ever find me scantily clothed. I like comfortable and functional clothes that will allow me to rip around town effortlessly. My designs are meant too make a plus size woman feel equally feminine, sexy, and refined.

Lornadahl: Any message for aspiring plus size fashion brands to make it big?
Sharlene: For any aspiring fashion Designer, plus size or not - my advice is to design with purpose. When we do things from the heart, with a conscience mind, and conduct yourself with the highest level of integrity - it's easier to navigate through the politics and competitiveness that comes with the fashion industry. Use your moral compass. As far as making it big... When I figure it out - I'll let you know! Until then, perseverance is key.