The vibe was relaxed as we went into the third day of Charleston Fashion Week. Emerging designers mingled with the crowd before the shows, excited for everyone to see their hard work. Street style photographers and bloggers wandered around looking for just the right accessory or shoe to feature on their site, and attendees relaxed on the style lounge couches tweeting about who they saw or what they wore.     

The show started with a surprise, as Emily Hearn, who you may know from her YouTube video debut featuring BIll Murray, opened the show with her song “Rooftop.”  This cute, quirky performance segued to the King Street fashions.

I’ve heard many attendees complaining about the retail sponsor section of the shows, because, if you really pay attention to fashion, you’ve seen these looks before (designers show them months in advance to hitting Charleston). But it’s the retailers’ responsibility to present these looks in an interesting way — to entice the crowd — which many fail to do. Hampden Clothing, however, has proven to excel at this. Always a fun show, owner Stacy Smallwood pulls together her store’s collection in an visually interesting way that kept us on the edge of our seats. Her runway show forecast the trends for the season — patent loafers, full-length striped cotton dresses, bright lips, bow ties in hair, and that Alexander Wang purse I’d do bad things for. 

After the intermission, a short film by Jewell and Ginnie was shown documenting a recent photo shoot by Tim Hussey for Charleston magazine. 

Eleanor Morgan Hoffman from Raleigh, N.C., was the first emerging designer to show. Her inspiration was a photograph of a black, perforated surface, and she was playing with this concept in her looks. Laser cuts revealed flashes of color under dark garments, flecks of gold leaf spotted the models’ faces, and the final look of a dramatic full-length gown with a thigh-high slit and peacock collar had many audience members gasping. The collection was cohesive and completely wearable.  I could see it being carried in more progressive boutiques around the country. 

Next up was Julie Wheat, a local swimsuit designer who has captured the attention of Charlestonians the past few seasons with her retro-chic swimwear. Wheat’s suits were reminiscent of a 1950s rich Malibu housewife. You could just imagine the wife, dripping in diamonds, martini in hand, lounging by the pool in the black-and-white suits with pops of color. The cuts and fittings of the suits and cover-ups were superb, but I imagine it is difficult for the judges to rate a swimwear collection against the other ready-to-wear collections.

I had high hopes for the next designer, New Yorker Sasha Gil, as she sent her first model out in a gunmetal jacket and pantsuit — we hadn’t seen anything like it all night. But it quickly became confusing. The next look, a sheer pink top with billowing sleeves and high-waisted pants, did not look as if should be in the same collection as the first model. Gil had some ambitious looks on the runway. Many, however, were not executed as well as they should have been.

Charleston designer Micheal Wiernicki cited crop circles and cave paintings as his inspiration in his opening video. The collection was a departure from his previous shows of bright tribal colors. The collection was filled with black, white, and gold graphic prints pieced together in a very structured, yet ready-to-wear manner. He was the first designer to send out a male model, in a sequins-spotted tank and tribal printed pants, no less. The stand-out piece was jacket with exaggerated shoulders paired with a sequined mini. Wiernicki intermingled bold prints, textures, and structure, and it all worked beautifully together. Front row seats were key to catching all the detail work Wiernicki put into the pieces.

While the judges were deliberating, the audience was treated to a viewing of Hunter Dixon’s Fall 2011 collection. It was said to be inspired by the Slim Aarons’s Once Upon a Time. The pieces were very ‘70s, like something you would find vintage shopping in Soho — think Bianca Jagger meets Annie Hall. Accessories like bright orange patent leather tap shoes kept the looks more modern. My only critique may be that the collection should be edited a bit more — audience members began to tire of the repetitive looks halfway through the show.

The night ended with the announcement of the people’s choice winner as Micheal Wiernicki, also the night’s winner of the evening’s emerging designer competition. He moves on to compete on Saturday, which I’m sure will prove to be an exciting night for all of the designers.

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