By  on August 30, 2007

ST. LOUIS — Chicago-based designer Lara Miller was considering a trunk show at a downtown St. Louis clothing boutique to raise the profile of her line, but a better opportunity came along — a featured spot in the inaugural St. Louis Fashion Week.

The event, which ran from Aug. 21 through Saturday, showcased both established and young designers while highlighting the revitalized downtown and growing boutique market here.

"I've participated in fashion week events in other cities that are very consumer-driven,'' Miller said. "I really got the sense that in St. Louis they are pushing small, independent designers."

Among the designers participating were St. Louis natives Jesse Kamm and Tiffany Wolff of Tiffany Alana; local designers Nina Ganci of Skif and Don Stueck of 99Dealers; Jamie Phyl of Phyl Couture, and Rebecca Caughey of Rebecca Lorraine.

"We're not hiring a celebrity, having a bunch of parties and calling it a fashion show," said Attilio D'Agostino, a founder of fashion week and the editor in chief of Alive magazine, a monthly focused on style, shopping and entertainment in St. Louis. "Our goal is to create a national platform for emerging designers to show their art and reach consumers, buyers and the press."

Fashion consciousness in St. Louis has evolved in recent years as boutique shopping offers consumers more diverse fashion choices. Event organizers felt the pieces were in place for launching fashion week, including a receptive audience, emerging designers looking to grow interest in their lines, venues eager to showcase their architecture and sponsors.

One of the highlights was the homecoming of Kamm, who launched her spring 2008 line in a show and debuted her video installation, LA Bloom, a film showing models blooming from flowers, bicycling through Paris and strutting down the runway in Kamm's designs. St. Louis-based advertising and design studio CORE, known for its podcasts of Karl Lagerfeld's runway show during New York Fashion Week and a series of branded content films for the opening of the Gucci flagship in Tokyo's Ginza, created the film for Kamm, which will be distributed during New York Fashion Week and will also be installed during Los Angeles Fashion Week.Kamm is known for her intricate textile designs and her spring 2008 collection was true to form, including a tunic with a large bow printed on the chest and full skirts made from fabric printed with tiny buttons or bows.

Among the fashion week events was a show on Washington Avenue, once the focus of the Garment District and now an incubator of boutiques, restaurants and galleries. The punk rock-flavored show featured hand-knit, asymmetrical sweaters from Skif, including a blood-orange sweater with back button detailing and a variety of knit caps.

"Project Runway'' contestant Nick Verreos, another St. Louis native, was host for a show featuring the fall 2007 and spring 2008 collections of 13 emerging design talents, such as Katie Kantley's shift dresses and trapeze halter dresses in mustard yellow and acid green for spring 2008.

"We were a fashion capital in the 1920s and we can get there again," said Jennifer Gray, owner of a downtown boutique.

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