by Erin Perkins
If the pop-up shop on King Street and stand-alone tent in Marion Square didn't tip you off that Belk is a big sponsor for Charleston Fashion Week this year, then last night's extensive presentation cemented their presence in your mind. The department store was Thursday's presenting retailer, and they aimed to give us a look at "modern Southern style." The first three sets of models that Belk sent out wore basically a catalog of what customers can find in stores this spring. We were mostly excited to see the Cynthia Rowley diffusion line carried by the retailer, which reflected the same brightly colored graphics and fun sensibility seen in her women's ready-to-wear collection.
The first emerging designer for the evening was Megan Huntz. An earthy, relaxed vibe was visible throughout the collection. Many of the pieces were created with a pale blue fabric reflecting an ethereal skyscape. Others stayed within a palette of deep greys and umbers. A pop of red every few looks kept the collection fresh. The large agate necklaces and flowing natural fabrics made us think these would be perfect looks for any of the well-to-do bohemians among the crowd.
In her opening video, Karen Hulse promised to give us clothes for the explorer in all of us, a look congruous with "camping for the city woman." While expertly constructed, her collection didn't really give us much to get excited about. The neon, leather, and geometric prints were right on trend with looks we saw in every editorial last fall, including a version of the ubiquitous olive green jacket with leather sleeves we've seen on every blog since it started trending last year. Still, Hulse did manage to make futuristic looks accessible for the average person, which is why her line would have a perfect home in a retailer like Urban Outfitters.
Afriyie Poku was the only designer to show all menswear last night, and he did not disappoint — the crowd loved it. Interesting details, sumptuous fabrics, and impeccable tailoring combined in his collection to give us a view of what a well-dressed gentleman should look like. Poku's looks are for the confident man who isn't afraid to pull off furs, jodhpurs, and bright purple.
Monisha Pillai showed one of our favorite women's wear collections for the evening. She said that architect Zaha Hadid was one of her influences, and it was easy to see that influence in the sculpturally constructed pieces. Asymmetrical suit jackets and intricately folded tops equaled looks that one would save for a special occasion. We enjoyed that Pillai ended her show with a stunning full-length white dress, a nod to the Paris haute couture shows that close with a wedding gown. The well-curated collection showed a maturity we don't often see in emerging designers, and we're bereft we won't get to see more on Saturday.
Kita Nolley's collection was inspired by Yves Saint Laurent's Le Smoking suit and African tribal looks. If you're trying to imagine both of those together, that is exactly what she gave us. The runway was full of juxtaposing patterns and slim suits, and it was all totally wearable.
The featured designer for Thursday was Libertine. Johnson Hartig brought his fall 2013 RTW collection, and colorful coats and mixing prints made for an entertaining show.
Poku won the people's and judge's choice for the evening, so he'll go on to show his entire collection on Saturday. The talent among the emerging designers is high and the competition is tight. We look forward to two more nights of exciting shows.