From New York to Paris to Milan, fashion week has become an industry standard. With events taking place in major cities all over the world, it's really no surprise that the spectacle has spread to locales such as Nashville, Tenn.; Austin, Texas; Charlotte; and Charleston.

If you go

What: The Baker Motor Company Charleston Fashion Week

When: Tuesday-March 22

Where: Marion Square, at the corner of King and Calhoun streets

Price: $25-$295 for tickets to individual shows; select number of VIP packages available

For more info:

Entering its eighth year, the Baker Motor Company Charleston Fashion Week has become a celebrated five-night fashion event credited with launching the careers of up-and-coming designers and models, and supporting local businesses and charities through its affiliations and events.

Under the tents at Marion Square, this year's event will again feature early evening runway shows by local shops, including Bits of Lace Fine Lingerie, Bob Ellis Shoes, Ike Behar, Belk, Mamie Ruth and Gwynn's of Mount Pleasant, to name a few. Then the semifinalists in the popular Emerging Designer Competition: East will take the stage, with groups of four or five vying each night for a spot in the finale and to be voted the People's Choice winner, which will earn them a $250 cash prize. Established designers such as Brandon Sun and Timo Weiland will wrap up runway shows each evening.

Before, between and after shows, guests can indulge in libations in the Style Lounge, where numerous companies will have a presence, including The Shops at Charleston Place, Tanger Outlets Charleston, Stella & Dot and Cos Bar of Charleston.

Also on-site each day for limited hours will be The Belk Tent, a standalone retail pop-up shop that will offer attendees the chance to snag some spring fashions, including exclusive pieces from Belk Southern Designer Showcase winners and the new Belk sportswear collection, Crown & Ivy. MAC Cosmetics artists also will be on-site offering beauty makeovers.

"We are thrilled to return to Charleston Fashion Week for another exciting year," Arlene Goldstein, vice president of trend merchandising and fashion direction at Belk, said in a press release. "Charleston is rapidly becoming a pillar of fashion in the South, and as we learned last year, outside of New York City, Charleston Fashion Week is considered to be the most important fashion week in the U.S."

Emerging Designer

The Emerging Designer Competition: East is the backbone of Charleston Fashion Week, giving the event its credibility for finding and promoting fresh talent along the Eastern Seaboard.

"One of CFW's key components is our Emerging Designer Competition," said Ashleigh Irving, PR and media director for Charleston Fashion Week. "Our mission is to provide a world-class experience and exposure to emerging talent."

Officially called the Emerging Designer Competition: East presented by Benefitfocus, the 19 semifinalists were selected from among the 175 applicants.

One designer will be selected as the grand prize winner by the fashion panel. The grand prize includes a $5,000 cash prize; a website design and online marketing package from F22 Designs valued at $10,000; professional high-quality lookbook images of their collection photographed by J.Balliet: Photographer; a Bernina sewing machine compliments of Fashion Fabrics valued at $1,400; signature jewelry piece from Reeds Jewelers; and a Featured Designer slot in the 2015 Charleston Fashion Week show.

Last year's Emerging Designer Competition: East winner, Afriyie Poku, will be showing as the Featured Designer on opening night Tuesday.

The only solo male contestant and menswear designer last year, Poku made Charleston Fashion Week history when he won both the Emerging Designer title and was named the overall People's Choice winner, a feat that had never happened since the event's inception in 2007.

Born in Ghana, the self-taught designer and tailor will debut his new label, Oberima Afriyie, at this year's Fashion Week.

The manifesto on the label's website,, states that Poku designs each piece with the belief that there's a gentleman in every man.

"... His philosophy rests upon the belief that there is a Gentleman in all of us. That Gentleman knows who they are and embraces it. For within the house of Oberima Afriyie, there is no distinction between the man in the business suit and the man in the biker jacket. This is because every individual depicts different qualities that attribute to the idea of 'the Gentleman.' Here, all characters are welcome."

In a write-up in the March issue of Atlanta magazine, Poku said he's been finding inspiration for his Fall 2014 collection in films by Akira Kurosawa and images of the 14th- to 16th-century samurai, and to expect some "bleed-out red" and leather.


While Charleston Fashion Week highlights the designers, it's not just about them. In addition to more than 30 runway shows, Fashion Week is also a breeding ground of emerging model talent.

To help select the best of the best, Charleston Fashion Week launched the Rock the Runway Model Competition. With past winners of the contest having signed on with agencies such as Ikon Model Management, IMG and Major Model Management, and others have gone on to compete in "America's Next Top Model," more than 15 models that have walked the runway during Charleston Fashion Week have found notable success.

On Friday night, a special panel of judges will choose the best female and male winners from among the 10 female and five male contestants.

Fashion Panel

Per usual, the Fashion Panel that will be on-site Saturday night to decide the winner of the Emerging Designer Competition: East is made up of some fashion heavyweights.

Fern Mallis, who is widely credited with starting New York Fashion Week, returns for a fourth year on the panel and has said she "was delighted to be invited ... to Charleston. I was impressed with the city, the people I met and the organizers of CFW."

Mallis is joined by Cator Sparks, editor in chief of and fashion industry journalist; fashion designers Antonio Azzuolo, Brandon Sun, Timo Weiland, Nikki Poulos, Hunter Bell, David Hart and Sarah Parrott; and Goldstein of Belk.

Bell, Hart, Sun and Weiland will be doing double duty, also serving as Featured Designers throughout the week.

Meet the Emerging Designer competitors

Deanna Ansara

New York

Influenced by architecture, fashion, film, and textures and colors in nature, Deanna Ansara was a 2013 semi-finalist for RAW Artist Designer of the Year. The 24-year-old shapes and styles her fashions to create looks that are modern yet timeless. Using natural fibers like silks, wools and cottons, Ansara incorporated textures through technique and using fabrics such as brocades. While she aims for a romantic feel, there's also an underlying mystery and darkness to her collection.

Angela Bacskocky

Richmond, Va.

Finding inspiration in history, politics, music, art and life experiences, 33-year-old Angela Bacskocky's Fall "Puritan Collection" merges fashion and art. Created through collaboration with local artists and craftsmen, each piece is made by hand in limited edition. Androgynous and military-inspired, the collection features heavy wools with leather accents, menswear shirting, suit fabrics and hand-drawn prints. Bacskocky, who is influenced by Viktor & Rolfe and Alexander McQueen, has had her designs featured in Teen Vogue, Marie Claire and Entertainment Weekly.

Felicia Barth-Aasen

Dallas, Ga.

With a collection inspired by a tiny mountain village in Lake Placid, N.Y., where she found serenity, peace and stillness, Felicia Barth-Aasen strives to elevate activewear. With a background in sportswear, she starts with a base of nylon or jersey, then blends them with chiffons, silk jersey and crepe de chine to create sophisticated, monochromatic schemes. The 24-year-old aims to take the comfortable, draped silhouettes of yoga and meditation wear and transform them into cool, contemporary looks. Barth-Aasen's work has been featured in Jezebel and Atlanta magazines and at the 2012 Los Angeles Fashion Week.

Terese Brown

Collingdale, Pa.

At 28, Terese Brown already has a number of accolades to her name, including being a finalist on Seasons 10 and 11 on "Project Runway," a semi-finalist on Season 2 of "Fashion Star" and a finalist in the 2013 Philadelphia Magazine Fashion Project. Her Charleston Fashion Week collection, called "Breaking Through," is inspired by sculpture and technology. "In it, I highlight how enhanced sportswear fabric can be transformed into elegant works of art by pairing highly textured fabrics - silk, chiffon, ultrasuede, neoprene and conwave polyester - in unconventional ways," she says. Brown also experiments with color and shape to create unexpected combinations.

Yuyan He


Inspired by the "fresh and unpretentious" style of both American and Chinese culture, 27-year-old Yuyan He has created a design style that combines different textures and medium. With her Fall 2014 collection, He pays homage to the "simple, yet strong shape of a circle." Incorporating curves into each of her pieces from the collection, she maintains the shape by using stable fabrics such as leather, muslin-backed silk satin, canvas, cotton and velvet. Also inspired by vases and their silhouettes, she uses glass materials to add to details such as pleating, draping and cut-outs.

Zachary Howell


"My work is heavily based on psychology," says Zachary Howell. With his work featured in Factice and Re: magazines, the 22-year-old goes on to say that he draws inspiration "from the dysfunctions of the mind that twist norms into their exaggerated forms. I describe my design philosophy as a dark paradise." Using leather, burnout satin, denim, velvet, cashmere wool and jersey, Howell creates evening gowns that are molded to the female form with seamed lines twisting around the body.

Nkundwe Kasyanju

New Rochelle, N.Y.

Using sharp, graphic construction and color transitions, designer Nkundwe Kasyanju's newest collection tells the story of how she found her faith. Called "Faithful Relapse," the 23-year-old's garments trace "the journey of a soul under construction." The Fall pieces feature printed chiffons, tile mesh, fabrics of opposing weights and "transformational reconstruction inspired by Shingo Sato."

Justin LeBlanc


"Project Runway" Season 12 finalist Justin LeBlanc, the first deaf designer to star in the reality competition, will present a collection inspired by the concept that love is common to all. Showcasing garments for men and women, his work feature print designs, symbolism, 3-D printing, and architectural and textural elements. "It expresses our universal need for love and that we have control over what we desire in the name of love," the 27-year-old explains. "It shows the human instinct to armor ourselves against those who are hostile towards our uniqueness and the need to express our uniqueness with a sense of pride."

Kaitlyn Machos


South Carolina designer Kaitlyn Machos, 22, designed a collection called "Exposed" with the desire to bare emotional vulnerability. The collection starts with structured garments made of silk taffeta, silk gazar and duchess satin, then transitions into soft chiffons and organzas. Inspired by shattered glass, she explains her pieces aren't meant to be dark, but rather she takes lost moments and makes them beautiful. Machos won the Pret-a-Porter Award at Runaway Runway in 2013, Columbia Design League's fashion show.

Tenneal McNair


Tenneal McNair created a collection "inspired by the jazz age and its underrated heroines, such as Joyce Bryant and Hazel Scott, combined with the idea of the woman I ultimately aim to be - striking, successful, unabashed, and courageously taking on the combative world around her." Using deep, royal colors and wool crepes, silk charmeuse, cotton knit, silk jersey, denim and wool coating, the 27-year-old is all about exploring femininity and "the celebration of what used to be and what has been overcome."

Maria-Teresa Pena

Bronx, N.Y.

Thirty-one-year-old Maria-Teresa Pena shows the dark side of fashion, making art out of emotions such as jealousy, depression, envy and desperation. "After difficult experiences, I find myself asking, 'How can I create something positive out of a negative?' " Pena said of her process. The 2012 Savannah Fashion Week participant creates texture through fabric manipulation, adding hand-cut leather to "suggest the trapping and taking over of the body."

Stephanie J. Perry


Twenty-seven-year-old Stephanie Perry is bringing some flare to swimwear. With her website promising to go "beyond the norm with different cuts, styles, embellishments, and color schemes guaranteed to get you noticed," her "Swarovski Collection" is sure to take things to the next level. Utilizing genuine Swarovski elements imported from Austria, Perry strategically embellishes each piece of swimwear.

Leah & Rebecca Plante

New York

Sisters Leah and Rebecca Plante, ages 24 and 23, respectively, are based out of New York but have a label rooted in Charleston. Their label, Plante, is inspired by the "wild natural environment of South Carolina" and combines the wildness, glamour and beauty of nature with urban sophistication. Their Fashion Week collection focuses on opacity and weight, and utilizes all-natural fabrics. Committed to eco-friendly practices, the collection uses semi-sheer organza and silk alongside tulle, heavier crepe de chine and fine mesh details.

Tiffany Saini

Arden, N.C.

Couture for a Cause's 2013 ready-to-wear winner Tiffany Saini is translating menswear into womenswear for her Fashion Week collection. "... I want to bend the rules on what people normally view as strictly menswear, and translate those garments into pieces for women by changing the fit, color and styling," the 24-year-old says. Expect to see bow ties, trousers and blazers alongside blouses, dresses and skirts with interesting textures, patterns and shine.

Cori Spade


Cori Spade is no stranger to fashion week, having won a chance to show one of her collections at New York Fashion Week in 2013. For Charleston Fashion Week, Spade had drawn inspiration from the Quilt Trails of Western North Carolina and its history of craftsmanship, attention to detail and intricate design. "This collection reflects the care and beauty put into these quilts and focuses entirely on textures and prints," she says. After creating patterns on 100 percent silk, the 22-year-old uses quilting, patchwork and embroidery, incorporating leather and wool to enhance the garments.

Noelle Stanley & Sean Olson


Charleston-based Noelle Stanley and Sean Olson find inspiration for their children's clothing line in their 5-year-old daughter, Isabella. Working to appease her "natural sense of whimsy," they create outfits that allow her to be a "twirling fairy or princess without sparkling gems." Stanley, 33, and Olson, 39, aim to combine a sense of history with an appreciation of nature, utilizing plaids and other patterns in an autumn palette and dressing them up with antique lace designs and vegan leather trim.

Anna Toth

Asheville, N.C.

Anna Toth, 33, looks to the future when creating her designs. "I ask myself who I want to be in the future, and I design for that person," she says. Utilizing domestic textiles, she primarily works with denim, organic cotton, and organic cotton and hemp blends. Toth looks to slow fashion and slow food for inspiration, seeking to create something that is "lovely and wearable." Her Fashion Week collection will feature wool, ikat and hand-dipped natural indigo accents.

Rebecca Walker


"Clothing is often used to conceal the shapes of our bodies. In this collection, however, I exaggerate the natural contours of the human form ..." explains Rebecca Walker. The 22-year-old uses horse hair and cowls to map a three-dimensional terrain of shoulders, hips and arms. A designer in the 2012 Couture for a Cause Fashion Show, Walker uses traditional fabrics such as wool yet utilizes metal solder to embellish her garments.

Sarah & AnnaKay Winford

Birmingham, Ala.

Sarah, 24, and AnnaKay, 22, Winford have created a collection as a tribute to "The Great Gatsby" and the fashion of the roaring '20s. Mixing elements of menswear and womenswear, outerwear is made of patterned wool suiting fabric with the feminine side coming in to the silk blouses and dresses. "We honor the novel's color symbolism, while also incorporating bold metallic to reflect the era's flair and excitement," the duo says. The sisters both placed in the 2013 Birmingham Fashion Week's Emerging Designer Competition.

Emerging Bridal Design winner

Kendra Barnes

Dayton, Ohio

Kendra Barnes, the 2014 Emerging Bridal Designer winner, may be a tomboy in her personal life, but when it comes to creating gowns she's all girl. "Sparkly, shiny and flowy are typically my staples," says the self-admitted chiffon addict. The Savannah School of Art and Design graduate brings a wealth of experience to the table, having served as a design intern for designer Michael Kors, as an intern for bridal designer Beth Elis and as a bridal stylist for Alfred Angelo. "A wedding gown is the most important dress a girl will ever wear," Barnes says, "and I want to be the one to make her perfect dress for her perfect day." Expect to see sophisticated, ethereal gowns rendered with princess-worthy materials and accents.