Local designers take spotlight in Thursday night's fashion week events

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Charleston Fashion Week is takingcenter stage in downtown Charleston and Thursday night's show features localdesigners.

From humble beginnings just eight years ago, CharlestonFashion Week now attracts some of the biggest names in the fashion industry andpacks them into Marion Square.

"It's really grown into a village of fashion and CharlestonFashion Week is on a national radar," said Ayoka Lucas, the founder and styledirector for the event. "It's in our back yard, so that to me is quite amazing.I have to pinch myself often."

Lucas says ticket sales now represent 35 different statesand brings in more than $2 million for the community.

"What's going to happen moving forward, it's really going tobecome a platform for emerging talent, emerging designers, and models - we seea lot of success stories coming out of it," she said.

One of those success stories is James Island designer AnneWindmuller, who now sells her line of jewelry at Belk stores.

"Charleston Fashion Week is a way to just, you know,showcase years of hard work and so much brilliant talent," she said.

Windmuller started out making jewelry for herself. She saysshe saw things she liked and developed her own style. That led to her friendsoffering to buy her work off of her at events.

Windmuller says she started covering herself in what she'dmade just to have enough to sell at events. That led to her friends organizinga trunk show to show off a lot of her work in one place.

"The next thing you know, I was in business," she said.

For 10 years, she'd been designing work for herself. On theurging of a friend, she entered the Southern Designer Contest sponsored by Belkand was asked to go to Charlotte to present her work to Belk representatives.

A few days later, Belk called with follow-up questions. Windmullersaid they wanted to visit her studio. She says she prepared for a businessmeeting and instead opened the door to a celebration. The Belk team hadsurprised her and picked her as the contest winner.

"I don't even know what my face looked like because I was sostunned," she said.

Windmuller says the city fosters creativity.

"Charleston is a hot bed for a lot of boutique owners, a lotof creative people," she said. "Each one is an extension of someone's verypassionate and very creative brand."

Even designer Steve Madden stopped by Thursday afternoon.

"I love Charleston. It's a great town. I have a store onKing Street," he said.

Fashion Week started Wednesday and features some of the topmodeling talent and designers along the East Coast. The grand finale isSaturday night.