While no Paris or New York, Charleston is well on its way to becoming a fashion powerhouse.
If you have any doubt, look to the tents in Marion Square as the seventh Baker Motor Co. Charleston Fashion Week got under way Tuesday night.
“A lot of cities are trying to do this, but they don't compare to what we're doing here (in Charleston),” said Heidi Johnson, manager of King Street womenswear store V2V. “We have the talent, the stores, the celebrities. ... It sells out every year. It's a huge pull for tourism.”
Johnson has attended Fashion Week since its inception, with V2V featured in the retail runway shows each year.
“We're going more cutting-edge, more risky this year,” she said. V2V will show Friday.
With events expanding this year to include an extra hour and The Belk Tent, a showcase where attendees have the chance to meet some of the best and brightest Southern designers, the pre-party Style Lounge was packed with people sipping cocktails, browsing the pop-up shops and listening to DJ Y-Not as they did some people-watching.
Katherine Cooney, an intern at V2V, said the people-watching is by far her favorite aspect of the pre-party. “And it's people of all ages, that's what's really fun,” she said.
“People look fabulous. They're taking risks, and it's fun to see people take those risks,” Johnson added. “This is the general public, no stylists, so seeing what they come up with and think looks stylish is fun to see.”
Under the main tent, sponsor Tommy Baker of Baker Motor Co. took the stage with fashion maven Ayoka Lucas, the style director and visionary of Fashion Week, to tout the production, saying he and his wife were “knocked off our feet” by the show, and that was after a trip to New York Fashion Week.
Lucas followed that up by introducing the first ever lingerie show at Charleston Fashion Week.
Retail stores Bits of Lace Fine Lingerie, Bob Ellis Shoes and Croghan's Jewel Box combined their efforts to produce the show, which featured everything from nighties to sleep shirts, thigh-high stockings to swim suits.
The show swiftly moved into the highly anticipated Emerging Designer Competition: East.
Twenty designers are vying for the title, which has helped launch the careers of numerous winners. The 2012 winner, Hannah Goff, closed the night out with her namesake collection, which has garnered attention from the likes of ELLE, NYLON, Fashionista.com and Southern Living.
The designs of semifinalists Sabrina Spanta, Victoria Cid, Jazslyn McNeil, Callie Nichol and Katherine Barron each took their turn down the catwalk, but it was Barron who won the judges over with her collection of structured white pieces finished off with hand-painted black swirls and rhinestones. She will compete against the other finalists in Saturday's finale.
The People's Choice winner of the evening was Nichol, who won the crowd over with her mix of leather and satin that was completed by a few choice red pieces.
Charleston Fashion Week runs through Saturday.
For more information, go to charlestonmag.com/fashionweek.