Image by Joseph Nienstedt
Charleston has received many an award for it's charms lately. From Conde Nast naming our dear town as the "Best City in the World" to our endless list of James Beard Award nominees every year, Charleston is proving itself as a force to be reckoned with - and the local fashion industry is bringing a powerhouse of talent to the runway as well.
Charleston Fashion Week is the most anticipated event of the year for the holy city's most fashionable crowd, and Wednesday night's presentations under the tents showed exactly why Southern Living named Charleston Fashion Week one of the top 5 fashion weeks in the South.
The event kicked off with a beautiful presentation by local designer and retailer JLINSNIDER. Snider is excellent at combining old world romance with modern structures. Floral appliques graced sheer, lace textures that gave the collection an artful splash of couture. Other looks such as a wood-grained print mini dress provided a balanced, ready-to-wear addition to Snider's collection and showcased just how vast a range the designer has in her arsenal of talents.
Local menswear retailer Ike Behar provided crisp, clean lines and elegantly crafted suits blended with contemporary casual looks. There was a nice palette of neutrals, prints and subtle pops of gem tones in the presentation which also featured children's styles. Overall the collection had a bespoke, yet approachable feel.
Emerging designer presentations were up next with Serena da Conceicao of Brooklyn, NY leading the way with hints of leather, formal structures and a nice variety of looks from pantsuits to sheer tops. Children's clothing designer Lulu Long of Seabrook, SC followed with fun prints and an exceptional mastery of pattern that could easily place her collection in stores.
Emerging designer contestant Hyemin Cho of NYC brought memorable looks with abstract color prints blended with darker tones. Her mini dresses brought a very classic Italian feel to the presentation. Durham, NC based partners Clarissa Arocena and Bryan Datinguinoo showcased a lot of neutral-hued seperates, and while the collection was well structured it would have been nice to see more variety. While the duo obviously have an impeccable eye for classicism the collection felt a little shy and restrained.
Young Florida designer Cassidy Elizabeth-Mae Brown ended the emerging designer competition with a punch. Her expertly tailored peplums amongst tribal prints, gowns and a sea of color made this collection simply unforgettable. Models donned traditional African tribal headresses and graced the runway in a wonderful showcase of chiffon.
To finish up the presentations Featured Charleston-based designers Kris and Bob Galamarini of Neve/Hawk shot the talent factor of the night straight through the roof. The Galamarini's create wonderful shabby-chic children's looks that are cute enough for school picture day yet comfortable enough that kids can still feel like kids in their designs. Striped leggings, flowing dresses and asymmetrical seperates are staples in their American made pieces.
The night was came to an end in almost a blink of an eye and it was time to announce the evening's winners of the Emerging Designer competition. The competition was stiff and the talent poured from each of the contestants. Over several years of covering this event not a more impressive evening of competition comes to mind. Brown's collection won her the People's Choice Award for the evening while Conceicao won the evening's round of competition overall and will advance to the finals this Saturday.
There are still three days of fashion to be had and if there is one treat to give yourself this week let it be a ticket to this event. Local retailers are showcasing spring arrivals every evening and other featured designers include Antonio Azzulo on Friday evening and everyone's favorite former Project Runway contestant Christian Siriano showcasing his newest collection Saturday evening at the Fashion Finale.