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Three fashion designers from the Charlotte area to emerge at Charleston Fashion Week

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Happening March 20 through March 24, Charleston Fashion Week's Emerging Designer Competition will place three people from the Charlotte area in the national spotlight: Tsvety Gerasimova McAuliffe, from Concord; Hazel Bae, from Pineville and Jordan Lee Brooks, from Rock Hill, S.C. Since 2007, Charleston Fashion Week has been a destination fashion showcase for up-and-coming designers. Last year, the event brought more than 7,000 people to the city, and it promises to be a doozy again. We talked to these talented folks who will represent the Queen City next week in South Carolina.

Designer: Tsvety McAuliffe

Line: Tsvety Fashion

Showing: Tuesday, March 20

Although Tsvety McAuliffe is competing in Charleston next week, she's hardly a stranger to the runway. After studying fashion and textile design at New Bulgarian University, McAuliffe went to work in garment printing for an Italian designer, in addition to showcasing her own lines in Europe.

Fast-forward to now: McAuliffe has lived in the Charlotte area for the past seven years and has been working in digital printing, but she decided to return to putting her name on a line of clothing. Having adjusted to the American fashion scene, her aesthetic has changed.

"People dress differently in Bulgaria," she says. "You have to consider what people will wear. I'm designing now for established women who know what they want. My style is sophisticated with a little bit of an edge to it." The designs feaured in the above photo are hers.

McAuliffe's focus is on custommade garments, and she's not doing so badly. One of her more well-known clients is Samantha Busch, the wife of NASCAR driver Kyle Busch.

For McAuliffe's showcase in Charleston, she's going for a '70s glamour look: color blocking in tropical shades, draping elements and unexpected openings. Most important in her designs is the attention to the woman's figure.

"All of my styles are form-fitting," she says. "All of them flatter the waistline."

Designer: Hazel Bae

Line: Hazel Bae

Showing: Thursday, March 22

When Hazel Bae dreams up a design, she thinks about the girl who might be wearing the outfit. In her mind, that girl has a dark side and likes to wear black, but she never overdoes it.

"I tend to make things that are very wearable, not avant garde," says Bae, 28, who sells her handmade pieces via an Etsy shop called The Secret Artists Club. "I think about how a lot of people can wear my designs."

Bae will display her designs, which she calls simple and modern, on Thursday in the Emerging Designer Competition. Her first showcase ever, Bae says she was inspired to explore the North Pole in her line by her love of travel and discovering different cultures. The collection will feature some organic fabrics, hand-crocheted knitwear, fur and a span of ivory, white, black and indigos, plus some prints.

Bae says that she knew she wanted to work in the arts since she was a kid. Interestingly enough, a show on TV drove her in the fashion direction.

"In high school, I happen to come across this Korean soap opera. The main character was a fashion designer. It showed a lot of how the fashion industry works. I got really into it and did the research."

Although she studied fashion design at the Art Institute in Seattle and worked in New York for a while, Bae had to step away from the industry when at 20 she had her first child.

"I was a very young mom," she says. "It means a lot to me to get back in the business, to put myself out there and show people what I can offer."

Designer: Jordan Lee Brooks

Line: Lee Eileen

Showing: Thursday, March 20

On a whim, Jordan Lee Brooks decided to apply to Savannah College of Art and Design, even though he'd never taken a drawing class. Luckily, the move panned out in a good way: Last June, he completed his bachelor of fine arts in fashion design and will be bringing that same whimsical nature to the runway in Charleston next week.

Outside of school, the 12 looks he will showcase in Charleston will be his first public event.

"It's very dreamy, very girly," says the 23-year-old. "I've always admired clothes and their construction. I'm infatuated with it."

For his source of inspiration, Brooks, who was born and raised in Rock Hill, points to the HBO TV show Game of Thrones. His designs consist of brocades of golds and navys, mixed with wools, brushed silk and cotton. "I have some pieces that are mocking the primitive chest pieces they were wearing. It's a mixture of soft and hard and very fantasy-like, but still tasteful."

Brooks says his goal was to create timeless pieces; he wasn't interested in embedding himself in trends.

"I don't want my stuff to blend in with everyone else," he says. "Look at Manola Blahnik shoes. If you buy a pair of his shoes, you don't have to worry about not being able to wear them in a year. You can wear them forever." C

For more information about Charleston Fashion Week and its Emerging Designer Competition, visit www.charlestonfashionweek.com.

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