Photo credit: Abigail Rosen
The stars truly came out to play at Charleston Fashion Week Thursday night. The front row consisted of celebrities such as Real Housewife of Atlanta Cynthia Bailey, Project Runway designer Mychael Knight, and Social Primer's K. Cooper Ray. And with the evening's featured designers being three contestants from NBC's newest hit show Fashion Star, the tents at Charleston Fashion Week seemed aglow with excitement.
The evening started off with a high energy dance performance by Sweet Dreams of DanceFX, followed by the shows of two local retailers, Copper Penny & Copper Penny Shooz, and King St. boutique V2V. Copper Penny showed exactly why they are a leading source for women's fashion in Charleston. Classic Charleston styles graced the runway (think flowy sun dresses and cowboy boots) followed by a very strong presentation by V2V. Highlights of V2V's show included neat pencil and mini skirts that provided a highly retro feel while their stunning tunics put the boho-glam factor into overdrive.
After a quick break the night's Emerging Designers took to the runway. After Wednesday night's competitor's exceptional showing it was delightful to see that the bar had been set consistently high throughout the week.
The first contestant was local Murrells Inlet designer Nancy Faw Crowell. Inspired by a circus theme for her Fall collection, the tiny tots walked the runway to traditonal circus music. Starting off with a chubby cheeked ringmaster in a driver's cap, it was immediately apparent that the clothes were impeccably made and Crowell left no detail overlooked. The fabrics were picked perfectly for each look with glitzy metallics for a darling party dress while canvas and other-kid friendly fabrics were also seen.
Next up was another Charleston based designer, Vartika Vikram. Vikram took her inspirations from architecture and expressionism and created a sophisticated yet charming collection. The first look really set the tone of her presentation - a light linen dress that provided an effortless elegance that would turn heads at any Charleston garden party. What really took Vikram's designs to another level was the incredibly intricate asymmectrical button closures that flowed down the back of several of her garments. Her technical abilties were a delectable icing on top of an already fabulous cupcake of expertly matched fabrics and cuts.
One more detail that set Vikram apart - her collaboration with Charleston jewelry maker Kate Rothra Fleming. Fleming has been a staple at the Charleston Farmer's Market for years and she has mastered the art of glasswork to create truly exceptional pieces. Fleming's postmodern abstractionist style pieces were perfect droplets of color that made Vikram's line truly shine. Fleming will also be showcasing her designs herself Friday and Saturday night at the CHSFW Style lounge.
Next up was Jordan Lee Brooks of Rock Hill, SC. Brooks' collection gave us unconventional waistlines and structures that showed creative promise, however the muted color tones and some of the frumpy ruffled dresses made the overall presentation seem rather underwhelming.
Next up was Raleigh, NC duo Amy Cochran Quinn and Kelly Elizabeth Ruehlman. Their purple and mustard green color tones provided an unexpectedly perfect color combination, however the choice of texture in some of the looks worked completely against each other. Think of a battle royale between an old shag carpet and a beautiful purple silk print. Keeping it simple and sticking to their obviously strong foundations in clean, sharp lines and colors will help take this duo's designs to the next level.
Rounding out the evening's competitors was Pineville, NC designer Hazel Bae. Bae gave us an artic-themed collection of wintery knits. Bae's technical execution was showcased in one particular grey sweater that was detailed in tiny gold balls that gave the garment depth and movement. The only criticism of Bae's collection would be a lack of color. An exploration of some different color schemes would make a blizzard-ready collection seem less frigid and more approachable.
Once the competition had ended and the audience had voted for their People's Choice Award of the competition, it was time to see first hand what has been captivating the nation from NBC's Fashion Star designers Sarah Parrot, Nikki Poulos, and Luciana Scarabello.
In pre-press interviews, each designer took the time to share the inspirations and foundations of each of their collections. Each designer seemed incredibly business savvy, and shared feelings that while fashion design is an industry focused on creativity, that it is important to remember that it is first and foremost an industry founded in business.
The designers also expressed their enjoyment of designing for the masses, and for "real women." They realize that the majority of women today are not sample size 0, and found it tricky to dress the tall and skinny models gracing the CHSFW runway. They all seemed to prefer to create for the size 6 - 10 ladies because as Scarabello shared "Size 0 is not the reality" of the majority of the world. "We are real people!" they all laughed, and shared that it is the consumers who have the real control of the industry.
The first set of looks were Scarabello's contemporary line of cocktail dresses. Scarabello's Argentian roots proved an excellent inspiration for her collection. The shapes were flattering and cuts perfect for a multitude of body types. Lines were daring and gave each garment a sophisticated South Beach feel.
The second round of garments were those of print obsessed Poulos. Originally from Austrailia, Poulos' relaxed yet glam collection delivered the "easy glamour" that she promised. An amazing sienna houndstooth pant and polka dot shirt combination proved that Poulos is a fearless master of the print and color realms of fashion.
Last but not least we saw 2011 CHSFW Emerging Designer Sarah Parrott's line of high end contemporary clothing. Lovely leather details on cocktail dresses made looks perfect for the office or for afterwork drinks. CHSFW Director Ayoka Lucas also rocked an electric blue cocktail dress of Parrott's for the evening - one that can now be found nationwide at H&M as a result of Parrott's experience on Fashion Star.
Once the show was completed, Lucas took to the stage to announce the evening's winners from the Emerging Designer competition. To no surprise Nancy Faw Crowell's playful children's collection took home people's choice, while Vartika Vikram's breathtaking collection gave her an advance to the fashion finale on Saturday evening.