Reading about the King Street mainstays, Cooper Penny and V2V, on the retailer schedule for the evening, many assumed they could skip the first 30 minutes of Thursday night. We thought we knew everything the stores had to offer, but the local retailers actually gave lovely presentations. Both stores cater to the affluent young ladies of Charleston — think of them as sisters, both in sororities — but Copper Penny goes on spring break to Palm Beach, while V2V prefers NYC. There were covetable party frocks from each retailer — a sheer coral, leather strapped gown from Copper Penny caught our eye and a hot pink mini from V2V was the perfect item to update the trendster’s wardrobe for spring.

Murrells Inlet native Nancy Faw Crowell was the first emerging designer semi-finalist for the evening to present her collection. As soon as the first pint-sized model walked out, one-third the size of your typical CFW glamazon, the audience exploded in applause. Crowell’s children’s collection took cues from vintage kids’ wear and tiny models looked as if they had just popped out of Hansel and Gretel storybook. Berets, bow ties, and colored tights made for very traditional looks that most kids would only tolerate on picture day, but the adorable models seemed to love their frocks and the audience attention, helping Crowell secure the People’s Choice award for the evening.

Vartika Vikram’s bio lists Cubism, Expressionism, and Bauhaus as inspiration. What followed was a thoughtful collection of voluminous dresses and a muted palette of ivory and gold. The collection was completely wearable, though many may not be able to pull off gold lamé hotpants and a backless blouse as successfully as the model that evening. The last look, an ombre green party dress, strayed from palette, but gave a glimpse into what may come for the rest of the collection, as Vikram moved on to the Finals for Saturday.

One of the few male designers at CFW, Jordan Lee Brooks showed potential as a women’s wear designer, but fell short on execution. Brooks has an amazing eye for fashion — for example, he pulled the yellow tones from a brocade dress and repeated it in other more casual looks and kept a similar Empire silhouette throughout the collection — but most of the audience members were underwhelmed. A minimal amount of romance showed Brooks’ ability to capture what women want, but was not strong enough to propel him to the next level.

The duo Kelly Elizabeth Ruehlman and Amy Cochran Quinn design for their Raleigh-based Villette line. In their introduction video, the pair described their differences (one loud and the other quiet, etc.) and their varying strengths as designers. The separation in skills and personality manifested itself in the collection as disjointed looks that confused the audience. Mustard-yellow chenille skirts were paired with silk jewel-tone blouses, which may work as separates, but were weakened by the combination — perhaps a metaphor for the designer duo?

The inspiration for Hazel Bae’s collection was the North Pole, complete with ushanka-topped models. White, chunky wool dresses and big faux fur coats completed the Arctic fantasy. Bae was also able to incorporate some current fashion trends like sheer skirts, peplum dresses, and cropped tops into the collection. A few of the printed pieces looked as if they were alluding to the Northern Lights, with streaks of bright colors splayed across the models’ chests. Overall, Bae stayed very close to her stated theme with a lovely cohesive collection.

The featured designers for the evening were participants from NBC’s Fashion Star series. Luciana Scarabello, Nikki Poulos, and Sarah Parrott (CFW alumna) gave audience members a look at what they’ve been working on. Scarabello gave us some very vampy body-conscious dresses — zippers covering the length of the dresses, cut-outs, and leather combined for a very provocative collection. Poulos sent each model down the runway in a different classic print. The cross-top dresses and traditional fittings of what appeared to be fun office wear was reminiscent of early Diane von Fürstenberg. Parrot’s edgy/urban collection housed one of our favorite looks for the evening: a black leather short paired with a backless silk blouse — so simple, yet refreshing. But perhaps we are getting fashion fatigue from all of the amazing designs shown this week.

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