OIFW Day 3: The Autism Speaks Benefit Dinner and Show Creates Cultural Overload

by Mellissa Thomas


Orlando International Fashion Week deepened its imprint during its Autism Speaks benefit dinner and fashion show at the Orlando Science Center Tuesday, November 4, 2014. While many were still rushing to the polls, Central Florida’s fashion lovers gathered in the picturesque Orlando Science Center for a night of fashion, delicious food, and a powerful cause: Autism awareness.

The night began with a mixer with local vendors, including It Works! Body Wraps, Onli Beverages, The Pampered Chef, UCF’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD), Autism Speaks, and local artisan jewelers.


A Picture-Perfect Dinner

Attendees enjoyed delicious dinner on the museum’s Suntrust Terrace with lighting worthy of a romance film: lines of tiny naked incandescent bulbs reached from the terrace roof to its railing, sweeping the area with warm light, countering the night’s cool mid-sixties breeze and dancing reverently beneath a full moon.


Attendees enjoyed OIFW's Autism Speaks benefit dinner under beautiful lighting on Orlando Science Center's Suntrust Terrace.

Source: Fierce Entertainment Management.


Java Lava catered the night with a cash bar and an almost Mongolian barbecue style offering, letting people choose what they would like on their plate and cooking it on the spot. Elite Catering & Events, LLC provided extra munchies thanks to its demo table serving red wine cabbage, pork, mushrooms, and mashed potatoes on small biscuits with creamy cheese.

Everyone filled their bellies with a little boogie thanks to not one, but two deejays, spinning current and old school Hip Hop, soul, and eighties hits – everything from “Anaconda” to “She Drives Me Crazy.”


The Main Event

The show’s seating was set up in the museum’s vast Dino Digs gallery.

Yes. Dinosaurs.

Several twenty- to thirty-feet-tall dinosaur skeletons – including the T-Rex, of course – became additional audience members surrounding the dozens of humans who came to enjoy the show, even periodically swinging their heads and roaring in approval during the show. Special guests included Miss International World Jenney Rosario and the night’s featured designer seven-year-old Autistic advocate Suleiman Alqadheeb.


The audience, press, (and dinosaurs) look on as the fashions emerge.

Source: Fierce Entertainment Management.


Media personality, former Orlando Magic dancer, and Miss Florida USA 2010 Megan Clementi hosted the event, kicking it off by acknowledging the night’s beneficiary, Autism Speaks, and a brief interview with Alqadheeb.

Brooklyn native Shabar Cromer’s Designs by Shabar Cromer emerged first (below right), showcasing edgy women’s wear with geometric cutouts, demanding colors, and all the attitude of “that chick” in the club who just knows she’s the most gorgeous one in the room.


Models display the grown and flirty fashion of Designs by Shabar Cromer and TG Originals during OIFW's Autism Speaks Benefit Dinner & Show..

Source: Sandra Nicole Rhodes.


Between showcases, Hawaiian transplant Brianna Abregado, who performed at the Kickoff Press Party, serenaded the audience live with two original tracks that offered a combined Pop and R&B sound.

Following Abregado’s performance was Rich & Norelis’s (R&N) Muse line, an eclectic collection of print and maxi dresses, which Norelis stated is meant to make women “feel sexy and comfortably confident.”


Rich & Norelis's showcased their Muse collection at OIFW's Autism Speaks Benefit Dinner & Show.

Source: Ashley Lebron.


Clementi briefly interviewed Rich and Norelis, who shared their story of meeting each other while working on a project, falling love, and working on their clothing line together. Norelis describes the line as a balance of sexiness and functionality, which Rich adds through certain accents. The couple explained they have a fall collection in the works and will expand into accessories.

Fabo Piano, Buddy Blues, and Abregano gave the audience a surprise treat for the night’s second interlude by performing an Ella Fitzgerald classic. Abregano poured her emotions into the song, proving frequent vocal comparisons to Christina Aguilera and Alicia Keys. Fabo and Buddy performed an additional song before the audience got the unexpected shock of the night.


The Russian Ballet of Orlando Ups the Ante…In Only Four Minutes

Katerina Fedotova’s Russian Ballet of Orlando dispatched its two finest ballerinas: principal ballerina Marissa (below), and Cecille. Marissa gracefully performed a classical piece, much in the same jaunty vein as her performance during Florida Fashion Weekend, wowing the crowd with her continuous string of perfect pirouettes at the close of her performance. Cecille followed with more emotive routine, dancing to a haunting and somber Celine Dion singing in a different language. Cecille channeled Dion’s sorrow so palpably the audience threw up cheers, whistles, claps, and “wows”.


Russian Ballet of Orlando's Principal ballerina Marissa performs for the audience at OIFW's Autism Speaks Benefit Dinner & Show.

Source: Fierce Entertainment Management.


The Spot Studio’s Carlos Colon commented, “I’m having a cultural overload right now. Dinosaurs, fashion, Russian ballet, this is awesome.”

Though the Russian Ballet of Orlando was a tough act to follow, Clementi returned to introduce Trish Green’s TG Originals, a collection of what can be described as clothing for the “grown woman”, including cutouts and lace, and a primarily monochromatic palette of black, white, and gray.

Fabo and Buddy performed their final set of the night, featuring Fabo rapping in fluent German.


The Closing Act

Trish Green and Shabar Cromer’s joint venture line Triatic concluded the showcase with its summer collection, which boasts vibrant gold and print bikinis with ornate cutout patterns, a blouse-kini (if that’s a term) consisting of a long-sleeved black midriff top with print accents to match the print bikini bottom.


Trish Green and Shabar Cromer's Triatic line features vibrant summer pieces at OIFW's Autism Speaks Benefit Dinner & Show.

Source: Trish Green.


The show left the audience amazed and pleased. “You guys totally stepped it up this year,” Colon praised. “I can’t wait to see what you’re going to do next year.”

Want to get in on the fun? There’s still some week left! Check out the OIFW 2014 schedule and buy your tickets at



Mellissa Thomas headshotAbout the Author:
Orlando Fashion Magazine Chief Editor and Publisher Mellissa Thomas is a Jamaica-born writer. She’s a decorated U.S. Navy veteran with Entertainment Business Masters and Film Bachelors degrees from Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL.

She’s currently available for hire, writing marketing material, website content, and as a manuscript editor. She also writes poetry, screenplays, and ghostwrites books.

She has published four books, all available on Her most recent release, Faded Diamonds, is now available in paperback on all major online book retailers and digitally available on the Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.



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