By Jillian Owens
Unlike New York or Paris, Columbia isn’t known as a fashion hot spot. Our town boasts some wonderful restaurants and owns its curiously apt slogan, “Famously Hot,” with defiant verve, but its name doesn’t conjure up images of runway models and haute couture.
Enter local fashion maven Alicia Zeigler. Polished, well-coiffed and confident, she’s the director of FFS Model and Talent Agency, as well as the founder of the Columbia Fashion Alliance, a network of local fashion professionals who work together to increase the city’s presence in that world. After attending fashion weeks in other cities — some as close as Charleston and Charlotte — she became inspired.
“I thought it would be amazing if we had our own fashion week,” Zeigler says. “We needed an event to highlight the work and accomplishments here in Columbia. You don’t have to move away. You can stay right here and contribute to our own fashion community.”
“Oftentimes I’ve noticed the arts community excludes fashion in their events and activities,” she adds, “but fashion professionals are artists too! Fashion professionals style hair, sew, do makeup and design clothing. Fashion is very much a part of the arts and is something I believe makes an impact in the arts community and our city as a whole.”
Columbia Fashion Week was born. Formerly known as Columbia Style Week, the event is now in its third year. What began as a small grassroots effort has evolved into an annual city- and community-supported event. For five days and five nights, residents and visitors alike can catch runway fashion shows featuring designers from all over the country and local and national retailers, such as Vestique, Copper Penny, WISH, Entourage, Belk and TJ Maxx. The calendar is also packed with networking events, parties, panel discussions, fashion education opportunities and — of course — plenty of shopping.
“You don’t have to be a fashion student or work in the fashion industry to be a part of Columbia Fashion Week,” Zeigler explains. “Fashion week is for anyone who loves to see beautiful models walk the runway, amazing clothes, anyone who loves to shop, anyone who loves to eat — because we’re going to have amazing catering.”
Indeed, the schedule is flush with a variety of creative events. Brides to-be might want to check out the Unveiled Bridal Showcase. Families can attend a Kids Runway Revolution Showcase. There’s even a Local Celebrity Runway Showcase. All of the events are family-friendly. Some are even guy-friendly: There are male fashion shows, and with plenty of lovely models strutting the runway in the hottest fashions, you shouldn’t have too much trouble convincing your gentleman friends to join you.
As Columbia Fashion Week and Columbia’s place in the fashion world continue to grow, Zeigler emphasizes why cultivating a fashion identity for this small city is so important.
“Fashion really shapes our culture,” she says. “Throughout history, fashion has been an outlet for rebellion, for change and a symbol of your self-expression. Fashion has been a way for people to show who they are, what they believe and what they stand for. Fashion really impacts society. It’s much more than just textiles.”
Columbia Fashion Week starts on June 18 and runs through June 21, with some pre-showcase festivities taking place on June 17. More info on the week’s individual events can be found at columbiafashionweek.com.
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