Fashion ‘Branching Out’ Art Institute hosts student design show

Styles by local designer Vartika Vikram.

The fashion design program at the Art Institute of Charleston has arrived. The school hosted the “Branching Out” fashion show in its lobby to celebrate the new major that started in January.

Lynne Riding, the fashion design program coordinator and instructor at the Art Institute of Charleston, said the fact that local designers and fashionistas attended the event “showed the students they are taken seriously.”

There are 20 students in the fashion design program. That number is expected to grow in the spring and summer. The institute is having an open house Saturday. See the details and RSVP at

Demetrius Washington, a third-year fashion and retail management student, emceed the show. He and his fashion show production class led by Ashley Martin worked on putting together the show for two months. He said they never expected it to be as big of a success as it was.

“It was really surprising because we had so many other guests that came. It felt really good. I feel like I’ve done community outreach,” Washington said.

Featured designer Rafael Cox from Season 9 of “Project Runway” said he was inspired by color for his spring/summer line shown at the event, which included bright colors, leather and peplum tops.

“I wanted to make strong, different, distinctive, bold, striking and sexy lines,” Cox said.

Cox said he enjoys speaking to students and met with some earlier that day.

He said it’s important for them to stay in Charleston to “create and inspire in your home base” and build the fashion industry here.

Other designers who graced the runway were Art Institute faculty members Martin of Clewis Reid and Julie Wheat of Cavortess. Local designer Vartika Vikram’s whimsical looks also were showcased.

Riding said she has heard many students say the show inspired them.

“I think as we move forward, we’re going to be making our own garments. Once we start producing, it’s going to be happening more frequently,” Riding said of future fashion shows.

Reach Jade McDuffie at 937-5560 or