Southern Style

by Elysian Magazine

 Charlotte Fashion Week 2016 highlights emerging designers

By Shandel Love
Photographs by Josh Norris

For five days, emerging and established designers are given a stage to showcase their creations during Charlotte Fashion Week. The latest fashion trends from boutiques are on display for kids, teens, and especially adults.

From Tuesday’s VIP evening through Saturday’s Fashion Designer Runway Evening and Black-tie Gala, each day focuses on a special event. This year’s show was held September 20-24, in the midst of the riots that gripped downtown Charlotte, North Carolina — but the events went on as planned.

Makeup artists and stylists work their magic backstage.

During the runway shows, designers exhibited their limitless creativity. But the creative efforts did not stop there. Behind the show there is an entire team of specialists in makeup, hair, beauty, coaching, photography, staging and lighting that are part of the magic that crafts a truly beautiful and memorable experience.

Designers are chosen for the event based on originality and quality of their designs. The event is a catalyst for designers and models to display their talents and be recognized. Only 20 percent of the designers that submit to be a part of Charlotte Fashion Week make the final cut. Each designer has ten models to walk the runway and showcase their collection. At the end of the show, a panel of guest judges presents awards.

Charlotte Fashion Week prides itself on highlighting emerging designers. For example, designer Teresa Jennette is a self-taught designer who attributes her inspiration to her family and friends. She learned to sew and design only six months before bringing her creations to life on the runway. Jennette’s collection was one of the most stunning and elegant of the night. Her designs can be found at

Another up-and-coming designer is Aubrey Busek. Her fashion forward elegance is inspiring, creating a one-of-a-kind print from her own painting allowed for an extraordinary design. Busek’s collection was inspired by time spent in Norway. She uses a variety of luxurious fabrics that grant natural movement and feel-good glamour. There is also an added intricacy of sparkle in her garments from hours of hand sewing Swarovski crystals, hand beading and embroidery. Her designs can be found at

It is hard to believe that designer Caitlin Myers is still aspiring. Her unique collection was executed like a pro. She integrated textured fabrics with accents of gold foil. The high necklines in her silhouettes gave her collection a fashion-forward appeal, which she paired with delicate pastel silks. Myers’ cohesive, inviting designs leave a list of people waiting to see what she will come up with next.

After the emerging designers came the spectacular, more established designers of Charlotte Fashion Week, such as Priya Saluja. Included in her collection is an array of tops, skirts and dresses with an Indian influence. Heavy embellishments, sequins and complex woven fabrics make Saluja’s garments eye-catching and jaw-dropping. Her designs can be found at Darpan Boutique in Waxhaw, N.C.

With the nationwide interest of preservation and “going green,” it is relevant that the fashion world would adopt this motto as well. The Recycled Designers of Charlotte Fashion Week reflected this movement. It was very refreshing to observe designers incorporate affordable, recycled materials and create unique designs from them.

Artist, painter, sculptor, teacher and fashion designer Tony Howard takes recycled fashion to the next level with his collection. Inspired from racks at thrift stores and recycled clothes, he created an avant-garde collection using affordable cotton fabrics, fused with trendy elements of tie die.

Meet the force behind Charlotte Fashion Week

Rita Miles learned very quickly that she was positioned to make Charlotte Fashion Week successful in a classic win-win for herself and others. When the first show drew more than 1,000 attendees, she realized there was demand for her passion and abilities to host and execute an amazing runway show, as well as provide the avenue and expertise to make dreams come true for designers all over the world.

A graduate of Georgia State University, where she studied business management, Miles credits lessons learned and adaptability as major tools to her success.

In 1996, she began her residential and commercial interior design company, Miles Interiors. By 2008, she discovered the need to evolve her business in a way that would not only maintain, but flourish during the fluctuating economy.

So in 2010, Charlotte Seen — the company behind Charlotte Fashion Week — was born. The concept behind Charlotte Seen was to “create a space where designers and company’s talents can be seen.”

Miles saw the connection between fashion and interior design. “It is very common in the designer world to expand fashion to home décor and interior design as seen by many designers, including Zac Posen, Jason Wu and Roberto Cavalli,” Miles said, noting just some of the designers with whom she has worked.

As an interior designer, owner of Charlotte Fashion Week, Miles Interiors and facilitator of over 68 runway shows with over 70,000 attendees, Rita Miles is a force to be reckoned with in the design world.

This year’s Charlotte Fashion Week benefited Hunger Action Month, an effort to fight hunger in America. For tickets to the next show, updates, to get involved, or for more information regarding Charlotte Fashion Week, contact

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