Charleston Fashion Week

Marie Rodriguez A model poses at the end of the runway at the 2012 Charleston Fashion Week.

Conde Nast Traveler named Charleston the No. 1 city to visit in the world. In addition to history, charm and a multitude of award-winning restaurants, events such as Charleston Fashion Week add to the city's cachet and give it the cosmopolitan vibe that jet-setters all over the globe seek out.

Charleston Fashion Week has grown up and come into its own since its inception in 2007.

Under the tents at Marion Square, this year features early evening shows by local shops Bits of Lace, Bob Ellis, JLINSNIDER, Belk, Gwynn's of Mount Pleasant and V2V alongside semifinalists for the Emerging Designer Competition: East and established designers such as Libertine, a.a. antonio azzuolo and Christian Siriano.

Between shows, guests can indulge in libations at the style lounge, where The Shops at Charleston Place, Cos Bar of Charleston, Tanger Outlets, Sneaker and Stella & Dot are some of the many companies that will have a presence.

The five-night fashion celebration has been credited with launching the careers of up-and-coming designers and models, and supporting local businesses and charities through its affiliations and events.

This year, Baker Motor Company headlines the event, rebranding it Baker Motor Company Charleston Fashion Week, in addition to Benefitfocus coming on as title sponsor of the Emerging Designer Competition: East.

Benefitfocus President and CEO Shawn Jenkins said, “We are very excited to be participating in Baker Motor Company Charleston Fashion Week this year. CFW is known as a springboard for undiscovered talent, and we're proud to be a part of their journey.”

This year brings more special guests than ever before. In addition to the panel of judges, guests can expect appearances by Grammy Award-winning entertainer Ashanti, fashion designer Cynthia Rowley and lifestyle expert Robert Verdi.

The Emerging Designer Competition: East is the backbone of CFW that gives it its credibility for finding and promoting fresh talent along the Eastern Seaboard.

Applicants start the process nine months before fashion week. After a rigorous selection process, the top 20 designers are selected as semifinalists. They then create full collections to debut at CFW.

One designer will be selected the grand prize winner by the CFW Fashion Panel. The grand prize includes $5,000, $10,000 in online marketing and promotional packages from F22 Designs, mentoring opportunities, professional look-book images of the collection by J. Balliet, a Bernina sewing machine donated by Fashion Fabrics in Mount Pleasant, an Ippolita necklace from Reeds Jewelers and a scheduled slot on the runway at CFW 2014.

CFW is not just for the designers. In addition to more than 35 runway shows, CFW is also a breeding ground of emerging model talent.

To help select the best of the best, CFW launched the Rock the Runway Model Competition. Past winners of the contest have signed on with agencies such as Ikon Model Management and IMG, and others have gone on to compete in “America's Next Top Model.”

The CFW Fashion Panel itself contains some fashion heavyweights.

Fern Mallis, who is widely credited with starting New York Fashion Week, returns for a third year on the panel and has said she “was delighted to be invited ... to Charleston. I was impressed with the city, the people I met and the organizers of CFW.”

Mallis is joined by Ashanti; Cator Sparks, editor in chief of and fashion industry journalist; fashion designers Brandon Sun, Christian Siriano, Johnson Hartig of Libertine, Nikki Poulos and Sarah Parrott; Peter Davis, editor in chief of SCENE magazine; and Arlene Goldstein, the vice president of trend merchandising and fashion direction for Belk Inc.

This year, CFW is also host to its first Fashion and Film contest.

Held in conjunction with Tout Pictures and Production Design Associates, the competition is for short films up to two minutes that tie in with fashion.

“There's so much natural overlap between fashion and film that we wanted to somehow highlight this art form as part of our programming,” said Jed Drew, one of the owners of CFW. “We want CFW to continue to be a pipeline of talent across the fashion spectrum, and we're thrilled to offer this opportunity to filmmakers this year.”

Charleston Fashion Week doesn't end at the runway. Each night after the show, guests get a chance to flaunt their style at the after-parties.

Day 1 will find guests at Mercury Bar with DJ rDot, followed by DJ Y-Not at Mynt on Wednesday.

Thursday and Friday bring DJ Forge at The Cocktail Club and The Macintosh, and DJ SK at Republic, respectively.

Saturday, the final night, is the big night for all the fashion types and culminates in a party at the Woolfe Street Playhouse with DJ Natty Heavy.

Of course, these are the official after-parties. There are bound to be unofficial after-parties and parties after the after-parties, as well.

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