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Runway Recap

Voices of Deliverance raise the roof; Rachel Gordon premieres her ONE LOVE BRIDAL line; a surprise proposal hits the stage. Photos by Ed Kavishe/Fashion Wire Press (center) and Glen Barnette

March 26, 2012

Runway Recap

Pageantry rules the 2012 Charleston Weddings Spring Bridal Show

WRITTEN BY Melissa Bigner

Holy Tuesday after the big show, people! In all honesty, I am battling a bad case of postpartum blues now that the Charleston Weddings Spring Bridal Show has wrapped for 2012. But like any bride or planner after a Big Day, there’s always reveling in the recap and photos to relive the moments. So here we go! (For links to the galleries alone, skip to the bottom, or click on designers’ and shop names throughout the text.)

Saturday morning started for me in Charleston Fashion Week’s production director Naomi Russell’s Embassy Suites hotel room, where Stella Nova stylist Patrick Navarro tried to coax the humidity out of both of our lives (and manes). I seriously can’t remember the last time I was in sequins (Chan Luu dress, baby, from Out of Hand) before breakfast, but I have to say party prepping is a pretty swellegant way to start a day. Naomi commented that she loves, loves, loves to iron, and got her Zen on smoothing the wrinkles out of Heather Barrie’s garden-frock. Heather had literally been up all night as presenting sponsor Gathering Floral + Event Design, turning the regular CFW runway tent into something stunning, and needed a little sister-friend help.

With hair and dresses all smoothed out, we headed over to Marion Square to check out Heather’s handiwork and get the show cranking. Stepping into the tent had me gaping like a first-year Muggle at Hogwarts, where they walk into the grand hall and things are magically floating in the eaves, tables are laden with treats galore, and the energy is palpable. Parchment-colored Chinese parasols hung from the ceiling on invisible wires, crystal chandeliers were clustered together in varying heights, and white wire planters held sprigs of white, blue, and green blooms. Sitting areas populated with more white wire appointments nestled here and there, and the Gathering booth showed off more stunning bouquets in simple white ceramic vessels. Up on the stage and runway, mirrored planter boxes sprouted with springy fresh flowers that would soon bob with every step each model took, and flanking either side of the stage were enormous pegboards painted robin’s egg blue and punctuated with roses. There were so many practical takeaway ideas we’re doing a separate Bridal Buzz on tips in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Backstage, Ashley Brook Perryman, CFW’s hair and makeup director, added seasonal touches (spring and summer blooms, fall leaves, wintry crystals) to models for White’s show, and the leggy gals—who’d been there since 5 a.m.—tried to wake up with Red Bull breakfasts. Charleston Weddings ed assistant Molly Hutter wrangled Voices Of Deliverance, the gospel choir Tara Guérard of Soirée had recommended when I sent out notes asking for the perfect group to open the show. I quizzed them about how to quell nerves before heading onstage, and they offered up the old “pretend the audience is naked” tactic. “If the audience were in the buff,” I told them, “I’d be a whole lot more nervous!”

As the doors opened, the bubbly started flowing, and guests started shopping and nibbling both. We added a slew of new vendor booths at the last minute, so many that we'll be doing another Bridal Buzz on those talented folks. In the meantime? Thanks Elaine Mincey, for letting me, Molly, and Allison Long of Bella Bridesmaid, stick our fingers in the wedding cake icing after the party was over! And big thanks to Cru for the take-home goodie box of those lemon tartlettes!

When the cue to take our seats came, it was game on, and VOD headed out onto the stage. “Going to the Chapel” never sounded so good; with the choir, and the REEDS paper hand fans fluttering in the audience, it looked like church. We rocked so hard backstage that runway director Jacqueline Lawrence had to hold the flat-screen TV monitor so it didn't topple over.

Then the first show began... Jodi Moylan of White gave us a medley of her sassy, sexy, self-designed pieces and those from national designers that she carries in her Daniel Island shop. While the Jenny Packhams she showed especially beguiled with their beadwork and dreamy draping, we’re still most nuts over the shorty she created herself with its detachable train. It’s so fresh it’s on newsstands now, in the current issue of our magazine! Takeaway: Seasonal hair and makeup is the way to accessorize any “evergreen” gown and make it so now.

Next up was Modern Trousseau’s Callie Tein, who brought her daughter to help her and Charleston’s MT store manager (and expectant mother) Heather Batt backstage. Seeing the three of them add red accents—hats, gloves, fascinators—to the collection was adorable for the family (and in-the-family way) factor. Once the looks headed down the aisle? Charleston Weddings’ style director Ayoka Lucas and I got super fired up over the shorties that came flouncing out—we know MT’s nailed the elegant factor for ages, but this party girl side was great to witness. We can’t wait to get some of those in for our next shoot. Callie ended with a real bang—a red gown with tiers of tulle spilling out from the back, just a “little something” she created especially for the fun of the show.

Katherine McDonald’s LulaKate show followed with departures galore for the Charleston-based designer. I had been in her atelier-shop a few weeks earlier and seen some of the stunning fabrics arrive on bolts, so seeing them crafted into gowns was a spectacle to behold. Katherine opted for amazing textures, little layered fabric leaves, hand-painted flowers, airy fairy feathers, and fringe lacey bits—if you can't see them in the runway shots, be sure to stop into her store! Ayoka and I went pretty much crazy nuts over her bridesmaids’ gowns in flowy, pale chiffons (so different from her usual crisp lines for ‘maids), and the finale look with a striped ballgown skirt? Swooning again just thinking of it.

Closing out the boutique half of the show, Maddison Row (Lindsey Nowak) and Bella Bridesmaid (Allison Long) raised the roof of the tent when they opened with Florence and the Machine and gowns that show why no bride getting married in the Holy City ever needs to venture out of town for high-end couture style. I mean, really! Not only were Carol Hannah, Vera Wang, Dolly Pearl, and Joanna August gowns (plus Hyla Dewitt cuffs) in the house, but they closed with a sweeping custom-made sweater cape over a silky sheath gown from CFW darling (and Emerging Designer Competition: East 2011 winner) Charlotte Hess. Each piece the pair showed was utterly “editorial” (meaning so fashion forward they showed brides how to push the envelopes of bridal style) all while still appealing to the wearable side that’s essential for the market. Tank and a ball gown skirt, ladies? Yes, please. The collared bridesmaids gown in pale flax? Sign us up!

During the short intermission, I headed backstage to make sure our surprise proposal groom was in no danger of cold feet before he headed out with me to pop the question to his lady-love at the end of the show. “Are you kidding?” said Dean Smith, who had contacted me months prior about proposing to his longtime girlfriend, Desirae Nestor, at the show. An Art Institute student, she's volunteered with CFW for years, and ever since she shopped for rings with Dean months ago, she’d been pestering him about the Big Ask (When? Where? How?). Knowing something special was on the horizon—she was guessing he would ask during her graduation weekend—she bought tickets to the show for her, her mom, and grandmother to get them geared up for white gowns. Little did she know that Dean was backstage with me, and his mother and grandmother were en route from several states away to make it there in time for the knee-dropping.

As Dean donned his dress pants and shirt, our first-ever emerging bridal designer competition winner, Calvin James Bryant, sent his models down the runway. Taking a cue from the New York shows—where collections are always a season ahead—his pieces had a distinct fall-winter feel to them, both in sumptuous color (slate blue, demure rose, and golden russet) and material (velvets, silk satin). Balancing the looks with crisp whites and pleated chiffons added a little evergreen factor to the mix. What we’re most excited about: How his maids dresses—with their tassled ties and button-up necklines—were so out of the pack. Velvet capris for an attendant? Brilliant.

After Calvin, featured designer Rachel Gordon’s ONE LOVE BRIDAL gowns took to the catwalk. I watched the show—resplendent in perfectly draped lace, shimmering satin numbers covered with to-the-floor fringe, and her signature plunging necklines—with her backstage on the monitor, and she was definitely getting choked up. “I’ve never been able to watch one of my own shows,” she said, “this is amazing!” Years ago, she created a hand-painted silk wedding gown for the wedding of Charleston mag’s marketing director, Misty Johnson, a move that got her into custom-made bridal wear. To see an entire collection come together from those beginnings is definitely a milestone. To cap off the show, the eco-conscious designer sent an organic skirt of live moss, ferns, orchids, and more by Ooh! Events down the runway to the shock and claps of the crowd.

While I took to the stage to help Dean give his best girl a ring (she said, “Yes!” in case you were concerned), feature designer Mychael Knight wrestled with some drama of his own backstage. A zipper on one of his gowns broke, and standing there in a suit with models queued to take to the stage, he sewed one gal into her dress. Ever the doll (and never the diva), he was on it, saying, “Now THIS is fashion! And I love it!” As his debut collection wended its way toward the photo pit, I picked out my favorites—a knee-length clingy number with a sleek bustier of white croc leather; a cascade of laser cut flowers that transformed a full-length gown into a mirage shorty; and a series of sheer and paneled silk gowns… As Ayoka—who sported Lori Wyatt Vintage—said later, she was so inspired by the body-conscious looks she was ready to shift to the lettuce diet. I hear, you, sweets! When Mychael returned from his turn taking a bow, he high-fived every last one of us as he ran off the stage. “I haven't had an adrenaline rush like this in ages,” he gushed, “and I so needed it.” Us, too, Mychael, us, too.

For all the images from the show, click here.
For a gallery of the show’s décor (and to see the proposal), click here.
To meet the designers and boutique owners, click here.
For a peek backstage, click here.
For red carpet photos, click here.
For audience style photos, click here.

Tue, 03/27/2012