Coastal Fashion Week was presented by Exalté Magazine for the FIRST time this year. The show came to three states in three days: Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. It was split into boutiques and designers, a small and well-orchestrated intermission between the two. All models were volunteers, and we’re asked to bring a coat to model-off and donate for Coats for a Cause, an extraordinary cause meant to bring warmth and smiles to those having to bare the cold weather. Personally, it was one of the best runway experiences I’ve had to date, and it’s an experience I’ve learned so much from.
It all started on Thursday, January 15th, 2015 at The Redding House in Biloxi, Mississippi. Since my first runway show had been in September 2014, I truly only had one experience to compare CFW to, and CFW exceeded my expectations by a long shot. Despite the fact it was the first out of three shows, the team working together at CFW managed to keep it organized and on track. By 7pm, as a model, I’d never felt more relaxed to walk in front of a crowd, which I feel is very important. No boutique or designer wants their models to accidentally trip or fall in their clothes in front of everyone because of nerves. So, the organized environment was a HUGE relief, especially compared to my show in September that moved so fast, quick changes were impossible.
When it came to the actual walking, I was at ease, though slightly nervous since it was only my second show. I walked to the somber music of Destani Hoffman–avant-garde designer, haute couture illustrator, and brilliant older sister. However, putting all sisterly love aside, Destani Hoffman delivered a performance like no other designer had. The eerie music, “straight-jacket” inspired clothing, and always-watching googly eyes had every person in the crowd clapping after each design walked before them.
Having missed the original tryouts for CFW, I was very lucky to be offered a look each night by Destani, because of a number of models not being able to make the show. It was a privilege to walk a collection I once saw lying in scraps in her apartment, and an even bigger privilege to walk and have her chosen for the Emerging Designer Award. She was the only designer awarded this prize, and because of it people are more than likely going to see a lot more of her designs.
At the end of the night, I’d walked for amazing designs and was part of a beneficial cause. I also met fantastic connections at the after party, which was held at the venue for the night, and I made some really wonderful friendships too.
Plus, that was only the first night.
The two nights following the first were located at The Ezell House in Mobile, Alabama and The Lee House in Pensacola, Florida. These houses, might I add, were absolutely gorgeous. I found myself planning my own home for if I were to ever come into a large sum of money–with sparkling chandeliers and old Victorian wood. Seriously, they were outstanding locations, but the clothing that walked inside them were even more outstanding. I was wishing the whole time that I could just make all the clothing appear in my closet, which may have been a tad unrealistic, but a girl can dream.
During the second night, CFW sold-out and a little more. So, space inside The Ezell House was very limited. However, despite that fact, the show still went off without a hitch.
By night three, CFW changed locations to The Lee House, hoping to create more space, and they did. The runway was put outside in the gorgeous courtyard. Small dangling lights lit the premise like small stars and large heaters were everyone’s savior from the cold. It was the final night, and most of the models had already done the show twice before. I had the schedule permanently written into my mind, and I was ready to walk the runway again. There were moments when the girls I spent the last two nights with were belting out Taylor Swift, and there were designers chilling together a sipping on the complimentary coffee. No one had been more relaxed. I had the view of the sparkling Pensacola water, and I had an adorable little town a block away to explore during our down time. It was a runway show in paradise.
The Finale show went off perfectly, no surprise there, and the after party was bitter-sweet with everyone saying their good-bye’s. I have marked this experience as one that was easy to write about. It was a beautiful story added to my life, and I am so blessed to be able to share a small glimpse of it today. Of course, I hope to do it again next year, and I hope to do more with Exalté Magazine in the near future. I, personally, loved that Coastal Fashion Week was more than just a job I showed up to. It was a community of fashion-believers.
Jinapher J. Hoffman