To celebrate their newly launched Fashion Design program, the Art Institute of Charleston is hosting its first-ever runway fashion show on Fri. March 1. Prior to the creation of the Fashion Design degree, Charleston students interested in fashion only had the option of the Fashion & Retail Management program. “Now those with a passion for fashion can study and get a degree in the field right here in Charleston,” says Kim Resnik, PR manager for AI.

The Branching Out runway will feature new spring designs from Rafael Cox, Vartika Vikram, Julie Wheat, and Ashley Martin. Cox was a contestant on Season 9 of Project Runway in 2011, and his fun and flirty designs were most recently revealed in February on the Redemption runway in Atlanta. Expect Vikram’s designs to be elegant, structured, yet airy and light; Vikram was most recently a finalist in Charleston Fashion Week’s Emerging Designer Competition in 2012.

Designers Julie Wheat and Ashley Martin are both current faculty member at the Art Institute and are Charleston Fashion Week alums. Wheat’s designs have been featured in shows in Las Vegas, Austin, St. Louis, Miami, and New Orleans. “Wheat’s style is vintage-inspired with a modern punk-rock flair, and her 2013 swim and resortwear collection will have a heavy ’70s influence with a dash of country club,” says Resnik. Ashley Martin of was one of Charleston Fashion Week’s emerging designers in 2008 and specializes in handmade-to-order jewelry through Clewis Reid.

The runway show will feature about 30 exciting new looks from the four designers, including swimwear, resortwear, and spring looks. “People will get a view of new and exciting looks by up-and-coming designers from the Southeast, and the show will get everyone into the fashion groove before Charleston Fashion Week,” Resnik says.

Doors open at 6 p.m. on Fri. March 1 and guests can enjoy refreshments prior to the show at 7 p.m. There is no charge for admission, but guests are asked to RSVP. For more information and to RSVP visit, call (866) 211-0107, or email

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