GRWM: An insider’s musings on the pleasures and pressures of prepping for Manila’s glittering galas

It takes some effort to be red-carpet ready—and a village to help you.

Celebrities like Heart Evangelista and Anne Curtis-Smith are known to pull out all the stops to create an entrance during red-carpet events. Heart donned show-stopping Schiaparelli gowns for the GMA and Mega balls while Anne was spotted wearing a subtler yet equally impactful piece from Saint Laurent. They also accentuated their looks with flawless makeup, stunning jewelry and other sartorial accoutrements.

These women make looking like a million bucks seem effortless. But the truth of the matter is that it takes some effort to arrive in style. It’s not enough to wear a beautifully made dress, as every other detail needs to be planned and executed to perfection. To borrow an old African proverb, it (actually) takes a village! And now that ball season is upon the metro, the village will definitely be abuzz with activity.

Mark Bumgarner event with Apples Aberin
The theme of the gala was Rewear and Refresh, Black and White Formal, so designer Mark Bumgarner and I thought it was fitting to wear the dress I wore during the finale of his 2017 fashion show.

Case in point, the Vogue Anniversary Gala. I received my invitation roughly a month before the event and although my heart fluttered with excitement, I also felt a bit of panic. Filipinos love to dress up and everyone attending this particular occasion will surely level it up by showing up in their most fashionable best.

Usually, big name attendees go as far as hiring stylists to help conceptualize and execute the look they want to achieve; visit their dermatologists ahead of time to ensure they have smooth skin; go on strict diets weeks before the occasion, get spray tans for a golden complexion and even book hotel rooms where they can relax, have their makeup done and create content.

The pressure was on! But I decided to enjoy the process by keeping things as simple as possible. This meant working with some of the people I trust most and who never fail to make me look good and, more importantly, feel great.

Mark Bumgarner design for Apples Aberin
Mark sent me a few sketches so we could mutually decide on how to refresh the finale number and we ended up loving this same design.
Apples Aberin selfie

The theme of the gala was Rewear and Refresh, Black and White Formal, a much-needed nod to sustainable and circular fashion. I immediately thought of some of my favorite designers with iconic pieces from archival collections that I could wear.  

The brilliant Mark Bumgarner turned out to be the perfect choice. In 2017, Mark asked me to do the finale for his fashion show. While all the models wore big, gorgeous ballgowns in pristine white, Mark made we wear a chic and sleek black and white number that the audience loved.

Mark and I thought that it would be fitting to wear the same dress for the gala. Not only did it meet the event’s theme, it was also timeless and I would have been more than proud to wear it once more. But being the perfectionist that he is, Mark decided to redo the dress to make it look new, exciting and fresh. This, in spite of the fact that he was already busy creating (or should I say recreating) gowns for Sarah Lahbati, Pia Wurtzbach and Kylie Versoza.

Apples Aberin glam team
Mark and his team worked to tuck, hide, elongate, highlight and, in the end, create a gala-worthy gown that suited my body type and style.

And so the process began. Mark sent me a few sketches so we could mutually decide on how to refresh the finale number. We ended up loving the same design, which was a form fitting black dress with transparent side panels accentuated with white flowers.

I rushed to his atelier to have my measurements taken and this revealed two additional inches on my waist and hips! To say that I felt uneasy and dismayed about my changing body is an understatement. No, I’m not the skinny, sized 0-2 model I used to be but Mark was quick to put my insecurities to rest. One of the reasons I love collaborating with him is because of his magical way of accentuating assets, minimizing perceived flaws and making his clients, me included, feel simply beautiful.

Apples Aberin on John Pagaduan makeup
John Pagaduan opted for a golden glow for the overall makeup look.

Mark normally requires at least two fittings because he tries to achieve perfection by paying attention to the most minute of details. He even noticed that the right side of my body curved more than my left and suggested how I should pose while wearing his creation. His team worked to tuck, hide, elongate, highlight and in the end, create a gala-worthy gown that suited my body type and style.

But the preparations didn’t end there. I also had to think of my hair and makeup look. My go to is none other than makeup artist to Anne and Jasmine Curtis-Smith—John Pagaduan. Like, Mark, I’ve worked with John for many years, so I knew he was the only one I wanted for this occasion.

Apples Aberin, Mark Bumgarner, Earl Semitara
Grateful for creative friends who are the best in the industry like Mark Bumgarner and Earl Semitara.

John opted for a golden glow for the overall makeup look. He then did soft smokey eyes using warm bronzed eyeshadow, soft contouring on the cheeks and a dusting of pearl peach blush to add some color. He decided to go for nude lips, using a subtle lip liner to create fuller lips finished off with a pinkish beige hue.

It may all seem simple and easy but achieving this look requires the help of an expert—even for ex models like me who usually do their own hair and makeup. So, here’s a little tip: once you know the date off your event, make sure you book your preferred makeup artist and hair stylist right away. John ended up doing 7 clients in one day and had to turn down some others.

Tessera Jewelry worn by Apples Aberin
I opted to wear a pair of striking drop earrings from Tessera Jewelry to match my signature studs.

Next step, completing my look with the right choice of jewelry, shoes and evening bag. I’m not one to hire a stylist so I opted to use black strappy heels and a tiny satin purse. I also decided to wear a pair of striking drop earrings from Tessera Jewelry. I matched these with my signature studs, two on each ear for good measure.

In the end, I felt like a million bucks with the help of some of the best in the fashion and beauty industry. I did say it takes a village! And although I’m still not the biggest fan of attending galas and balls, the pleasure of preparing for this one was far more than the pressure and the pain, aching feet in 4-inch heels included.

John Pagaduan Makeup for Apples Aberin
John Pagaduan’s makeup arsenal.

Products you’ll need to get my red-carpet look by John Pagaduan:

1. Prep the skin using Guerlain Abeille Royale Youth Watery Oil and Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer.

2. Use Guerlain Parure Gold Skin Foundation as your base, followed by Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Finish Powder Medium.

3. Add a dusting of Hermes Rose Abricot on the cheeks for some color.

4. Create a soft smoky eye using Nars Quad Eyeshadow in Laguna Sunset and Strokes Beauty Liquid Liner.

5. Achieve nude lips wit Charlotte Tilbury’s Pillow Talk.

The new lifestyle.