Charlotte Fashion Week & Misadventures

This year, I took on a project. I contacted Charlotte Seen back in February or March, inquiring about a press pass to the 5th Annual Charlotte Fashion Week. Rita Miles, the producer of Fashion Week, got back to me and asked me to write a few pieces for their book. The verbal agreement at that moment was 10 profile pieces. Since I wasn’t doing much else this summer for lack of online grad classes, I decided to take it on for the opportunity of being published.

I spent the majority of my summer either traveling to the cities of Asheville, Charlotte, and Raleigh, or holed up in my tiny coffee shop here in Cherokee, conducting interviews, taking notes, and spinning tales.

On Tuesday, August 25, I packed my waist-high Oakley suitcase in Silvermist (my trusty Fusion), and headed to the NoDa district of Charlotte. I stopped in Hickory for gas, and my air conditioning would not come back on when I left the gas station. I drove with the windows down to the rented loft on Air BNB for the week.

I checked in, unpacked, showered, changed, and set my GPS to the first event location, Blue Restaurant of Hearst Tower. I get to uptown Charlotte, surrounded by tall buildings, and my GPS says “arrived at destination.” And I’m sitting in traffic looking around me thinking “where?!”

I turned off the street, drove two blocks, turned off another street, and parked. I paid for street parking in the mobile app Parkmobile. The app has this handy feature called “Find my Car.” I again set my GPS for blue, following a zig zag 6-block trail to Hearst Tower. I walked all the way through Hearst Tower and found the restaurant….two hours early.

Behind the scenes at Blue Restaurant, Angela Kim designs, Charlotte Fashion Week.

I proceeded to the “Model Room” where HMUs from Sigma prepared models for designer Angela Kim of Asheville. This was a sampling of the same collection she debuted just two weeks prior at Asheville Fashion Week.

As the evening wore on, I met some of the people I had interviewed by phone, Heather Dignan and Lesley Ann Thiel and Howard Spikes. People I had captured on paper in 200 or 400 words and never even seen a photo of. It was thrilling moment as a journalist.

At 9 PM, I decided to call it a night and return to the loft. I stepped out of the restaurant and pulled up Parkmobile, and clicked “Find My Car.” The map pulled up and showed my car was in the vicinity of College St. I start walking, looking at street signs and my phone. I found a police officer at an intersection, and he pointed me in the correct directions. About ten minutes later, I’m still hopelessly looking for Silvermist near Time Warner Cable Arena.

It was here that I met Ellis. Ellis was an older man, dark skinned, and looking for a different kind of help. As he helped me search, we strike up a conversation in which I learned he is homeless, can’t afford to eat or bus fare to get to and from his new job. As a rule, I never carry cash on me, so I stop at an ATM to help him out: to find my account nearly empty from my travels. I tell him the truth, and he continues to help me look.

We get to Church St, and a police officer in an unmarked car asked me what we were looking for. I show him the app and explain that I can’t find my car. He asks if Ellis is with me, if I actually know him. I say no. I tell Ellis that the officer is going to help me look and to have a good night. I get in the car, and the officer drives me all over uptown, (as we search, he asks where I’m from, what brings me to town. His daughter is actually a student at my alma mater, Western Carolina University) until I find Silvermist…on Poplar St. A good 4 streets away from where the app said. At 10 PM.

It took an hour, a stranger, and two police officers to find my car. Thanks, Parkmobile. Thanks a lot.

The next morning, I take Silvermist to Capital Ford because her air conditioning still isn’t working properly. They work me in as fast as they can. Three hours and $175 later, they tell me that my car needed a software upgrade and that should be the end of it. Arielle Bailey had come to my rescue at the exact moment they said I could go.

So I followed Arielle to the other side of Charlotte where we had coffee and lunch. Arielle had worked with Charlotte Seen projects before, and we met during this particular project. She is a talented art director, and I believe we may have formed a lifetime partnership here.

Afterward, I head to “a private club in Charlotte” which is the venue for the rest of Charlotte Fashion Week. (Thank the Creator I did not ever have to return to Uptown Charlotte!) Everything in the hall is white. White curtains, white chairs, even a white ironwork interior balcony. I check in with the Seen Team and gather my press pass (the entire reason I went to Charlotte).

I settled into my second row seat, and watched as models from little children to a dancing elder took the runway in ensembles reflective of who they are. While it was an interesting show, and I gathered the theme, it didn’t entirely make sense to me from an industry perspective.

Runway Shows are designed to sell fashions to the public, from a selection of designers, lines, or collections. This particular show represented hundreds of different merchants. I couldn’t have gone out and bought one of those outfits if I wanted to, because there were too many to keep track.

Back to the loft.

Thursday, I went to Smelly Cat Coffee, as recommended to me by the host of my loft. Organic, fair trade, shade grown coffee roasted in-house, just like home. I went to the Southpark Mall to finally do some shopping, asking myself how I’d been in the city for 3 days without shopping yet.

I was excited to explore the Hermes. Lovely customer service and assistance, even for a lost and astonished mountain girl like me. The Neiman Marcus was like a dream come true for my inner fashionista. I was happily surprised to find a Lush Cosmetics, and purchased a lip scrub and mascara. (Seriously, their mascara is the only one that makes my lashes soft and not brittle.)

I went to Dillard’s and found my dress for the Charlotte Seen Ball for Saturday. While I had brought formal separates in the form of corsets and bustle skirts (in true Steampunk Style), I realized rather late that I had no assistant available to properly lace me up in said corsets. The dress has a corset lace in the back, but easily slips over my head with the ease and luxury of a silk nightgown. Perfect.

I found an Earth Fare, tried to buy just enough groceries to last the remainder of the trip, and returned to the loft. Put groceries away, changed my clothes, and back to the club.

At this point, I’m a familiar face to the professionals in the photography pit at the end of the white runway. I met some truly gifted people here, whom I look forward to working with in future.

As I resume my seat in the second row, I’m rather excited for this show. Tonight is the competition of designers in the categories of Emerging and Recyclable. Asheville’s own Charles Josef won the Emerging Category, and I look forward to interviewing with him soon.

The collections presented here that truly caught my attention were by Aiperi Yusupova, Michael Concha, and Bell et Corge by Jolina Roberson.

Bell et Corge is a luxurious line designed for real women in mind, with modern simple silhouettes in velvet and silk fabrications.

Michael Concha’s collection, aptly named “The Dark Phoenix,” began with the innocence of Irish stepdancing children in white and green, followed by harrowing characters in blacks and chains. This was the edgiest collection of the entire fashion week.

Aiperi Yusupova’s collection was the epitome of simple elegance. Her partner, Yves, is from Rwanda. Aiperi herself is from Kyrgyzstan. They met in college in Charlotte, and I look forward to interviewing them soon.

The Recyclable competition was the most creative of the week. Often, designers only showed one piece, but these were crafted from the stuff of dreams and imagination. The winning design was a rendition of Maleficent, made of tissue paper.

Friday was a personal battle with my demons in the forms of anxiety and depression. I returned to The Smelly Cat. I had a meltdown. I called my mother and my boyfriend. I went to the loft, ate a sandwich, and binge-watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the millionth time. I changed clothes, and returned to the club.

Because I arrived at 7 and not my usual 5, I wound up parking nearly a mile away on the street and taking a tram to the doorway. It was here that I met Andre of The Face Magazine, which I may be contributing to in future. The theme of the night was Emerging Designers and Boutiques.

My favorite collections of the night were Moniquea Renee Couture, The Tuxedo Lady of DW Designs, and Seelah Boutique.

Moniquea Renee Couture showed a collection entirely in white. White ruffles, white lace, white rhinestones. From work to cocktail hour to just because, this collection proves that the modern woman can live her life in white without appearing the least bit bridal.

The Tuxedo Lady of DW Designs is a work and formal wear couturier for men. She opened the collection with a Sherlock Holmes ensemble, and I was sold. Everything was impeccably crafted, from the rugged leather accessories to the massive fur robe.

Seelah Boutique is an inspirational collection from an inspired soul. Seelah comes from the biblical book of Psalms, which meant “pause” or “rest” from a musical perspective. Her objective was to create beautiful clothes for everyone, and she succeeded with this black and gold collection.

Back to the loft.

Saturday. The day of the ball. I meet with my college friend Olivia Bellamy for brunch. It was good to catch up with her, and we’ve decided to catch up more often. (3 years is a bit long.) As I cranked Silvermist to head out, the air conditioning failed again. So I drove to the loft with the windows down again, and changed for the ball, arriving at the club at 5 PM.

The photographer’s pit is missing. The risers have been replaced by a single red velvet rope. The hall is redesigned, from 4 rows of seats on either side of the runway, to a single row with a table. In the middle, where the runway had been, is a third table with dessert spreads laid out, minus the sweets themselves. Four ballerinas are rehearsing to Phantom of the Opera, models are practicing the U-shaped runway, and I finally found my way to the balcony. (I’d been dying to get a view from up there all week!)

Here is where I met the opera singer Xela Pinkerton and the runway dj Benita Kerr. Only six collections showed that night: Angela Kim couture collection, Alice Andrews at Canvas, A Boutique, Estbythelna children’s couture, Darpan, a reprise of Tuxedo Lady, and Pixton.

The ball itself commenced after the runway shows were over, with seasonal summer hors d’oeuvres and scrumptious pastries with sweet creams on the dessert table. DJ BK got the party started with The Cupid Shuffle and The Electric Slide back to back.  Later in the evening, dance extraordinaire Berhan Nebioglu and photographer Laurence Logan took the floor in contrasting styles of ballroom and Michael Jackson footwork.

Charlotte Fashion Week No. 5 The Story was the experience of a lifetime, that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

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Asheville Fashion Week – Part 1

On Thursday night at the Altamont Theater in Asheville, NC dozens of people find their seats 4 and 5 rows deep surrounding a runway. The dim lighting and club mix beats filled the air with a palpable anticipation.

Modeling the Hattitude collection from McKinney Gough, Day 2 of AFW, courtesy of Asheville Fashion Week Facebook page

Over 100 models take to the runway, showcasing looks from local designers McFarland, McKinney Gough, Southern Charm/Charmed, Deirdre Blume, Tasha Lief, Runway Ready, Chapeaux by Simone, MG&B, and Diamond Outdoors.

Thursday’s most impressive surprise was the debut collection designed by a pair of local 16 year old girls, MG&B. Their designs are fun, colorful, and bold. A white knit dress with spoons on the front, a green chiffon ball skirt with a black bodice, and a fun mix-print crop top and skirt were crowd favorites (based on the amount of cheering).

On Friday night at the Millroom of Asheville Brewing, The crowd was larger, the runway staggered in a Z shape, and the lights were pulsating color-changing orbs. Collections shown included Sacred Garden by Anna Gordon, Tricia Ellis, a reprisal of Diamond Outdoors and Deirdre Blume, KatDog Couture, Legends of Hollywood retail, Wildflower Bridal with accessories from Uber Kio and Hatchett Creative Group, and Xen by Rachele swimwear.

Models for Xen by Rachele after the show, courtesy of AFW Facebook page

Friday’s presentation was phenomenal. From casual date night looks by Diamond Outdoors to opera-worthy ensembles by KatDog Kouture, to fairy-tale wedding inspirations by Wildflower Bridal, there was something for everyone on the runway.

What these two incredible nights showcased wasn’t just fashion: it was the creative soul of Asheville. Produced by Gage Models and Talent Agency, which created Chattanooga and Knoxville fashion weeks, the models of Asheville were guaranteed a spot on the runway. These were real men and women of real proportions from petite to traditional model to plus size wearing real clothes from local and talented designers.

This afternoon begins the last day for Asheville Fashion Week with the children’s collections, and tonight is the Grand Finale at the Renaissance Hotel.

Author’s Note: I am honored to bear witness to these historic event. I am blessed to have found my path as a fashion journalist in the same time as the blossoming of Asheville’s Fashion community. Special thanks to model and stylist extraordinaire Sarah Merrell for making Asheville Fashion Week a reality.

Impressions: Overrated or Careermakers?

I’m in need of some advice. I accidentally impressed my boss today, which I know is a good thing, I just don’t know how to proceed.

So, today my DJ air shift was cut short due to a special sports program. I knew I needed to stick around for the high school football game because the new board operator screwed up last week and I’m supposed to make sure he doesn’t this week. If he knows what he’s doing, I can leave. If not, I’m supposed to call my supervisor and, I’m assuming, take over.

So to stave off boredom for the remainder of my time on the clock, I decided to look for things to do. I updated the station website, double checked the online ads for currency and consistency, recorded three commercials, and then went to ask the boss if he had anything for me.

He was surprised and impressed by this. He proceeds to tell me we have a new client who just signed up for a commercial package today. He writes a rough script and hands me the client information. I go into the production room and in less than 15 minutes, the vocal track is laid, edited, and precisely 30 seconds. What does he do?

He calls the client for approval! Which we got.

So my dilemma, if you will, is this: do I maintain this level of productivity which was purely an effort at staving off boredom? Or do I try to slow down for the preservation of my coworkers?

An Ancient Cure for Arthritis?

Jopai Weed or Queen of the Meadow
Use the roots of this plant to create a tea to treat arthritis and rheumatism. Photo credit: Vick, Albert F.W. at wildflower.org

In the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, the homeland of the Cherokee, lie the secrets to ancient medicine. There was a time, according to legend, when there existed no sickness. The animals were tired of being hunted, and vowed for each animal that was killed, a disease would be released. The plants heard of this, and being friendly to humans, vowed that for each disease, a plant would offer a cure. And so until European contact, the Cherokee had a cure for every ailment.

When his grandfather hunted deer, Davy Arch recalls, he would pray to the entity “Little Deer” in song. He would then watch and wait. While the rest of the group would move, one deer would behave differently either by hanging back or facing a different direction. He would make the kill, and again pray through song for forgiveness of what he had done. The intestines were removed, the game then taken to the river and cleansed before the hide was ever cut: this elaborate ritual done so that a family might eat and survive. If the entity is not appeased before the journey begins, the meat will poison those who partake with rheumatism and arthritis.

To cure rheumatism and arthritis, a plant known as Queen of the Meadow or Jopai Weed offered a cure. Use the roots to create a tea. The tea’s medicinal properties are that of a blood cleanser. Cleanse the blood, the blood cleanses the body, removing chemical build up near the joints and along the bones. Science, of course, backs this knowledge, but in ancient times, it was simply logical.

To gather the plant for medicinal purpose, pass peacefully by the first six growths. If found in a patch, watch and wait with quiet purpose. One will offer itself by facing a different direction, stirring a leaf, etc. Leave a white bead in its place as an offering of peace, thanks, and forgiveness.

Davy Arch is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and may be contacted at the Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee, NC where he works as the Education Manager. Other sources include personal experience and history,  Mooney’s Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, and the Ethnology of American Indian by Professor Charles O. Noble, Ph.D. published in 1973.

Final Semester? Graduation? So soon!?

Sorry it’s been a while, but I’ve been very busy. So here are some updates:

This is my last week interning with Clear Channel Asheville. I learned a lot, made great connections, and even managed to leave with an audition reel. I’ve also freshened up my skills in XHTML and CSS coding within Adobe Dreamweaver.

My photography skills have increased dramatically this semester, photos to appear soon! My lighting techniques still need work, but I am ten times better than I was in January.

My acting final seems to be going well, despite a battle with two GI viruses back to back. Present preliminary to professor tomorrow, he sees it again the day of finals. Which are next week! I can’t believe this semester has literally flown by!

Monday, I take the GRE, which I only started studying for yesterday! Many thanks to Olivia Bellamy for giving me her prep book!

My other two classes are going well, and Wind Song will finish strong with a final episode of season one on Sunday, May 6. Hopefully this fall, it will return for season two with Stefani at it’s head and a new co-host by her side.

Celebrating 98 Years Alive!

My great -aunt Sally Bradley just celebrated 98 years! I took some photos of her celebration at her home in Cherokee. She is my mother’s father’s sister. I realized a few things as I was taking these photos and taking part: 1) I need to spend more time with the elders in my family 2) I need a lot more practice with my camera 3)It is vital to make time for the little things in life 4)If she is still healthy, driving, and walking on her own then there is no reason for me to be unhealthy.

So I have renewed energy in my workout/health plan for myself. There is absolutely no reason for me to get seriously, medically ill after seeing her so full of life!

The Intern? I’m so much more than that!

As some of you may be aware, I’m interning at Clearchannel Asheville for my degree. I’m happy to help out. I know that the seemingly menial tasks given me take a load off the actual employees. I get it, I really do. But I’ve been there about a month, and other than my direct supervisor Aaron D’Innocenzi, almost no one is remembering my name. Or so it feels.

I am getting a full immersion work experience and learning “soft skills” necessary in a work environment. A lot of the people there curse worse than sailors, and I think it’s because radio personalities have to watch every word out of their mouths when that mic is on, so they don’t when they’re off air. I’m slowly getting used to this, but I personally do not curse often, or even on occasion, and it still tends to offend me. As of yet, I’ve only been hearing it in group conversations where I just happen to be doing my own work, minding my own business, thus I feel like I have no right to ask them to tone it down. If ever there comes a time when cursing is directed at me in a conversation, I feel like I then have the right to it. Friday, the company did a remote at Carolina Furniture Concepts to help the business gain, well, business. The topic of cursing briefly came up with Eddie Foxx, Aaron D’Innocenzi, and others in which I made my case for an opinion of distaste toward most topics/terms unsavory. My career counselor at my university said that I’m learning valuable skills that could not be taught in navigating the personalities and politics of a work environment. How do you think I’m handling it?

Caretaking

Wind Song’s Last Topic

Stefani and I talked about the importance of caretaking in almost every aspect of our modern lives. Native traditions across the country find it important to care for the environment, the animals, yourself, your village, and your family. So we challenged you, the listener, to do something to better someone’s life in some way.

What I’ve Done

I started my internship with clearchannel radio this week. I’m not sure what I expected, but organizing freebies from previous remotes was not it. Neither, really, was adding concerts to the site calendars. But I did it, and it actually did make a difference to the actually employed. Staying organized and reaching the audience was important.

Why does it Matter?

If we expect people to help us, we have to help others. Volunteering, interning, talking, listening. Being there. It makes a massive difference to the lives we interact with. So I once again charge you to do what you can to better a life.

Intro

Wind Song Talk Show is my project.

Wind Song episodes will be appearing here very soon. The show started in October 2011 and is still going strong. We discuss Native American (read indigenous) cultures and how they interact with the modern American culture. Issues such as politics, sovereignty, worldviews, and traditions. Basically, it’s two best friends discussing anything and everything Native.

It is our hope that we can educate and inform the masses that 1) Native groups still exist 2) not every Native culture is the same and 3) clear up the common misconceptions about and forced up on all Native Americans as a singular minority.

The radio show is hosted at Western Carolina University’s radio station WWCU-FM Power 90.5 (read ninety dot five). In the Mountains region of North Carolina, tune in to FM station 90.5.