There’s something so jarring about walking from one side of Calhoun Street to the other during Charleston Fashion Week. On the college side, you have girls in oversized tee’s and Nike running shorts and the boys in their surf brand shirts and pastel shorts. Cross the intersection and you’re in the middle of a stylish urban sprawl filled with neon accents, cutout dresses, layered jewels, and totteringly high heels. It’s easy to tell you’re not on campus anymore (though both groups wear the “bored” look well).
Entering the main tent, we were welcomed by the nonsensical musical stylings of —- which sounded like a mix of experimental synth and the exaggerated vocal gymnastics of an Asian songstress. The show began smoothly soon after, but of course it was running a little fashionably late.
Thursday was Belk night at CFW. The first collection showcased black and white, bold and graphic. I was most excited, yet confused, by a dress that was actually billowy pants. The resort collection contained pieces for jet-setting moms and the open chambray shirted/khaki cargo-panted beaus that love them. For your urban safari, animal prints worked their way down the runway. The last collection was more feminine and showed variations of the white dress. The beginning skit showed a woman being surprised by a man holding a bouquet of flowers and ended with their romantic walk down the runway. Cue collective “Aw.” The most exciting part of the show was the announcement of a new partnership between Belk and Steve Madden. Male models with Madden teeshirts held up silver platters with glittering cage heels. Steve Madden surprised the audience by showing up and giving a quick wave at the end of the runway. Other than the partnership, nothing was inherently “new” or “cutting edge” from the Belk show, but the brand showed awareness of their market and exhibited trendy pieces that their demographic will love. The show reminded me of Forever 21 for moms but with a higher price point.
Next was the Emerging Designers Competition. Each contestant was introduced by a video interviewing them about their inspiration, world-view, and the night’s collection. First was Felicia Barth-Aasen. She described her designs as “hipster-y and grungy” and that showed in her slouchy, homeless-esque collection.
Charleston’s own Noelle Stanley and Sean Olson provided the cute factor in their children’s collection. Stanley explained that little girls didn’t need glitter and sparkles int their clothes as long as it passed the “whirl and twirl” test (a very accurate test, mind you). Their interpretation turned into romanticized peasantwear with flowy plaids, lace, and vegan leather accents. The crowd cooed over each little girl model and clapped when they made their “model” poses at the end of the runway. Stanley and Olson ended up winning Audience’s Choice.
Nkundwe Kasyanju said her collection was inspired by architecture which was apparent in the hard angles and structural elements of the designs. It was reminiscent of what business women would wear in a future dystopia. Don’t be surprised if you see something similar in the upcoming movie, Divergent.
“Edgy rock-and-roll” and “superhero androgyny” helped influence Angela Bacskocky’s pieces, though her pieces ended up being more feminine. Her mixing of leather, fur, velvet, and lace created a wide texture palate on the backdrop of a simple dark red and creme color background. The extra edge came in her use of leather harness accents, which were surprisingly missing in the Belk collection.
Yuyan He, the final contestant of the night, experimented with hand painted garments and splatter designs. Such a technique can easily become cartoony or immature, but her designs were classy and expertly carried out to look like they were made of candy.
After all the showings, a panel of judges ruled Angela Bacskocky’s collection deserving of the night’s top prize. Her full collection will be shown during Saturday’s finals competition.
Filled with new stylish ideas, we raced home to purge our closets and saw we had nothing left to wear. Fashion can be so tragic.