The finale of Baker Motor Co. Charleston Fashion Week on Saturday was full of surprises, with not one, but two designers named the winner of this year's Emerging Designer Competition.
The tied winners were sisters and co-designers Rebecca and Leah Plante of New York, whose earth-toned collection featured color-block designs, knee-length skirts and ethereal dresses. The other emerging designer and winner of the People's Choice award was Anna Toth, 33, of Asheville, N.C., the designer behind one of the most casual collections of the night, which centered on form-fitting denim ensembles and tailored mini skirts.
"It wouldn't be a fashion event without surprises," host Ayoka Lucas said just before announcing the grand prize winner. "Everyone was so talented this year. It was a very close call, so tonight there are two winners for the first time in Charleston Fashion Week's eight-year history."
In addition to bragging rights, Toth and the Plante sisters each took home $5,000, along with a website design and marketing package, a new sewing machine and a guaranteed runway show during next year's Charleston Fashion Week, among other perks.
"Being in Charleston, and meeting all of these designers, it's going to be a big head start on all of our plans," Leah Plante said. Among those plans, Plante added, was their goal to open a store in Charleston.
Perhaps a harbinger of the surprises to come was at the beginning of the night when Lucas announced that the panel of judges had brought a fifth designer, Toth, back into the competition for the final round. Typically, there are four finalists in the running for the Emerging Designer Competition during the finale evening.
Over the course of the five-night fashion event, 20 early-stage designers from across the East coast debuted their original collections on the runway in Marion Square. Five semifinalists showcased a line of fall styles, and a panel of judges made up of fashion designers and industry leaders chose one to advance to the final Emerging Designer Competition on Saturday.
The other three finalists that took to the catwalk during the finale event of Charleston Fashion Week were:
Kaitlyn Machos, 22, of Lexington, S.C., the only finalist from the Palmetto State, who centered her collection on evening wear featuring long trains, sparkling fabrics and form-fitting bodices.
Angela Bacskocky, 33, of Richmond, Va., who advanced to the finals Thursday for her collection of military and menswear-inspired looks featuring a rich color palette, wool and leather details.
Deanna Ansara, 24, of New York, a designer with a knack for draping. Her line of tuxedo-style suits and long black dresses was the darkest of the five collections.
While the judges deliberated who would be dubbed this year's emerging designer, featured designer Timo Weiland took over the runway with his collection of fall styles for men and women, which included geometric designs and an emphasis on black and white patterns.
Since it was established in 2007, Charleston Fashion Week has become a platform for up-and-coming designers, stylists and models on the East coast. The event also helps boost the local economy.
Last year's event, attended by 7,5000 people, had a $2.6 million impact on local commerce. A poll of attendees last year revealed that 90 percent of those from out-of-town came to Charleston specifically for the fashion event, according to the College of Charleston Office of Tourism Analysis.
Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail