by Erin Perkins
Tommy Bahama never had a chance. During the retailer portion of Charleston Fashion Week on Wednesday night, the crowd was presented with the chicest of mature resortwear by the King Street staple, but when you’re the opening act to Upper King design queen Jamie Lin Snider, the audience tends to forget you tried to distract them with shirtless male models.
Snider entered the Charleston scene as a CFW emerging designer in 2010 and the following year moved on to show as a featured designer before opening a retail shop at 539 King Street. Her most recent JLINSNIDER collection definitely reflects her time in the Holy City. Last year, Snider showed us skeletons and severe, whereas this year, she opted for soft and reflective (literally and figuratively).
The opening look, a less-morbid H.R. Giger-esque print dress, harkened back to her previous collections. The audience was floored by the second piece, a flowing bright coral gown, perfect for sauntering to any soiree. Snider’s collection showed the dichotomy of being a hipster in Charleston — the need for gorgeous flowing garden dresses (South of Broad) yet the urge for edge. Her sheer, metallic-spotted gowns pulled both spectrums together and the super platform snakeskin heels kept even the most precious of gowns from being too dainty.
The audience took a break for drink refills/make-up checks and returned to a short film by Sully and Jade Sullivan (edited by Adam Boozer). Look for Resist on Vimeo — local pretty people Peter Galle and Isa Teresa Metz make phone booths a naughty play toy.
The first emerging designer semi-finalists, Bob and Kris Galmarini, told the audience they wanted to put the “fun” in “functional.” What they really accomplished was putting a smile on the faces of everyone under the tents. The husband and wife duo’s line, Neve Inspired, included silk-screened T-shirts, rolled-up jeans, tiny hipster glasses, and a few tulle skirts — perfect for a Saturday trip to the record store for that latest Yo Gabba Gabba! vinyl. The Galmarinis received a standing ovation as they walked off the runway.
When Jessica Patricia Krupa stated she was inspired by the “vampire craze,” we braced for kitsch, but the inspiration manifested itself into the more thoughtful details of her swimwear collection than the overarching theme. The swimsuits made the models look like pin-ups — curls, curves, and corsets. Eighteenth and 19th century undergarments inspired criss-crossing suit backs and shirred bustier tops. Perhaps it was the vampire reference or the True Blood theme type music playing, but we could imagine any of these girls lounging by their New Orleans pool after an evening’s tryst with a sultry creature of the night.
Angela Sum, inspired by snow and winter, sent out an almost all-white, ethereal collection. The first model, in a classic shift dress, appeared to be covered in white webs and wore booties that seemed to be sprayed with snow. A pop of pale yellow and pink in a few of the looks kept the collection interesting, but the concentration was mostly on the texture and classically shaped pieces like asymmetrical white dresses and lambswool textured mini skirts. Though inspired by cold weather, the pieces looked perfect for spring.
Ra Jang’s collection, inspired by architecture, focused on texture. Each look had multiple mixtures of fabrics. In the short span of eight looks, the audience saw fur, leather, metallics, sheer, and florals, but Jang kept the collection cohesive with cleanly tailored cuts. Slim trousers with slits at the knees, asymmetrical tulle skirts, and fluid metallic skirts looked like a study in a modern city skyline.
Nina Awasum also cited architecture as a reference, but her collection varied greatly from Jang's. It was a more casual collection and pants ruled the runway. A smocked-front pant and drawstring skirt made the collection look comfortable and easy to wear. Awasum’s stand-out piece was her final look, a backless red leopard print gown that we couldn’t stop looking at.
Featured designer Michael Wiernicki’s much anticipated collection, Mystery School, did not disappoint. A figure appeared on stage in what appeared to be a sheer, all-black sequined burka. She slowly moved toward the audience as the music built and then broke into a runway walk when the beat dropped. What followed was a collection inspired by Egyptian themes (think sphinx, lizard, and ankh prints) and scientific theories. Many of the men’s and women’s pieces were loosely fitted or shaped like traditional Galabiyas, reflecting the desert theme. A muted palette forced the audience to concentrate on the impeccable construction and thoughtful prints rather than pops of color. Cerebral and perhaps political, Wiernicki’s collection left the audience thinking about much more than fashion.
In the end, Bob and Kris Galmarini were chosen the people’s choice winner, while Angela Sum will move on to the finals as the judges' choice.