Friday Night at The Shows: A Gal's Perspective

Part of Teal's skate rink inspired show.

[Editor's note: In addition to regular coverage of each Charleston Fashion Week night, we give you a gal and guy take on each set of runway shows. Karen's is below; and here's Brian's.]

Charleston, I’m going to put it out there. I’m tired.

Going into the fifth day of show and after party reporting has left this gal with little sleep and a less than sunny disposition, which is why I thought long and hard about my critiques for last night’s shows.

All cranky pants aside, I’ve come to the decision that many of the retail presentations were flat. And not just last night. In year’s past I recall stores having fun with presentations, incorporating James Bond-like gold body paint, hippie picketing signs, cutting edge, Lady Gaga hair bows and more. This year, many collections have been presented like a lifestyle or catalog shoot. They’re quite safe, pretty and crafted for a quick sell.

Believe me, having worked in the retail business in every sort of capacity, I understand that stores are showing to make dollars. I get that. While it was cute at first, it’s disappointing however to see upwards of four shows featuring side hair bows, a candy colored lip and flushed cheek. It’s adorable but perhaps overworked. I deflate a little when one shouldered rompers walk time and again with little else to set them apart. I know that buyers are purchasing safe in this terrible economy, but I miss the days when Charleston Fashion Week not only showed attendees how to wear things differently but presented a creative, inspirational dream. There have been standout retailers (Hampden Clothing, I’m talking to you) and the Emerging and Featured Designers have been fantastic. I’m just hoping this last day of presentations will send me eating my blog post words all the way to the Finale.

Critiques aside, Friday did hold some highlights worth mentioning. Teal presented a skate rink inspired show, complete with a neon rainbow of knee and thigh high leg warmers, roller rink music (you know that 1980’s hip hop sound) paired with four-wheeled skates as props. Sitting front row was Mary Norton and daughter, beaming over the excess of $250,000 raised during the morning’s Catwalk for Kids fundraiser at MUSC. Biton did a nice job of styling men’s hair in a 1920’s meets Miami Vice, side part with shellac, and Gwynn’s had a beautiful white feather capelet shown between pops of animal print and a gorgeous, strapless wedding dress (think Sarah Jessica Parker’s tee length Chanel a few years back only longer). LaRoque was actually beautiful with make-you-blush-I’m-so-cute anklets featuring eyelet lace and black button detailing. Oversized sunglasses played with eyelet shorts and backless sundresses in tones of navy, yellow and crisp white.

Aside from LaRoque, the highlight of the evening was Ashley Reid’s Clewis Reid Collection. The Featured Designer showed her sustainable line in contrasting warm colors working beautifully together. It reminded me of a Mark Rothko painting. Blush, hot pink, burgundy and corals were mixed with scant peeps of pale mint. Seemingly clashing colors worked by being shown in playful peeking liners, layered ruffle dresses and in gorgeous rosebud like fabric appliqués at the neck of short, babydoll dresses. There wasn’t a print to be seen save the rock solid choice of leopard trouser socks, which jazzed up looks alongside lucite necklaces. The best part for me (aside from the beautiful looks) is that Reid graciously offered to let her Art Institute students assist with the collection, helping with styling and creative decisions. At the end of the show, the sunny designer brought her students on stage to share the limelight.

Tonight, the Emerging Designers are back, showing looks crafted during the Art Institute design challenge. Crowd favorite and 2009 Emerging Design Winner Marysia Reeves will show, this year as a Featured designer, and the People’s Choice and Emerging Design winner will be announced. To finish, we'll all party under the tents at the Fashion Finale celebration.

Now until then, make sure to follow our live tweets showing images straight from the runway @TheDigitelExtra.