CHARLESTON—When twenty-three-year old Savannah, Georgia resident Hannah Goff’s bold collection exploded onto the runway, camera lights went off like mini supernovas of excitement; the young North Carolina State University alumnus easily won Charleston Fashion Week’s Emerging Designer competition.
Since 2006, Charleston’s unique Fashion Week has been dedicated to breaking the mold. The event’s creative director, Ayoka Lucas, has taken it on herself to find the next Proenza Schouler or Alexander Wang. Fully aware that the New York route is often expensive and challenging, she states, “It really is a great introduction for them [the designers] into the industry, which is a challenging industry to get into, so I am really proud of the emerging designer component; we are seeing talent from the entire east coast.”
In many ways, the competition’s the hinge of the week. Five finalists showcase their collections over as many nights, four showcase their full collections on Saturday night and one is invited back to compete for the coveted Emerging Designer title. Celebrity judges Lindsey Carter, local designer of Troubadour, K. Cooper Ray, designer of Social Primer, Cameron Silver, owner of Decades Boutique, Fern Mallis, Chris Benz, Vanessa Lachey and ELLE’s own Anne Slowey chose Goff from the twenty finalists and 180 applicants.
Benz got his wish, expressed earlier in the week, as he looked for bold color down the runway, “I think it is so great that the designers are not afraid to use color.” The crafted textiles and hand-woven garments could not be overlooked, and as Benz said, “that is very difficult to do.” Goff exemplified this, telling a story with her pieces. Deriving her inspiration from the modern woman straddling life as a homemaker and a businesswoman, she created her own prints and enhanced them by manipulating the fabric with careful pleating and tapering. With vibrant colors and shoulders evoking an armor-like masculinity, she was careful to balance them with feminine skirts and fine lines.
As Mallis said, “In the bigger [fashion] weeks it is so hard to be noticed, and this is the opportunity to shine.” And shine she did.