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Charleston Fashion Week 2011: Finale and winners

The famous front row with (L-R), Anne Slowey, K. Cooper Ray, Janie Bryant and Fern Mallis.
The famous front row with (L-R), Anne Slowey, K. Cooper Ray, Janie Bryant and Fern Mallis.

The finale Saturday felt like one big fashion party, the Southeast's most fashionable leading the sartorial way. The Pre-Party kicked off at 7:00 PM in the Style Lounge, complete with a complimentary Korbel champagne fountain and the club-like
atmosphere saturated with party dresses, velvet tuxedo jackets and the industry's biggest players. Janie Bryant, costume designer for the hit AMC show Mad Men, signed copies of her book The Fashion File, Fern Mallis, creator of New York Fashion Week and President of Fern Mallis, Inc., was mingling with and posing for pictures with fans, and a handsome Derek Blasberg, Editor at Large for Harper's Bazaar and author of Classy, looked right at home with Charleston's polished, laid back style.

Charlotte Hess wins the Emerging Designer: East Competition

The runway doors opened at 8:00 PM, and the tension was markedly thicker that night surrounding the runway. With a longer catwalk this year, guests and judges had even more time to scrutinize the garments of which could make or break a designer that evening. Local musician Brittany Bosco rocked the crowd first with her soulful pop melodies, sporting a fashion forward look styled by Hampden Clothing's Stacy Smallwood.

Though there were originally 4 finalists slated to compete that night, the judges threw a curve ball and added one more finalist, Stephanie Mejia, to the mix. The finalists were asked to show their complete collections for the finale, making for longer, more well-rounded runway shows.

Friday's semi-finalist, Charlotte Hess, wowed the crowd again with her gorgeous textured knits. Stephanie Mejia showed next, with earthy elegant pieces dominating her collection. Thursday's winner Mike Wiernicki presented his Mystery School collection, with architectural pieces splashed with native patterns and metallics. Cody Sai Adler-McAllister, Wednesday's semi-finalist winner, showed us his take on downtown chic with a dark palette accented with ethereal prints. After Cody's show was a brief but touching tribute to Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor, emitting cheers from the audience. Rounding out the Emerging Designer: East competition finalists was Tuesday's winner, Veritee Hill. Her elegant gothic pieces brought a dark sophistication to the runway.

After an audience vote for the winner with furious texting fingers, the guests had a chance to freshen up their drinks at the Style Lounge during the break. Everyone returned to catch one more glimpse of the model hopefuls in the Rock The Runway competition, with each getting their own time on the runway. Next was a homecoming of sorts for last year's Emerging Designer Competition: Southeast winner Larika Page. As a Featured Designer for the finale, she already had a crowd full of fans. Page left us wanting more with her hip separates infused with 70s silhouettes and lush menswear touches. The final dress, a long sleeved lame gown, was clearly a favorite. The final Featured Designer, David Yoo, got a rousing welcome from his avid followers. Yoo presented bold separates with tomboyish touches in a striking black and white color palette. His sleeveless blazer and sheer trousers were definite standouts.

With an evening chock full of high caliber fashion, the crowd was eager to find out the winners of the modeling and designer competitions. Charleston Fashion Week Director Ayoka Lucas didn't wait any time giving the details, and brought out runway coach Michelle Wood to announce the model competition winners. Those surrounding the runway near me were pulling for their favorite, and were redeemed when Ajang Majok won the women's competition. The sleek and poised Africa native was visibly moved to receive her prize, and her standing ovation from the crowd. Ceasar Hingleton took the men's prize, who, in true model fashion, held his composure with the praise of the judges and fans. The models both received $1,000 in cash, a photo spread in Charleston Magazine and, as a last minute prize added by Gilt Groupe's Alexis Maybank, a photoshoot with Gilt Groupe worth $1000.

Finally was the moment we'd all been waiting for, the announcement of the Emerging Desginer: People's Choice winner and the Emerging Designer Competition: East winner. With high approval from the crowd, Charlotte Hess swept the prizes and was the big winner for Charleston Fashion Week. A shocked Charlotte was brought out to accept her giant check, and when asked for a reaction, emitted a "holy crap!" to the delight of the crowd. After a closing performance from the inimitable Brittany Bosco, the crowd was off to CFW 2011's official after party at Luxe, where the celebrations lasted until after 3:00 AM.

The bar has clearly been raised this year at Charleston Fashion Week, not just with the immense design talent, but with the overall experience. Organizers really gave guests an interactive experience with meet-and-greets, after events and behind the scenes videos of all the backstage and surrounding components that combined to make the memorable event. I can't wait to see what next year's brings.


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