Meet the winner of the Charleston Fashion Week® and Charleston Weddings’ first-ever emerging bridal designer competition
Written by Melissa Bigner
Born and reared in Atlanta, Georgia, Calvin James Bryant knows a thing or two about smart street style. In high school he ran a hopping business out of his bedroom, customizing and hand-painting tennis shoes. That experience, plus the inspiration he gleaned from watching his mother make dresses for family and friends, convinced him that fashion was his destiny.
With a mind to express his love for art by designing clothes, he studied business administration and fashion merchandising at Georgia Southern University. After graduation he went to Parsons The New School for its two-year program in fashion studies, and while there, interned for Marc Jacobs and Calvin Klein. Following those adventures, he worked as an assistant designer and production coordinator for a handful of New York companies, and in 2010, his entry in the Swarovski Handbag Competition earned him a finalist slot.
Last year, Calvin moved back home to Atlanta where he began developing his own collection of bridal wear. “My design philosophy is to turn every woman into a Southern belle with an edge on her wedding day by creating gowns with an understated modesty and strength in detail,” says Calvin. And does he ever. His portfolio won over the judges with its photos of mod snowy white sweater gowns sporting tone-on-tone white appliqués. Not only were the concepts new and refreshing, his execution and fit were flawless and flattering beyond compare.
As for the collection he aims to send down the runway? If his airy, feminine sketches are any indicator, stay tuned for fresh pairings—chic white jackets and sheer skirts, pants with swing tops that sport cascading sheer “veils,” and more. His looks smack of the ’60s, but with nary a nostalgic sentiment in sight; rather, they are refreshingly fashion-forward with hints of a bygone era. Add the materials and textures he plans to work with—silk charmeuse, silk chiffon, silk tulle along with appliquéd lace and embroidery—and we’re dying to see the work of this powerful new talent come to life on the runway. For tickets to the March 24 show, which includes Calvin’s collection and six other shows, click here. To see more of Calvin’s work, visit his website.
About the Runners Up Nandi Chan Fernandez of Miami, Florida, wowed the judges, too, with her uber-feminine silhouettes and figure-hugging gowns. Already prolific creating custom gowns for clients, her sketches hinted at serious drama to be unleashed were she to design for design’s sake. For a peek at her lace-laden, bold, and sexy styles, visit NandiChin.com.
As elaborate as Nandi’s work was, that of Whitney Barnes Deal of Millers Creek, North Carolina, was spectacularly spartan. Her sweet sketches had an air of the ’40s about them (long skirts paired with blousy tops), and her portfolio shots revealed impeccable tailoring. Add a mix of surprising fabric choices—like cotton silk sateen—and the judges were smitten. “There is a stigma of what a bride should look like and what she should wear from the veil to the shoes,” says Whitney. “But I want to remove that idea. It's not about a woman playing a role on her wedding day, but putting on a dress that is an extension of her personality. It's really about a breath of fresh air to an already poufy bridal world.” Indeed, Whitney. For more, follow Whitney on Twitter at twitter.com/whitneydeal.
About the Competition
When the CFW Emerging Designer: East entries started pouring in last fall, contest organizers noticed wedding gowns showing up in the portfolios. Since Saturday mornings during CFW find the main tent transformed into a grand reception hall where the Charleston Weddings Spring Bridal Show (CWSBS) plays out, they decided it was time for an offshoot competition. And so the first-ever Emerging Bridal Designer Competition was born, the winner (who, like regular CFW emerging designers, has to be an aspiring, up-and-coming talent) to score his or her own runway show to debut March 24, 2012 at the CWSBS alongside nationally renowned collections.
Through December 2011, residents from South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida were invited to submit their work to a panel of judges including Carol Hannah (a Project Runway and CFW alum whose bridal and attendant gowns have appeared in Martha Stewart Weddings, Bride, Weddings Unveiled, and the knot); Heidi Elnora (whose work has been praised by Town & Country Weddings, Lucky Magazine, Daily Candy Atlanta, and getmarried.com); CFW style director and Charleston Weddings (CW) style editor Ayoka Lucas; and editor of CW, Melissa Bigner. The styles of gowns ranged from sassy frocks to intensely elegant creations and the backgrounds of the contestants spanned from self-taught types to graduates of Parsons, New York’s FIT, and even Université De La Mode in Lyon, France.