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Charleston Fashion Week is back, and you can tell just by looking at Marion Square. While the massive tents and CFW signs are a definite give-away, last night’s large herd of fashionistas occasionally punctuated by the tall, slender models could only mean one thing: we’re in for an incredible week of fashion.

Stepping backstage this year, I got felt both a welcome sense of deja vu and surprise at just how much things have changed. Back again this year were the hard-working hair and makeup team, headed by the ever upbeat Ashley Brook Perryman, a plethora of attractive models, anxious emerging designers, the smell of hairspray, and an almost alarming amount of weave. While all of these things have come to mean Charleston Fashion Week to me (it’s not fashion week unless there’s weave stuck to my shoe and a cloud of hairspray around my camera), one couldn’t help noticing a number of changes in the hair and makeup tent as well.

This year’s models seem younger than many of the girls who hit the catwalk in 2011, but they’re nothing if not focused and disciplined. The space itself is different as well, this year, offering the hair and makeup team considerably more space to move, a separate area for child models, a large TV and chairs for regular models, and even some plush lounges for those craving a break from stilettos.

While there was no shortage of activity backstage as the Poe Studio and the Palm Avenue shows got underway, the energy could best be described as focused, organized, and even-keeled. Many of the hair and makeup team members are seasoned veterans of CFW, and a good rapport has developed over the years. A commotion broke out as Mikasa La’Charles’ stunning Navajo-meets-Hollywood collection took the stage, but never fear: it was simply some hair stylists playing "weave limbo" with the longest braid I’ve ever seen.

Though there were some pre-show jitters amongst the emerging designers, the opening day of CFW was surprisingly calm backstage. Samantha Michele Hyman’s models finished their finale as Gil Tisdel & Dominique Verona’s looks received a critical last look by the designers. Tsvetelina Gerasimova McAuliffe’s models received last minute touch ups to cover any tattoos or errant bruises, while designer Adrienne Antonson could be spotted with an iPod in hand and one model on each headphone. “I wanted them to hear the song before they hit the runway,” she explained.

Everyone took a moment to finally sit down as former CFW Emerging Designer Emily Bargeron presented her first full collection of menswear and the results of Tuesday’s Emerging Design Competition were announced. Then stylists, models, designers, and photographers all filtered out of the tents to catch some beauty sleep before what’s sure to be another exciting day of Charleston Fashion Week.

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