Backstage at Charleston Fashion Week

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Wednesday, March 15, was my first day working at Charleston Fashion Week this year. Fashion, whether subconsciously or not, has always been an important part of my life. Growing up in a small town in West Virginia, there was an unspoken “dress code,” which I often broke (rarely on purpose), but it did the trick. I also had to wear a school uniform for 13 years. I wanted more: to go places, to see new sights, to escape the Appalachians and freely be myself. I loved the outfits I would put together, planning every detail, anytime I had a chance to go anywhere besides home or school. I was stubborn about what I wore, much to my mother’s chagrin, especially when we would get ready for Baptist church on Sunday morning. She groaned every time I insisted on wearing my black Chuck Taylors with a dress.

I was and am a shy person. I felt invisible, yet vulnerable. In middle school, I began to dress with a more specific purpose – to express myself and be seen. I was teased for what I wore, but somehow I did not care and did not let it stop me. If I could not speak my mind to the people who harassed me and put me down, I would show them the real me, however uncomfortable that was for them in their bubble of running shoes, light-wash jeans and John Deere t-shirts.

In my sophomore year of high school, I developed disordered eating, one extreme to the next. Because of this, my relationship with clothes and fashion changed. Getting dressed everyday was no longer a fun experience of deciding who I would be that day, instead it was a painful chore that choked out my life force, spirit and creativity. I had no outlet for my creative side, darkening my days. However, the summer before my junior year, we moved to Hilton Head Island, a place where I could wear what I wanted without fear of demeaning looks and remarks. I actually received compliments on my style! And they were genuine! Also, before that time, I had not even realized that I had a “style.” Also that year, my mom suggested I think about majoring in fashion, something that never occurred to me. There were three different schools that I could have attended to pursue that major (but out-of-state tuition, man). Obviously, I settled on the College. For South Carolina, the city of Charleston seems to have the most culture and the largest “art” scene, so I decided to take that path. All of this to say, I really don’t put much thought into what I wear anymore, so I get nervous when someone compliments what I am wearing, fearing their potential insincerity. What you wear tells people who you are, who you want to be. With clothes, fashion, etc., you can be whatever and whomever you choose!

Okay, now let’s talk about the real stuff: Charleston Fashion Week. It is the 10th anniversary of an event that has grown quite quickly, an event that creates so many opportunities for the city, the students and the people of the Lowcountry. It is my second season working at CFW, and I love every minute of it. This year, I was chosen to work backstage, behind the runway, with models and designers. I have three more nights to go, and from past experience, I know it can only get better from here! Yes, it can be stressful at times, but for someone who subscribes to multiple fashion emails and magazines, every night is a dream come true. I soak up the good and the bad, working hard and taking in everything. As I am writing this now, it is well past midnight, but not yet 1:00 a.m., so I’ll refer to Wednesday night, even though it is technically now Thursday.

At the beginning of my shift, I (and two other girls) were assigned to the emerging designer, Ricky Lindsey. He had a kind face and dyed-grey hair. We helped him bring in his pieces, and from there, we basically just held curtains open when need be, and the three of us became friends (another aspect I love). Unlike some of the other emerging designers, Lindsey had brought three or four assistants with him, so we just did our own thing and helped out when we could. We got to know each other and may have gossiped about his collection, keeping other designers behind schedule (you did not hear it from me, folks). His collection was a women’s line, with loads of tulle, flowers, and tiaras.

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Emerging designer, Ricky Lindsey debuts latest collection at Charleston Fashion Week. (Photo by Michael Wiser)
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Emerging designer, Ricky Lindsey debuts latest collection at Charleston Fashion Week. (Photo by Michael Wiser)
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Emerging designer, Ricky Lindsey debuts latest collection at Charleston Fashion Week. (Photo by Michael Wiser)
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Emerging designer, Ricky Lindsey debuts latest collection at Charleston Fashion Week. (Photo by Michael Wiser)
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Emerging designer, Ricky Lindsey debuts latest collection at Charleston Fashion Week. (Photo by Michael Wiser)

Beside our “room” (walls of linen curtains), was the emerging designer Kelsey Kawamoto, whose designs featured a young girls’ collection, made up of 1960’s-style dresses and coats in pastels and with a dash of whimsy. To the other side of us was the emerging designer Ike Behar, who had a men’s line. His collection was made up of colorful suits. All his the models were wearing either rubber flip flops or velour penny loafers, both brightly colored, in reds and purples. Side note here, our own student at the College, Thomas Robertson, was a model for Behar’s line up.

That’s it for today, folks. Make sure to check back in for a Thursday night recap! Happy fashion week and happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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