June’s bright evenings will bring an extra tinge of excitement to Columbia as locals will have the opportunity this year to participate in a brand new downtown experience.
In recent years traffic in downtown Columbia has increased as small businesses and creative storefronts have begun to fill the cityscape. The roughly five-mile radius surrounding the city center is full of opportunities to shop in local boutiques, peruse and purchase works of art and experience uniquely local cuisine and nightlife. This year, for the first week of June, Columbia Style Week will be added to the mix of experiences for downtown visitors.
On the evening of Tuesday, June 5, CSW ticket holders can visit Columbia Style Week’s Metropolitan Lounge & Bar at Tapp’s Art Center on Main Street to mingle with other fashion-minded attendees. On this opening night, an industry panel discussion brings regional business minds together to discuss the Southeast’s climate for fashion and retail. Panelists will include Charlotte NC Fashion Week director Anthony Simmons, Katie Kern of Charleston’s Circa PR, Taryn Scher of Greenville’s TK PR, Sonya Barnes of Charlotte’s Harris & Barnes Image Consultants, Rita Miles, owner of Charlotte Seen, and CSW director Alicia Zeigler. After hearing what the regional professionals have to say, guests can move on to the Beautiful People Party to officially kick off the week’s activities. Tapp’s will be filled with live entertainment, drinks flowing from a cash bar and enthusiastic party goers dressed in their best.
Alicia Zeigler, the power behind the establishment of this first-time event, is hoping that the energy that stems from the panel discussion and kickoff party will spill out into Main Street and get guests excited about fashion events in Columbia. “People think that they have to go outside of Columbia to see events like this,” she says from her desk at FFS Model and Talent Agency, “but we can have it all right here.”
Alicia’s interest in fashion began when she was a child in Bronx, N.Y., where her mother took her for modeling auditions, and she was able to land a few national gigs for brands like Mrs. Butterworth’s and Teddy Ruxpin. After moving to Columbia with Alerick, her husband, she started working in event planning, helming such events as A Glam Affair, a local fashion show whose proceeds went to Sistercare. Alicia soon found herself helping the show’s models find other gigs during her spare time, so she opened FFS Model and Talent Agency. Between that and her work as editor of Wink Magazine, a digital fashion and lifestyle publication for women, Alicia was elbow-deep in Columbia’s fashion scene. She would often joke with others that if Columbia didn’t have its own fashion week within a couple of years, she would present one herself. Two years went by and, although The University of South Carolina’s student-run Fashion Board puts one on to hone pre-professional skills, Columbia had not yet formed a professional or industry style week. Alicia found herself having to make good on her good-natured threats.
“Columbia’s fashion community has been growing so rapidly, and there are so many creative entities here,” she says. “I was seriously expecting that someone would have done it.” Realizing that the idea would benefit everyone in the city who does anything with fashion, Alicia began securing partnerships and involving city officials. After setting her plan out on paper, she went to Mayor Steve Benjamin’s office seeking a proclamation of a city-sanctioned style week. Based on what they saw, the office was willing to give the plan its stamp of approval.
“Our vision is to make this the most talented, educated and entrepreneurial city in America,” says Mayor Benjamin. “Events like this help us make that vision a reality.”
“I really want this to be an event that breeds creativity and encourages people to stay in Columbia,” Alicia says. She also sees her plan as one that will boost economic development for the fashion community. Since the majority of designers and retailers exhibiting at Columbia Style Week are from outside of the area, her plan is to show off Columbia’s vibrant social and retail community. “These people are going to have to book hotels here and eat here, and we want them to have a good time,” she says.
Carissa Strickland of M2 Boutique on Lady Street was the first local partner to sign on with Alicia’s plan. Carissa also acts as vendor coordinator for the week, and she anticipates a major impact for small businesses in Columbia. “The Capital City will now be considered a player in the fashion arena,” she claims, “where in the past we were overlooked. In addition, Columbia Style Week will reignite a forgotten love in the consumer market for small retailers and boutiques.”
Event coordinators are planning to engage local retailers by inviting them to participate in Shop Hops, where customers visiting Columbia for CSW can enjoy special discounts on products and services offered at local hair salons, spas and boutiques. The coordinators see it as a way to give visitors a warm welcome to the city.
Expect to see regional budding fashion entrepreneurs at the runway shows that will take place as part of the event. One of the featured designers during the week is Luis Machicao, a Peruvian-born, Charlotte-based designer who recently showed at Couture Fashion Week in New York. Brides-to-be will be able to take their planning notebooks to the Bridal Showcase and get ideas for their upcoming events. For those looking to break into fashion, beauty or retail, a career fair will be tailored to their needs.
This year has been a time of exceptional enthusiasm as the city moves down the path toward a creative economy. CSW is expected to capture some of that excitement as people fill some of Columbia’s most prominent event spaces to see unique designs move down the catwalks and to hear lively panel discussions about the business of fashion. Columbia Style Week may be the start of many ventures that draw attention to the city, pulling the area further into the creative economy that makes things flow.
The following showcase fashions from several of the designers who will be featured at Columbia Style Week.
2012 Columbia Style Week Calendar Highlights
- Beautiful People Party: At this kickoff party for Columbia Style Week, the winners of Wink Magazine’s 25 Most Beautiful People will be announced. The party begins at 7 p.m. on June 5 at the Tapp’s Art Center and will include live entertainment and a cash bar.
- M2 Boutique: On June 7, local retailer M2 Boutique will show off its wares in a runway show at 701 Whaley from 7 to 10 p.m. Owner Carissa Stickland was one of the first partners to sign on with Columbia Style Week. The boutique recently rebranded itself, so the show will be a special treat for attendees who are eager to see the modern contemporary women’s apparel that M2 offers.
- MayaQoba: Breezy maxi dresses in bold colors found in nature and color-blocked stunners are trademarks for this South Carolina-based online boutique. On June 8 at 7 p.m., spectators will be transported to an effortless resort world evoked by the brand as the line’s dresses and jewelry make their way down the catwalk.
- Summer Bridal Showcase: This event is presented by Wedding 101, a one-stop shop where brides can research venues, photographers, floral designers, catering and more. Visit the Tapp’s Art Center from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 9 and see a variety of dresses and tuxedoes while enjoying live entertainment and a cash bar.
- Luis Machicao: The Peruvian designer has carried his education at the School of Dramatic Arts into his creative work, which is also laced with his belief that fashion is a social manifestation of the human being. In Peru, his work can be found on soap opera sets, the national theater scene and even on the country’s First Lady. On June 9 from 7 to 10 p.m., Luis’s sensational creative works for the season can be seen on the runway at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.