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St. Louis Fashion Week’s Project:Design!

| Fashion Columnist

A model walks the runway set up in front of Saks Fifth Avenue at Plaza Frontenac during Rebecca Taylor’s fashion show on Thursday, Oct. 13, for St. Louis Fashion Week.Courtesy of Michelle Chen

A model walks the runway set up in front of Saks Fifth Avenue at Plaza Frontenac during Rebecca Taylor’s fashion show on Thursday, Oct. 13, for St. Louis Fashion Week.

Blue mood lights and upbeat music set the tone as this year’s St. Louis Fashion Week kicked off with a lively event. The seventh annual Project:Design! show, sponsored by Brown Shoe Company and ALIVE Magazine, attracted a fashion-hungry crowd of locals eager to see what St. Louis’ hottest fashion talent has to offer.

The Project:Design! competition has been instrumental in launching the careers of many, including three former and current contestants on the hit reality show, Project Runway. In her signature soft-spoken manner, Laura Kathleen—Project Runway season nine contestant and graduate of Western Kentucky University with a degree in design, merchandising and textiles—co-hosted the event in a packed warehouse in Soulard.

The competition began online with hundreds of local designers competing to display their creations at St. Louis Fashion Week. Ultimately, six hopeful designers received the most votes online and Kelley Miller, Stephen Curd, Caroline Williard, Sierra Moses, Cindy Brown and Brittany M. Davidson sent models down the runway as the designers battled it out to be crowned St. Louis’ hottest up and coming designer. With various dreams, goals and ambitions in mind, some of the designers, including Cindy Brown, who spent a year studying at Washington University, put everything they had into their collections and hope to design full time in the near future.

Though the pinnacle of the competition lasted for roughly an hour, the crowning of the top designer would change the course of the winner’s career. The winner left the night with support to help launch his or her line, a small drop of fame and a golden dress form.

The show itself featured many unique trends and demonstrated the notion that St. Louis’ fall fashion spans a wide range of styles, from powerful Asian influences to the romanticism of the flower child. I personally had two favorites but agree with the judges’ choice of Stephen Curd as winner of the grand prize, as I found his collection to be the most visually interesting.

Kelley Miller from St. Louis, Mo., brought the softness and delicacy of the ’70s flower child to open Tuesday night’s runway show. The models, styled with poufy bedroom hair, strutted, wearing lace pants, maxi skirts and hot pants representative of the designer’s design style, which is inspired by photography from that era. The maroons, whites and golden rust colors presented in her collection are excellent for fashionable St. Louisans to don this season.

Brittany M. Davidson from Overland Park, Kan., experimented with combining textures in an unusual way to create a soft-yet-hard effect. Leather and chiffon, stiff satin and delicate flower petals and numerous feathered headpieces covered the runway during this segment. Generally speaking, the cohesive collection was very feminine without being too girly. Through her fabric choices, Davidson also showed locals ways to wear voguish animal prints without being so obvious.

Stephen Curd, the 2011 winner of Project:Design! competition, was the only designer to feature both male and female models. He brought variety with his collection and conveyed a diverse point of view with influences ranging from the ’90s to a British schoolboy to the KFC Colonel’s tie. In addition to his success here in St. Louis, Curd has also been invited to show the collection next week at Chicago Fashion Week and, in a recent interview with the Riverfront Times, sums the whole experience well by stating, “We’re all different designers. I just know who I am and what I like, so that’s what I try to bring in to every collection I do.”