Charleston Fashion Week: Students behind the scenes

Charleston Fashion Week has become a Spring trademark of the Holy City over the past eight years. Founded in 2007, the multifaceted convention captures the fascinations of many a fashionista. Every March, Charleston Fashion Week draws thousands of participants interested in the event’s numerous catwalk shows, designer competitions, interactive outlets of entertainment and chic after-parties. Many of us have walked through Marion Square as events unfurled or perhaps attended an after-party or two. In light of how little I knew about the four-day celebration, I sought to discover more about the collection of events through student perspectives. What was it like to really participate in Charleston Fashion Week as a College of Charleston student? My search directed me to freshman Kaelyn Jiran, who landed an internship at the very heart of Charleston Fashion Week. As we corresponded, she seemed simply elated to have found such an opportunity. The interview with Jiran went as follows:

A: “So, what exactly was your role in Charleston Fashion Week?”

K: “I was an intern for the PR and Marketing team. I technically worked for Charleston Magazine and Gulfstream Communications, but my internship ended with Fashion Week. I essentially shadowed by boss; I helped with everything leading up to Fashion Week itself. This included appearances at the Southeastern Wildlife Expo and Second Sunday on King Street, assisting my boss with sorting through media credential applications, helping assign media credentials, distributing media credentials, checking on the media, performing any errands that needed to be done, making spreadsheets to organize the attending media personnel and answering questions from media personnel and promoting Fashion Week before, during and after the event.”

CofC sophomore Catherine Yetman modeling onstage during one of the many fashion shows during Charleston Fashion Week.  (Photo courtesy of headshotscharleston.com)

CofC sophomore Catherine Yetman modeling onstage during one of the many fashion shows during Charleston Fashion Week. (Photo courtesy of headshotscharleston.com)

A: “What was your favorite part about your experience?”

K: “I loved my experience as an intern! I would honestly say that the most enjoyable part of my job was getting experience in the field I hope to have a career in. PR and Marketing wasn’t an interest of mine when I came to CofC, but I saw the internship and applied anyway for several reasons: I was sure I wanted to major in Communications but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in terms of a career. Also, because of my love for fashion and my interest in learning more about clothes. I enjoyed getting to be behind-the-scenes and taking part in what makes a fashion event of this magnitude happen. The internship helped me realize that I do indeed want to have a job somewhere in the field of marketing and PR. I might even want to pursue a job with Charleston Fashion Week in the future!”

A: “There must have been a down-side to your involvement. What did you enjoy least about your experience?”

K: “I would say that the least enjoyable part of my internship was the fact that it had to end! I started working for Charleston Fashion Week in January and I finished on the last day of Fashion Week. It makes me sad that I no longer have to go to the office every Friday to work on all things ‘Fashion Week’, but I hope to get the chance to work for them again next year!”

A: “What was the craziest thing you had to do for your internship?”

K: “The craziest thing I had to do for Charleston Fashion Week wasn’t even that crazy; it was more exciting then anything else. One of our jobs as interns was to be ‘seat fillers.’ Basically, if media personnel didn’t show up to sit in their seats, we would get to sit instead and watch the runway shows. Since media sat in the first 2-3 rows for each show, it looked bad if photos were taken of empty seats. There were two empty seats in the front row, for example. For one of the shows, I got to sit in the front row — which doesn’t sound that exciting — but for me and my fellow interns it was really cool. Getting to be up close and personal with the models and the clothes featured on the runway is a great feeling. I was thankful for the 20 minutes I spent on the front row.”

A: “Did you get to meet anyone cool?”

K: “I’m a Project Runway fan for obvious reasons and during Fashion Week I got to meet Justin Leblanc. Justin finished in 3rd place on Project Runway in season 12. He was originally eliminated earlier in the show but was saved by host Tim Gunn because Tim felt the judges made the wrong decision, and he was right considering Justin’s 3rd place finish. Justin is originally from North Carolina which is where I am from. He’s also deaf; despite his disability, the clothing he made on the show did nothing but impress me every week. I admire his passion, his creativity and his ability to make beautiful clothes. Plain and simple. It’s funny; I walked into one of the tents and a couple of the live models were wearing two very distinct garments from Project Runway. I didn’t even have to read the sign to know who had made them. One of my friends was modeling and she told me that Justin was in the Fashion Village and that he would come by frequently to check on the garments. The reason for that is because one was made of pipettes like you would find in a chemistry classroom and the other was made from zip ties — thousands on each dress amounting to hundreds of hours of work. It’s kind of embarrassing, but I waited in the tent for him to come by and check on his garments. I ended up meeting him, taking a picture with him, and talking with him about the garments that the girls were modeling. His sweet and genuine spirit carried our conversation for a while, flowing from his garments to my part in Charleston Fashion Week. I can honestly say it was the highlight of my week.”

Jiran’s hands-on involvement with the nuts and bolts of Fashion Week represented passionate students in the work force and the execution of events, but what about the students in the show? Yes — some of the College’s own pupils worked the runways of Fashion Week. One of which, sophomore Catherine Yetman, told me a little bit about her unique experience as a Fashion Week model.

SOURCE: headshotscharleston.com

Yetman rocks the catwalk again. (Photo courtesy of headshotscharleston.com)

A: “What was your position in Fashion Week?”

C: “I was lucky enough to participate as a model this year.”

A: “What was something you enjoyed most about the modeling experience?”

C: “Walking in shows is so amazing and gives me the greatest adrenaline rush. I got to open one show and close another this year which is a big deal in the modeling world, so I’m very thankful for that. Above all, my parents were able to come watch me and I could just tell from the looks on their faces that they were really proud and that was everything for me.”

A: “What was your least favorite part?”

C: “Just about everyone knows that models are generally thin. I’m a naturally slender girl and normally don’t worry about my body image, but I could definitely feel a pressure to be thinner. It’s unfortunately just part of the industry. You just have to remember that you’re worth more than your weight.”

A: “Well said. On that note, what was the most bizarre thing you had to do for your position?”

C: “It was tough to find a balance between school and Fashion Week. All week, I was running around for fittings and final rehearsals between classes. While waiting to get my hair and makeup done, I would try to study for exams, though my excitement hindered my efforts. One day, I left an exam at 2:00 and had to be at the tents by 2:30 for an evening show. It was pretty crazy and hectic but time management is key.”

A: “Were you able to meet any interesting people?”

C: “Walking in Fashion Week allowed me to meet so many different incredible people. Between volunteers, fellow models and everyone in between, I met a ton of great people and it would be hard to say any one individual was better than another. Though I will say I was very impressed and influenced by two of the designers whom I was lucky enough to walk for. Daniel Velasco and Ryan Workman worked so hard on their collection. Wearing their clothes was like wearing works of art. Their profound dedication to their passion was inspiring and I believe they will make it big.”

A: “So, overall, what was it like walking in the shows? What was the process like?”

C: “Walking in Fashion Week was an experience like no other. Each show has a completely different vibe and range of emotions. It took hours to get all of the models in the proper hair and makeup. Once everyone was dressed you weren’t supposed to sit down so you got in the lineup. Basically, you are just backstage — adrenaline pumping — waiting until your show begins. The dedicated make-up artists and hair team make their final touch ups until the final seconds. Then, a Fashion Week crew member touches your back which means it’s your time to walk onstage. Once I got on stage and the lights hit my face it felt like I was dissociated from my body. I had no thoughts, no fears. It was one of the only times I can say I truly lived in the moment. It was one of the best times of my life and I would relive walking in Fashion Week every day if I could.”

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