Five years ago, Alicia Zeigler and a crew of fashionistas started something many in the Midlands never thought possible: a fashion week in Columbia.
“My interest in fashion has always been there,” said Zeigler. “There are trendy and fashionable people in Columbia, people that aspire to work in the fashion industry, but we don’t have an art institute. We didn’t have a fashion week. There was no place for them. So my thought process was, somebody has to start it. And if we can start it, I believe there are enough people with an interest and a love of this industry that it can grow and thrive, and that’s what happened.”
The fifth annual Columbia Fashion Week, set for Tuesday, June 21 through Saturday, June 25, is chock-full of designers, with local talent bursting at the seams.
“We’ve had designers and retailers from everywhere, but this year, we have more local designers, and we’re excited to have the local support,” said Zeigler.
In between pattern-making, hand-stitching and fittings, we managed to speak with a few Columbia-area designers about what inspires them, where they like to shop and what fashion find they feel naked without.
Background: Lives in Columbia, born in Kingston, Jamaica
Worth noting: Launched MayaQoba’s Fashion Boutique online (www.mayaqobas.com) in March 2012, an online retailer of exotic, island couture resortwear, clothing and fashion jewelry.
What was your inspiration for your Columbia Fashion Week collection? “I’ve always been inspired by looks that are bohemian and countercultural. This year’s collection is more sophisticated, (with) exotic resortwear designs inspired by the Middle East. It will feature luxe fabrics, rich hues, elegant beadwork, unique patterns, bold panache and elegance that is consistent with the MayaQoba’s brand.”
Where do you like to shop in Columbia? “Versona.”
Who is your style icon?“Iris Apfel because she’s fearlessly fashionable, goes against the grain and looks fabulous doing it.”
Who would you say is your celebrity spirit animal? “ ‘Sex and the City’s’ Carrie Bradshaw! She wears her unconventional, eclectic style with effortless confidence. That’s aligned with my own bold, unique sense of style, which I wear unapologetically!”
What is the one fashion piece in your closet you can’t live without? “A sequined jacket! It spices up any outfit.”
Background: Lives in Columbia, born in Nagpur, India
Worth noting: His women’s clothing line Rutu Bhonslé stems from his own name, Rutuparna Bhonslé. He believes that “fashion is not a luxury, but instead, a lifestyle.”
What was your inspiration for your Columbia Fashion Week collection? “I was drawn to the colors and aesthetics of nature, so I decided to incorporate these elements into my latest collection. I think this collection encompasses the freshness of the current season while displaying a modern twist on classic looks.”
Where do you like to shop in Columbia? “I love Columbia dearly, but I have yet to find a men’s store with a high-end selection that I absolutely love.”
Who is your style icon? “Karl Largerfeld, definitely. He created a fashion empire and has a minimalistic but timeless personal style. I love to use his style as an influence on my own while I put my own personal twist on it.”
Who would you say is your celebrity spirit animal? “I have to say (the late) Prince and Katy Perry. Prince had a legendary style that was electric and bold, and Katy Perry is always fearless with her style. Both of them combined create a whimsical, energetic style that I cannot help but marvel at.”
What is the one fashion piece in your closet you can’t live without? “Black pants are certainly a staple in my closet. I love to pair them with a loafer or a good boot, and I can almost always find the right fitted shirt to wear with them. They can double as causal or dresswear.”
Background: Lives in Columbia, born on the island of Dominica in the Caribbean. Her 14 years of sewing began with lessons from her mom, turning into a certificate in fashion design at the end of high school. She then went on to study at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.
Worth noting: Currently she is the managing/head tailor and operations manager at Jackie’s Tailoring and Alterations in Irmo, which she says helped her immensely in refining her skills.
What was your inspiration for your Columbia Fashion Week collection? “My inspiration for this collection was to go back to basics. I wanted a collection completely independent of additions like zippers, buttons and so on. My idea was to create garments that are easy to wear, easy to put on, and incredibly chic all at the same time.”
Where do you like to shop in Columbia? “My favorite places to shop are thrift and consignment stores. The items aren’t all the same, and I like to challenge myself to create an outfit out of the random selections found.”
Who is your style icon? “Without question, G-Dragon. He sets his own trends, and the way he’s so unapologetic about his style is inspiring.”
Who would you say is your celebrity spirit animal? “My celebrity spirit animal is Solange Knowles. There’s nothing I’ve seen her in that I wouldn’t wear myself. She has an easy style that turns every piece she wears into something timeless and chic.”
What is the one fashion piece in your closet you can’t live without? “A denim dress I made. It’ll be a sad day when it becomes too worn to wear.”
Background: Born abroad, she was taught the art of sewing at a young age by her mother, who worked as a seamstress for a local dance studio.
Worth noting: Davis is currently an alteration specialist at David’s Bridal in Columbia and a freelance designer. Her collection is Charise Rodriguez.
What was your inspiration for your Columbia Fashion Week collection? “The inspiration came from wanting to create individual looks referencing both African and Asian traditional garments. The tying theme with each piece in the collection is that they have an ease about them from the draping.
Where do you like to shop in Columbia? “House of Fabric on Main Street. For a designer, there’s nothing like a good fabric store. It’s almost therapeutic.”
Who is your style icon?“My top three style icons are Pat Cleveland, Janelle Monae, and Tracee Ellis Ross. Pat Cleveland is a major trailblazer of the ‘60s that exceled at fashion-forward elegance. Janelle Monae shows such creativity making classic black and white look fresh time and time again. Tracee has a bold, color infused, retro style that is all her own.”
Who would you say is your celebrity spirit animal? “Without a doubt, Serena Williams. She’s a lioness brimming with strength and fierceness.”
What is the one fashion piece in your closet you can’t live without? “High-waisted jeans are one of the most valuable assets in my closet. They have a way of complementing your figure like no other.”
Background: Josef began to sew and design as a young child with his grandmother, a sample seamstress in the New York Garment District, as his teacher.
Worth noting: He has designed for men, women and children in every category from underwear to evening wear. Josef started his business in Charlotte, then moved to Atlanta, where he designed for women for 13 years. Most recently he moved his business to Asheville. His specialty is luxury evening and bridal attire.
What was your inspiration for your Columbia Fashion Week collection? “This collection is inspired by travel. It’s a day to night collection that focuses on dressing well for all the fun things you want to do while on holiday. It will feature everything from swimwear to bridal gowns.”
Where do you like to shop in Columbia? “Britton’s”
Who is your style icon? “My Boston Terrier, Peppi. He adores luxury and so do I. I always keep that in mind no matter what type of garment I am designing. He is such an influence that images of him and his brother Petey are printed on fabric in the collection.”
Who would you say is your celebrity spirit animal? “Eartha Kitt. She is sexy, classic and a bit mysterious.”
What is the one fashion piece in your closet you can’t live without? “My pink and green floral dress shirt.”
Background: Roberts attended the Academy of Art University for a couple of years and AI-Charleston for a little more than a year before getting her brand and business off the ground. Thus, Brooke Wilder Atelier was born.
What was your inspiration for your Columbia Fashion Week collection? “My inspiration always comes from a beautiful sister ... for our 2016 collection, Eva, I was inspired by the vibrant and sultry Ms. Eva Mendez and her home country of Cuba. Like Eva, Cuba holds a sensual mystery contrasted with a bold and vibrant energy. A culture full of struggle and turmoil, the people still have a joy and energy that cannot be ignored. In this collection, you will find soft, smooth and sultry textures mixed with distressed fabrications and techniques to give the collection a perfectly imperfect quality.”
Where do you like to shop in Columbia?“Being a new South Carolinian, I have not had the opportunity to spend much time exploring the beautiful city of Columbia. I’ve only been twice and neither time allowed me the opportunity to do much exploring. On my last visit though I got to see the vibrant and the historic qualities of Columbia and look forward to spending some time after the show checking out what the city has to offer.”
Who is your style icon?“Tomas Maier, the creative director for Bottega Veneta is who I look to as mentor and for creative inspiration. He always thinks outside the box, is innovative and experimental and sets an amazing standard. My favorite quote from him is “what’s interesting is to strive for a certain perfection, and what’s perfect is nothing.”
Who would you say is your celebrity spirit animal? “I don’t know that I can pick one person. I take inspiration from many and use it to create my own unique style, true to my own essence. I don’t believe in comparing and/or mimicking. I believe in a unique, authentic voice in my style, my brand and my life. I don’t want to be like or look like anyone else. A few of the “celebrity” people I might take inspiration from would be Audrey Tatou, Yasmin Sewell, Madonna, Cher...and so many others.”
What is the one fashion piece in your closet you cannot live without? “A great pair of jeans. Dress ‘em up, dress em down...you can wear them anywhere and if you care for them properly and give them lots of love they will stay with you a lifetime.”
Columbia Fashion Week
Among featured events:
Tuesday, June 21: Beautiful People Party and winners of the 25 Most Stylish People in Columbia awards
Wednesday, June 22: Fashion education panel (Josh Ratliff Award for Fashion Excellence, networking mixer and party)
Thursday, June 23: Kids and student designer runway presentations
Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25: Featured designers and retailer showcases. After parties set for both nights.
Save 25 percent on tickets and ticket packages when purchasing online through Sunday, June 19. Enter promo code COLAFWJUNE at checkout. www.eventbrite.com/e/5th-annual-columbia-fashion-week-tickets-24610036281