Tuesday will mark the beginning of the 10th annual Baker Motor Company Charleston Fashion Week—kicking off a full five days of runway shows, pop-up shops, and after parties centered around Marion Square. To celebrate the milestone, the organizers behind the event are tapping some of their biggest names yet to be involved.
Over the past decade the event has brought names like Christian Siriano, Chris Benz (now manning the redesign of the Bill Blass brand), Cameron Silver (now at H by Halston), and Todd Snyder to town. Add to that headline fashion insiders like New York Fashion Week founder Fern Mallis, Vanity Fair’s Derek Blasberg, Elle’s Anne Slowey, and InStyle’s Eric Wilson lending their expertise on the Fashion Panel, and it’s no wonder that some consider the week to be among the most influential fashion weeks in the nation behind New York and Miami.
“When Ayoka [Lucas] started this, we weren’t known for being a fashion city,” says Naomi Russell, Executive Director of Charleston Fashion Week. The lineup was Lucas’s brainchild while she was serving as Style Director for Charleston Magazine, the sponsor of the event. “We were a stylish town but we weren’t known for being on the cutting edge of fashion.” But over time that has changed.
“I don’t know that anyone could imagine it could become what it is today in this time period,” Russell continued. “They planned the first one in three and a half months; we now work on it all year! That first year, it was less than 10,000 square feet of tents and now we’re over 35,000. We’re in every quadrant of the park.”
With the bevy of events kicking off this week, we look at the lineup and break down exactly what you need to know.
For Those Interested in the Scene
“Charleston Fashion Week is for a lot of types of people,” says Ayoka Lucas, founder and consultant for the week. Having now relocated to New York, Lucas knows firsthand how that city’s version of the event has been historically exclusive but is currently trending to be more like the Holy City’s iteration.
For people hoping to just enjoy the vibe and not obsess over runway shows, CFW has introduced a Fashion Village pass for the first time this year. With this, Russell says guests will “get to be a part of the party without having to sit down for nine runway shows a night.” The pass will provide guests with access to the Style Lounge tent that boasts bars, a DJ, and shopping opportunities. The on-site Belk Tent will also be available to those with Fashion Village passes.
What to Look out for on the Runway
While some might just be along for the party, quite a few fans are interested in the designers. This year, the event boasts up-and-coming designers through its Emerging Designer: East competition, student designers from Charleston and Atlanta, bridal designs, and featured designers culled from a list of bold-faced names in the industry.
“I really think this is one of our best Featured Designer lineups so far,” Russell says. The listing includes names like Cadet, Tracy Reese, and Creatures of the Wind. For their part, Cadet is enjoying their moment in the spotlight as the brand that competed for the CFDA / Vogue Fashion Fund last year. That process is now being streamed live on Amazon Prime in weekly installments. But they aren’t even the biggest name.
“Tracy Reese has been a name that I’ve known most of my career,” Lucas says. Indeed, Reese was reportedly Marc Jacobs’s best friend when the two were in design school and has a long history in the industry working under her own brand.
“I love her designs because they are so easy,” says Shari Knight, Engagement Coordinator for Lowcountry Local First. “There’s nothing fussy about Reese’s clothing and designs—they are carefree, which I think goes along with the Southern aesthetic. I also like the fact that she’s a black woman in fashion who’s made a name for herself. There’s so few black women in fashion who have made a name for themselves.”
And as for Creatures of the Wind? That brand, who presented their latest range at NYFW in a Masonic Temple, is for the fashion fanatic. “There are some events [at CFW] that are for the fashion kid and people who know these names; Creatures is definitely for the fashion kid,” says Lucas.
If You’re Not in Marion Square
CFW, like its counterparts in other cities, has become a citywide event. While the Charleston Magazine events are mostly staying central to Marion Square, there will be other happenings throughout the city.
If you’re in need of some last minute styling help to figure out your looks for the week, join Lucas at Mosa (420 King St.) on Tuesday from 5-7pm where she’ll be providing individual styling services.
Hoping to discover some new names? NYC’s In Support Of will be hosting their first pop-up shop in the United States at the Mitchell Hill Gallery (438 King St.) providing access to names like Sandy Liang and Steven Tai.
Need a valued keepsake? Fern Mallis will be signing her fashion tome Fashion Icons at RTW (186 King St.) on Saturday from 1-4pm. The work features interviews with the likes of Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, and Michael Kors.
And if you’re just looking for where to get down: Knight suggests heading to the Faculty Lounge (391 Huger St.) on Saturday night after the finale shows.
Charleston Fashion Week starts Tuesday, March 15, in Marion Square. For more information, click here.
Words by Mikelle Street
Photo by J. Balliet