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Big names and big style defined the runway shows at Charleston Fashion Week’s Thursday night. From Belk’s designer-filled collection kicking off the evening to Libertine’s party-on-the-runway finale, the third night of CFW had crowds on their feet and cheering. A number of the fashion world’s most notable faces were spotted on the front row, from Fashion Panel judge Fern Mallis, the creator of New York Fashion Week, to designer Cynthia Rowley and Tim and John Belk, CEO and COO of Belk. The night also had a number of firsts—Afriyie Poku, a 27-year-old, self-taught designer from Atlanta, became the first male to win the Emerging Designer finalist pick, but also the first to win both a finalist spot and the People’s Choice vote. Local retailer Belk—which announced that its Mount Pleasant store will undergo a $10.2-million renovation and expansion that will almost double the store’s size and add new designers like Free People and Seven—got that crowd revved up and ready. Playing off of three trend categories—sharp and chic, lady luxe, and passport, a bohemian mix of natural and tribal trends—Belk showcased looks from a long roster of designers such as Vince Camuto, MICHAEL Michael Kors, Maggy London, and Tahari ASL. Cynthia Rowley’s first line for the store, CYNTHIA, concluded the show to much fanfare. Blazers, dresses, and even pants in bold graphic prints brightened the runway along with a full collection of shoes, handbags, and accessories. “I’ve worked [with digital prints] for a long time,” said Rowley, who talked with Charleston magazine in the Belk tent earlier in the day about how digital technology is changing the look of fashion. From a five-pocket white jean featuring a larger floral pattern to a softer watercolor print covering a silky, pleated short, the CYNTHIA line pops with color, prints, and fun details—perfect for the Southern Belk customer. “We’re making all kinds of things that I never thought could be made. [With newer digital technology] you can communicate, you can tell your story, you can sell your product, and it’s the best time to work in a creative discipline.” After Belk’s show, the emphasis switched to the Emerging Designers, with Megan Huntz’s silky, ombre dresses floating down the runway. Moving from heavy blues to fiery reds then earthy olives, Huntz’s color palette seemed to almost translate the elements of water, fire, and earth, while her brushstroke details recalled the work of Abstract Expressionists Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning. Next up: Karen Hulse debuted her contemporary collection, which she called “camping for the city woman.” Neon, graphic prints, and leather trim made more appearances, with Hulse incorporating military influences like hooded cargo dresses and camouflage blazers throughout the line. Her eye-shieldingly bright citrine cropped wool jacket adorned with black buckles earned big points from the crowd. Afriyie Poku showed his winning collection, with his 18th- and 19th-century-influenced menswear designs displaying the color of the season—eggplant—along with white chunky sweaters, jackets in grey check, and knee-high boots for a modern spin on well-tailored classics. His designs—as well as an infectious smile—drew cheers and even a few standing ovations from the crowd. Monisha Pillai’s architectural collection followed in pale, muted pinks, teals, and neutrals. Using draping and seaming, Pillai delivered sculptural designs and minimalistic accessories, including thin belts as well as gold cuffs and ponytail holders that complement and never overwhelm. Concluding the night’s competition, Kita Nolley’s collection mixed and matched bold patterns in figure-flattering separates. Her bold, feminine looks included a number of variations on the pantsuit, subbing shorts and high-waisted, fuller-cut trousers for the expected slim-cut pant, and cropped jackets for blazers. Wrapping the night up in jubilant style, Johnson Hartig’s fall 2013 collection for Libertine included his clever play on prints and fabrics along with a jovial mix of party pieces. The line will also be featured in a trunk show at RTW Charleston (186 King Street; rtwcharleston.com) today from 1 to 4 p.m. Head to the tents tonight for featured designer Antonio Azzuolo, retail shows by Gwynn’s of Mt. Pleasant and V2V, as well as the final five semifinalists of the Emerging Designer Competition: East. See you there! For the schedule, click here. (http://charlestonmag.com/fashionweek/cfw-schedule) For tickets, click here. (http://charlestonmag.com/fashionweektickets/about)

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