March still seems like a long way off — it was just Christmas, wasn’t it? — but it may not seem so far away if you have a whole fashion line to produce between now and then. That’s exactly where the 20 new Charleston Fashion Week emerging designers found themselves this weekend as they rolled into town from across the Southeast to officially kick off the 2013 CFW season.

On Saturday night, we attended the CFW Emerging Designer Kick-Off Party, where the designers chosen to compete this year had their official coming out appearance in Charleston. We arrived at The Venue to find the building already packed with designers, designated by the small blue CFW lapel pins they wore. Among the mostly dark-colored ensembles, we spotted a fair amount of leather and sequins, though each designer seemed to add their own bit of flair.

After whetting our whistle at the bar, we caught up with some of the designers on the dance floor where they mixed and mingled with no hint of competitive animosity. Designers Cassidy Elizabeth-Mae Brown, from Melbourne, Fla., and Victoria Cid, from Charlotte, filled us in on the busy afternoon the designers had fitting models and shooting videos for the upcoming CFW runway shows, starting March 19.

Most of the designers’ work is still in progress, but they didn’t mind giving us some indication of what to expect from their shows this spring. Brown hinted at an African tribal theme while Cid, who’s originally from Miami, said the cooler weather in Charlotte inspired her to play with texture. Savannah-based Sabrina Spanta said she’s been experimenting with zippers, while Roz Morris, from New York, said her line is based on fine art.

It wasn’t until we came across designer Serena da Conceicao that we realized most of the designers were wearing, well, themselves. Da Conceicao wore a fierce pair of knee-length, black leather shorts that she made out of lambskin. The outfit hinted at the line she’s working on for CFW that she said is attempting to recreate the power suit for women. “I used to be a lingerie designer so I’m drawn to those fabrics, lace and sheers,” she said. “I did an apprenticeship at a leather company and I learned to work with leather, so I started combining the two. It doesn’t so much have an S&M feel, it just looks like a little tough added on.”

We were distracted from the fashion talk soon after when Da Conceico pointed out the bubbling cast-iron skillet of macaroni and cheese that had just been delivered to the buffet table. Jim ‘N Nicks presented a spread that included barbeque sliders, pimento cheese and crackers, deviled eggs, and an abundance their addictive mini cheesy biscuits. Despite the delicious offerings, we couldn’t help but notice the fashion crowd was sticking to more of a liquid diet over at the bar.

An hour into the party, CFW Creative Director Ayoka Lucas gave a short introduction of the emerging designers and played a video of past years’ designers giving the newbies some advice. We spotted some familiar faces in the video, from Lindsey Carter of Troubadour to Julie Wheat of Cavortress, and the advice ranged from “Be yourself” to “Don’t make alterations the day of.”

After the pep talk, we wandered over to the closed-in porch, which was set up as the SmartWater Lounge. Not surprisingly, it was pretty dead as the designers seemed to favor the inside bar that offered more than just bottled water. These people have a lot of work ahead of them, after all, to prepare for the runway.