By Josie Moralidad Ziman
Special to the Manila Mail
ARLINGTON, Va. Michael Seneriches is a 43-year-old Ilonggo nurse who works on daily wages at two medical facilities in San Francisco, Ca. But that’s not what landed him in the news – fashion is a hobby and that landed him a gig at one of the world’s most prestigious fashion shows – New York Fashion Week last Sept. 10 at Piers 59, Chelsea Piers in New York City.
Seneriches, originally from Mandurriao in Iloilo City, Philippines first came to the United States as a tourist in 1996 and eventually decided to emigrate in Chicago where he pursued a career in nursing. He currently works on per diem basis as a clinic nurse at Kaiser Permanente and as a pre-admission testing nurse at Sutterhealth CPMC.
He is a self-taught fashion designer who took some basic sewing classes. “Filmmaking was my first passion and the move to California was sort of part of the goal to be near Hollywood. However, I also started taking interest in Photography (specifically Fashion Designing), and the spark grew into a passion. I started taking basic lessons here and there and started making dresses for fun with some friends,” he told the Manila Mail.
He joined the SFFAMA (San Francisco Fashion and Merchant Alliance) in 2010 as a volunteer. One day during the orientation, the organizer announced that he needed more designers for an upcoming show. Without hesitation, Seneriches approached the organizer and showed samples of his work. He presented his first collection as an amateur designer in San Francisco and has since continued to participate in SFFAMA’s shows every year until 2012 when he auditioned for the Bravo’s produced reality TV show “Project Runway.”
He got through the initial stages of the selection process, and almost made it to the final 16 that was going to New York. “Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the Final 16, and that was really a big blow to my dreams of being in New York Fashion Week. I continued to design dresses and join shows in San Francisco, until in December 2016 when I got an email from Ellen Wang of the CAAFD (Council of Aspiring American Fashion Designers) to showcase my collection at New York Fashion Week as an emerging designer. I couldn’t believe it but I had to turn it down as participation fees were beyond what I would like to spend,” he recalled.
In April 2017, Ellen Wang and her group from CAAFFD wrote Seneriches again to invite him to the September Spring Summer 2018 showcase and for the same reasons, he had to say no since the costs were too rich for him: almost $25,000. Things turned around in July 2017 when Wang offered him 85 percent sponsorship, apparently impressed that he should show his designs at New York Fashion Week.
“On September 10, 2017 I presented my Mikelsen collection at Chelsea Piers in New York, along with four other emerging designers. Seeing my creations on the models in the dressing area was very exciting, and hearing positive comments from staff and different people backstage was also very reassuring,” he said.
For him, the reception to his work was surreal. “The most unbelievable feeling came when I walked the long runway with my final model, to shouts and applause from the crowd, flashes from cameras, handshakes, thumbs up, etc. I felt like I was floating in space. My heart and spirit were filled with life. But with that elation came a sense of love and humility, gratitude and great accomplishment- that I can finally say I made it to the top and the beginning of more success,” he said emotionally.
Seneriches looks up to some of the great designers in the world like Raf Simmons, Oscar de la Renta, Alber Elbaz, Tom Ford and Christian Dior. He is also hoping to dress up Michelle Obama, Kate Middleton and Angelina Jolie, among others, but quickly added that he’d be glad to dress anyone at the right opportunity and time. He believes that, like any art form, the eyes need only a few elements to get the message and take it to different levels of appreciation.
“I want to just give the basic silhouettes and incorporate it with a few classic design elements. After the New York Fashion Week, I feel like the universe is a gift to all of us who were given the opportunity to be born in this world,” he explained, overwhelmed by the honor.
“Beauty has no labels or ethnic backgrounds for me. What you see is what you get.” What you see with Michael Seneriches and his work is the Filipino’s creative soul at its best.