When Alicia Zeigler moved to Columbia several years ago, the city had a different look, to use the fashion sense of the world.
“There wasn’t a big emphasis or focus on (fashion),” she said. “Definitely trendy people here, but not a lot of fashion events.”
These days fashion is looking pretty good here, and Zeigler plans to make the city even more fashionable with the inaugural Columbia Style Week. The five-day event begins tonight with a fashion panel and mixer at Tapp’s Arts Center.
Already in Columbia this year, there’s been Style Exhibition and USC Fashion Week, both multi-day events. Chris Benz, a rising designer, showed a collection at Girls Night Out in March. The Hollywood fashion critic Cojo was here for Wine Dine & Design. And the entries made from recycled materials in the Columbia Design League’s Runaway Runway continue to awe.
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Zeigler, owner of Wink magazine, an online fashion periodical, and FFS Modeling and Talent Agency, believes Columbia Style Week can advance the arts and entertainment community.
“I’d really like Columbia to know that this is not just another event that is being put on just for the sake of having an event,” she said. “And I think it’s up to us, by our attendance and our support of this event, to make sure that it’s a success so that way we can continue to do it each year.”
In comparison, Charleston Fashion Week, owned and managed by Charleston magazine, was created to stimulate the local economy and support area retail and design communities in 2007.
“They were providing a platform for the local boutiques to showcase what they had in the stores,” said Vail Duggan, who manages public relations for CFW through the Charleston-based Loulu Agency.
Now CFW is a regional event that attracts more than 7,000 people. Last month, Charleston was named the second-best-dressed city in America by Travel + Leisure magazine, trailing only New York.
“The city has supported this event and cultivated it,” she continued. “For us, it’s been a great blend of Charleston.”
Columbia has untiringly supported its arts community, which makes the dearth of local designers and stores at CSW bewildering. When contacted, representatives for two prominent Columbia boutiques said they couldn’t comment because they weren’t even aware of CSW. Zeigler said she hopes to have more local participation next year.
“A lot of people, because it was the first year, had the ‘We’ll wait and see who else gets on board’ mentality,” said Zeigler, a Bronx, N.Y., native. “And since we didn’t have time to wait for that, we started reaching out to people in neighboring cities and states.”
Mikelle Street, vice president of promotions for USC Fashion Week and a former CFW intern, said a fashion week would work here — if done the right way.
“I think it should be used to promote the talent we have here and the connections we’ve made,” said Street, also an editor for Fiasco magazine, a London-based print and digital publication. “I think a fashion week or a style week needs to respect what we have here and show it off.”
The CSW fashion shows will be held at 701 Whaley and Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, and the nightly after parties will be held at local establishments. CSW is also hosting daily “shop hops” at local stores (it’s Wisteria SalonSpa and Handpicked today and Revente and Ashley’s Alley Wednesday), which could drive sales.
Zeigler is confident that CSW will be a success.
“Anything that you start, no matter where you do it, you know, the first year is going to be the hardest, but I think once you show people what it’s all about, people are going to support you,” she said.