Columbia's fashion scene preps for city's first Style Week
Columbia Style Week will not only help local designers, but models as well, says Alicia Zeigler, who also owns the FFS Model and Talent Agency. Casting calls and modeling events at FFS help Zeigler select those who will walk down the runway in June.
Makeup brushes, ready-to-wear dresses, photos of models and high heels line the walls of Alicia Zeigler’s office at FFS Model and Talent Agency. “I get inspired by the latest fashions so I engross myself in them with everything I do," Zeigler said.
When Maya Deer-Troy sends one of her fashion designs down a runway this summer at the first Columbia Style Week, the Jamaican-born retailer hopes it will expand her business just as the event's organizers hope it will expand the city's fashion scene.
Deer-Troy, who owns the Web-based boutique, MayaQoba's, says the June 5-9 event will help her business. "As an online store, sometimes it's hard to get your name out," she said. "Since MayaQoba's is relatively new, the fashion week will let me show people my designs in person."
Style Week organizers, who have scheduled 22 designers to join Deer-Troy in showing off their latest lines, say it's time Columbia's fashion scene got a little more attention. In planning the fashion-focused week, event director Alicia Zeigler says she hopes Columbia can begin to compare with cities in the region that have a head start.
Zeigler estimates it will cost $50,000 to put the event inside Tapp's Art Center at 1644 Main St., with funding coming from sponsors, vendors, a $150 designer registration and ticket sales.
An all-access weeklong pass costs $349. Zeigler hopes 5,000 will attend.
"There are a lot more people who have decided to make fashion important in their lives. Columbia is catching up with the fashion trends," said Zeigler, who also works as editor-in-chief of the fashion magazine WINK Columbia and owns FFS Model and Talent Agency.
Charlotte, Atlanta and Charleston have hosted successful fashion weeks for the past five years. Charleston's brings in people from New York City, Los Angeles and other trendy cities that might not typically come to Charleston, city business services director Jonathan Oakman says.
"Intuitively, you would expect a downturn in the economy to hurt something like a fashion week. For some reason, this is not the case," Oakman said.
The opportunity is critical for designers like Deer-Troy, who says a fashion week helps tremendously because designers can showcase clothes publicly and meet face to face with customers.
"Having the tangible items there to show people will encourage them to purchase my designs later," said Deer-Troy, who will be there as a vendor as well showing her designs on the catwalk. "Touching the fabrics, trying on the jewelry; it helps the designers from a business standpoint."
Deer-Troy said she has noticed a change in Columbia's fashion scene since she moved here in 2011. "People are more accepting of the floral prints and patterns in my designs than they were in the past," she says.
Figures for the economic impact of fashion on South Carolina are not readily obtainable. But for comparison, a category called core creative industries, which includes things such as dance companies, artists, jewelry makers, actors, designers and journalists, was directly responsible for about 2 percent of South Carolina jobs, according to an April 2011 study done by USC economist Douglas Woodward for the S.C. Arts Commission.
When the direct and indirect effects are totaled, as many as 4.4 percent of the state's jobs could be benefiting from the creative industries sector, the report says. This comes at a time when small businesses are being promoted across the country as huge job creators.
"Being an artistic person myself, I know how important creativity is to a successful economy. A strong arts following attracts more opportunities for business and for quality of life," Woodward said.
Modeled after Charleston's fashion week, which was March 20-24 this year, Columbia's week will include mostly ready-to-wear designs. Dwaun Sellers, former fashion editor at The Free Times, says in order for Style Week to succeed, it must not stray too far from the mainstream.
"If they stick with an aesthetic that isn't too far outside of the comfort zone of what people are used to wearing, it could work," said Sellers, who now works as social media editor at a fashion and image consulting company in Atlanta.
Sellers said he noticed very few "fashion-forward people" during his eight years in Columbia.
"If you ventured away from khakis, Sperry Topsiders, colorful cotton dresses or polo shirts, you often stuck out like a sore thumb," he said.
For Columbia to become a trendier city, he said, "there must be an injection of really trendy, chic jobs to lure in the younger, cooler market of people."
Teenagers, college fashionistas, young professionals and mature fashionistas make up Style Week's target market, Zeigler said. She said she hopes the rest of Columbia will begin to take fashion more seriously after the event.
"We need a fashion week in Columbia because it is something for us," Zeigler said. "It is something for the people who love the fashion and love the city."