SPOTLIGHT: Charleston Fashion Week

by Mikelle S

Here in Columbia, the fashion isn’t all that nationally known. But, if one were to only take a two hour drive away, you would find a city that is the home of the South East Emerging designers competition which has names like Elle, Vogue, Project Runway, Sports Illustrated, and Coastal Living in some way connected. Charleston is quickly garnering the respect of the national fashion industry and it soon will be widening it’s realm of influence by expanding their Emerging Designers Competition from just being a competition for the South East, but the entire Eastern coast of the United States.

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An event that I’ve wanted to attend for years, Charleston Fashion Week seems to only just have been getting started. After having brought $1.7 million dollars to the local economy during the 5 day fashion week, they have visions only of expansion. Anne Slowey from Elle Magazine says

Bringing fashion into the center of the cultural storm going on here just adds another great element and a reason for the citizens of Charleston to turn out in their finest. (Anne Slowey-Fashion News Director at Elle)

The week serves to promote models, with it’s Rock The Runway competition, emerging designers, with it’s emerging designers competitions, and other brands and labels with the many other shows that are put on. What compounds the greatness of the event are the various charities that benefit because of it. Putting on events like Stiletto Stampedes, luncheons, and auctions, in addition to special fashion shows, benefits MUSC Children’s Hospital, Center for Women, and Lowcountry AIDS Services. Last year, over $250,000 was raised for the Children’s Hospital alone. And with names like Marysia Swimwear, Mychael Knight, as well as Carol Hannah Whitfield, having shown under the tents, the designs are nothing to scoff at.
Mychael Knight shows as a Featured Designer at Charleston Fashion Week 2010

Since I sadly don’t forsee myself being able to muster all of the finances to travel down next year in March(but that won’t stop me from trying) I decided to call and ask a few questions about the week and the direction of it as well as it’s past. Here’s what I found out:

  1. The Reason for Expanding- The Emerging Designers competition expansion was an organic one. After the last couple of years, the competition began to get alot of attention and alot of people were interested. They decided to expand to give more people an opportunity to show their work and what they were capable of. This is why now states along the entire Easter coast may submit online.
  2. On Why the Emerging Designer’s Competition was Started- If you look at the industry as a whole there are only a few major fashion cities that are “design communities.”(London, Paris, Milan, New York). Charleston doesn’t have alot of textile factories and manufacturing companies for designers to create their own lines. In addition to this, in it’s inception, Charleston Fashion Week was being used as a marketing tool to help local boutiques and stores. Saks would now be able to have a place to put on a fashion show that their customers could view and then go into the stores the next day and purchase.
  3. On Changes- Things will now become more 50/50 in terms of attention paid to retailers and emerging designers. Each night there will be 4 retail shows, 4 emerging designer shows, and then 1 featured designer show. Every day, one of the 4 emerging designer semifinalists will be chosen as a finalist. Also all semifinalist will be require to show Fall collections. The methodology behind this is that buyers don’t need to see collections for the current season. They have no use for them. So in order to encourage buyers to attend, emerging designers must show future collections., so there is a reason for the buyers to attend.