Charleston Fashion Week: Wednesday night under the tents

Image by Joseph Nienstedt

The energy at Charleston Fashion Week was amped up to fantastic heights Wednesday night. The fashion stakes were raised on and off the runway by the attendees and designers alike.

The night kicked off with a unique vocal performance by local artist King Sing and was immediately followed by the shows of local retailers Tommy Bahama and designer/retailer JLINSNIDER. It is strange enough to see these two retailers mentioned in the same sentence as they are polar opposites of each other. Bahama showcased their signature resortwear for fun in the sun, while JLINSNIDER took us to another level, if not another planet.

JLINSNIDER's collection was the perfect combination of hard-edge sci fi meets romance and glamour. Her futuristic and industrial prints gave strong character to classic forms. There were also soft, romantic ruffled gowns with unique, sharp cuts and lace detailing that provided a softer feel to the entire collection. It was executed perfectly and rather than being taken to two different extremes, the collection was cohesive and well balanced.

After a break began the evening's round of the Emerging Designer Competition. First up were locals Bob and Kris Galmarini who have developed a fantastic children's line Neve Inspired. What was really spectacular about this show was that while yes, the child models entertained the crowd with their cute personalities and innocent awe - the clothes were just as memorable. The style was hipster meets function, with influences of rock with a touch of playful whimsy. At the end of the presentation we truly saw the amount of love that helped produce the collection. The Galamarini's walk down as a family, tears welling in their eyes in happiness - and most of the crowd's too.

Next up was a swimwear presentation by New Jersey designer Jessica Patricia Krupa. Elegant suits with flattering cuts made the collection extremely ready to wear, but the true delight was in the details. Perfectly executed accents such as ruffles and buttons truly enhanced the looks and gave each garment a little "something extra" without being too excessive.

The third emerging designer of the evening was Angela Sum of NYC. Sum shared in her pre-show video that she had quit her job as an investment banker to study for a year at FIT and persue fashion - and I think the world will be very glad she did. Her entire collection was very wearable. Based in a wintery color scheme of milky whites, Sum added nice pops of neon color accents which added a vibrancy to the soft romantic theme. Each complete look was very polished while the individual garments were versatile.

Ridgewood, NY designer Ra Jang was the next to present. Her pre-show video showed her describing her collection as "Personal, Texture, Visibility and Modern." While Jang's collection provided lovely color combinations with navy furs, black silks, neon prints and metallics, the overall execution seemed a bit forced. The concepts of the garments were fresh and one could see where Jang wanted to take each piece, however it looked as though the details got lost on the emphasis of the textures and some of the items appeared to have just a little too much fabric. Jang is definitely one to keep an eye on as she hones her craft.

The final Emerging Designer contestant was Nina Awasum. Originally from Cameroon, Awasum produced a collection inspired by her native culture intertwined with modern styles. Showing looks for both Men and Women, Awasum's looks could be described as tribal meets NYC. Highlights included beautiful silk navy pants with ruffled detailing around the ankles, as well as a breathtaking burnt sienna colored cheetah print gown to end her presentation.

With a tough decision before the judges, local designer and former CHSFW Emerging Designer contestant Michael Wiernicki then presented his newest collection. In pre-show interviews Wiernicki described his collection as it was "The party before the end of the world. It's for boys, it's for girls, it's for everyone." A highlight of Weirnicki's talents is his ability to seamlessly design garments for both genders and still emphasize a common thread that ties the collection together.  

Starting off with a black hooded model slowly ambling down the runway, the tone for the collection was obviously based in the exploration of the mysterious. Compared to Wiernicki's highly couture presentation last year, this year was extremely wearable. A shirt with printed eyes on each shoulder and a turtleneck gown with a blue sphinx print were thought provoking and intriguing. Menswear looks included a gown, as well as a long camel jacket and knit tops. Wiernicki's final look was another hooded figure in white with ancient symbols flowing down the front of the garment. But there was one detail about this garment that really stood out. There was one extremely long strip of fabric that glided off the runway almost into the audience as the model walked. While normally one would find this excessive, seeing the audience shift uncomfortably as the model passed by provided the perfect message from Wiernicki's collection. Make yourself uncomfortable. Push you personal boundaries. Accept your unknown fate of the future and enjoy the fruits of the present and the gems provided by our world's past. 

After Wiernecki completed his collection, CHSFW director Ayoka Lucas took to the stage to announce the People's Choice Award as well as announce the night's finalist for the Emerging Designer Competition. The Galamarini's unsurprisingly - and deservingly - won the People's Choice award. And in a very stiff heat, Angela Sum's winter mystique won a pass to the Saturday finale where she will show the rest of her collection.

TheDigitel is also very grateful to have had Joseph Nienstedt in the pit for us last night. You can check out his photo essay of the evening here.

For all of our coverage of Charleston Fashion Week, check out our landing page. Follow along for live coverage each night on Twitter at @TheDigitelExtra.