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Backstage was buzzing with activity from the very start on Friday. With more than twenty quick changes, the vastly differently styling of each respective Emerging Designer, and the Rock the Runway competition, it’s safe to say the stylists, runway coordinators, and volunteers all had their hands full.

Hair was slicked or teased, straightened or tousled by deft hands while the runway coordinators struggled to remind everyone of the daunting changes they would face later in the evening. “Please clear a path, you really can’t stand here during the shows,” was the constant refrain as the models stepped up the ramp to the runway for Mary Mojo’s runway show. The girls lined up for Gwynn’s of Mount Pleasant while stylists struggled to tame fly-aways. Charleston humidity is can be a bit at odds with a sleek ponytail, and clouds of hairspray erupted throughout the tent.

The Rock the Runway competition was coming up after the break, so runway coordinators had the participants lining up long before Mary Mojo’s finale look came off the catwalk. However, several of the Rock the Runway semi-finalists were coming from retail shows, so backstage was positively pulsing with frantic activity. The competitors coming from the Mary Mojo or Gwynn’s show were grabbed by runway coordinator, who dragged them to hair and makeup, shouting every step of the way. A thoroughly armed team of stylists then descended on the models while they changed clothes behind a sheet, and then they were rushed back to the line up.

All the models crowded around the flatscreen to cheer on their peers in the Rock the Runway competition, applauding frequently. Nikki Jansen and Samuel Roberts were named the 2012 winners, and Jansen teared up in gratitude backstage. But then it was back to quick changes and line ups as the models were transformed from sleek catwalk competitors to high fashion models for the Emerging Design Competition.

And what a competition it has been this year! The Emerging Designers have always been a highlight of CFW, but this year’s designers really raised the bar. Sculptural pieces, furs, metal masks, velvets, and cut resin were all among the visual delights, but none of the staff backstage could venture a guess as to which of the talented designers might move on in that night’s competition.

Finally the night’s Emerging Design Competition was drawing to a close, and everyone could unwind backstage. “Every time I hear someone say change, my brain immediately assumes quick change,” Ashley Brook Perryman confessed to me. A harried stylist overheard and gasped in alarm. “Quick change? Who said quick change? There’s another one?!” He was rapidly reassured that there would be no more quick changes that night, but everyone was urged to go home and rest up... because they would have to be back at the tents at 5AM for the Bridal Couture show!