With two months to go until the red carpet gets rolled out once again, Charleston Fashion Week has announced this year’s celebrity judges and designers, featuring a mix of new faces and old favorites. The five-night celebration will take place March 20-24 with over 45 runway shows, a Spring Bridal show, an Emerging Designer Competition, and the Rock the Runway Model Competition.

This year’s judging panel sees the return of Elle magazine’s Anne Slowey and Fern Mallis, founder of the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York City. Celebrity Charlestonians Molly O’Connell of America’s Next Top Model fame and Vanessa Lachey, former TRL host and Miss Teen USA, also join the ranks.

The event places more of a focus on emerging designers than ever before, with shows from five up-and-comers Tuesday through Thursday nights. You’ll have to wait for them though — the first portion of each night is still devoted to local and chain stores. And yes, unfortunately Tommy Bahama is back this year.

Things kick off Tuesday night with shows from newcomer Poe Studios and the preppy patterns of Palm Avenue, followed by returning featured designer Emily Bargeron (CFW ’09) of Mamie Ruth Designs. Wednesday’s show features Tommy Bahama and edgy, new kid on the block JLINSNIDER, one of last year’s emerging designers. Also a former emerging designer, Michael Wiernicki (CFW ’11) returns as a featured designer this year with Mystery School, his new line of ready-to-wear clothes. Moving on to Thursday, the sister stores of Copper Penny and Copper Penny Shooz are paired with V2V for a night of boutique fashions. The schedule hints at a special guest Thursday night.

As the celebration heads into the weekend, Friday starts with a show from Gwynn’s of Mt. Pleasant followed by the Rock the Runway Model Competition as the models take over the catwalk. Emerging designer and CFDA scholarship winner Chris Benz finishes the night. The designer’s clothes are regularly found on the racks of King Street’s Hampden Clothing, which sadly will not be participating in this year’s Fashion Week.

Saturday morning, the Spring Bridal show features White, Modern Trousseau, LulaKate, and Maddison Row and Bella Bridesmaid. Returning judge and Project Runway alum Mychael Knight (CFW ’09) joins local designer Rachel Gordon as the night’s two featured designers. The climax of the week, Sunday features a face-off from the four emerging designer finalists followed by shows from featured designers Charlotte Hess, last year’s EDC winner, and bridal designer Faith Thornburg.

With a daily pop-up shop, entertainment, shopping, specialty cocktails, and pre-parties and DJs in the Style Lounge, this year’s Fashion Week promises five nights of talent under the tents at Marion Square. Find more information and buy tickets at charlestonfashionweek.com.

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