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Local designer wins fashion contest: Saint Louis Fashion Week’s Project: Design! crowns winners

Saint Louis Fashion Week kicked off Tuesday night with Project: Design!, the designer-versus-designer fashion competition. After an evening of runway shows, brand LB, created by designer Lauren Bander, took home the grand prize with Elise Lammert winning the People’s Choice Award.

The LB collection showcased several trapeze-style dresses, a few with trains so long and flowing they almost hit front-row attendees while marching down the catwalk.

Project: Design! models in the LB by Lauren Bander line wore a multitude of trapeze-style dresses throughout the show. (Noah Berman / Contributor)

Other LB looks included crop tops with high-waisted bottoms and semi-full, ballerina skirts in a lightweight fabric.

Bander, of St. Louis, is “…specializing in dresses for every occasion (casual to couture), while beginning to introduce ready-to-wear separates,” according to AliveMag.com.

As winner, Bander will receive a trunk show in St. Louis, a video by Brian Brunner Photography and a Fabric.com gift card, among other items.

A fitted minidress made of cigarette packs, complete with matching pointed-shoulder jacket, was one of three cardboard looks by Elise Lammert, (Noah Berman / Contributor)

Lammert, the People’s Choice Award winner, presented a collection primarily of dresses; the line showcased an alternative-vibe mixed with proper fit in ensembles like a plaid, gray, sweetheart-neck or backless, blue-and-black striped dresses.

A bouffant-styled model with equally retro cat eye makeup wore a fitted plaid dress with a sweetheart neckline by Lammert before the designer won the People's Choice Award.

The event took place inside the Saint Louis Science Center’s Exploradome— a giant, bubble-looking area that brought a level of industrialism to the event and showcased the added scaffolding around the lounge seating and runway.

Colorful lights shone onto the ceiling of the dome, creating a proper ambiance for an aesthetically-focused event.

Centered around a large bar, the cocktail pre-party was complete with shoes meticulously placed on the tabletop and an ice sculpture in the center.

A car— a Chevrolet Spark, to be specific, as the line had worked with the designers prior during a car-meets-fashion collaboration— was parked in the corner of the room near a few merchandise booths. Live music and painting took place in the opposite corner and Brown Shoe Company advertisements on the last wall, engulfing all attendees in pure, unadulterated style.

Attendees wore outfits ranging from casual to semi-formal. The black, closed-toe stilettos— a popular choice for the night— clicked across the colorful checkered floor of the Exploradome while the wearers showcased trends like shorts-with-tights.

Saint Louis University graduate and employee Ty Sondag volunteered for the event, as he is hoping to work in fashion eventually. Although he missed the shows to work by the door, he found the event to be “very interesting… Unlike anything I’ve seen before in real life. I got to see almost everyone walk in and walk out, and you see some crazy outfits you wouldn’t see every day.”

In the runway room, four rows of seating were on either side of the catwalk, complete with swag bags for the lucky few who had a chair, with designated standing room behind the “velvet” ropes.

Attendees bottlenecked in the entrance and waited under the shoe chandelier— VIP ticket holders allowed in first, then those who bought a seat, finally the general fashion-loving party crowd. Momentarily the room was chaotic as extra seats were snapped up by guests darting through crowds and under ropes.

“I think it’s one of our best groups to-date,” Elizabeth Tucker, co-founder of STLFW, said of the latest Project: Design contestants.  ”It’s really exciting.”

Described as “emerging artists” by Tucker, the designers of Project: Design! compete during each STLFW with several previous contestants moving on to television-favorite “Project Runway.”

LB model and high school student Carley Nickel said, prior to the winner being announced, that she thought her designer would take home the coveted grand prize.

“I loved it,” said Nickel of the LB collection. “All of her stuff was so everyday wearable.”

Bander and Lammert may have walked away with the main prizes, but other competing designers were able showcase their unique looks and trends at the event. Long, visible back zippers were shown in several outfits by finalist Jessica Affsprung in the I AM SLY collection, along with a repeating tribal-meets-chevron patterned fabric.

The Sansone collection was the first of the evening to showcase both male and female fashion. The collection seemed part military and part equestrian with a touch of sex appeal, as seen in the first look, a red slip dress with metal details.

The Sansone show featured both male and female attire, including a suit with a red-orange, patterned vest and tie. (Noah Berman / Contributor)

The collection also showed a new take on going-out wear with female, fitted tuxedo jackets with tails and a semi-long two-button men’s trench.

Children’s style was not ignored at the event, as brand ULICNI included three ultra-petite models showcasing child versions of the gowns that dominated her runway show. The line, both in adult and child forms, was a collection of dusty-colored, pastel dresses with airy skirts (think Glinda from “The Wizard of Oz” mixed with Carrie’s opening-credits outfit from “Sex and the City”).

Child models strutted down the runway in petite ULICNI dresses and ballet flats, stealing the show. (Noah Berman / Contributor)

ULICNI model Lauren Griffin said she “felt like a princess” in her gown and noted how much she enjoyed the metallic hairpiece that she and other models wore during the event. “The girlier a line is the easier it is for me to get into character.”

The final designer of the evening, Whitney Manney, presented a collection of street fashion, according to her AliveMag.com biography.

The colors and fabrics were distant from other contestants, as Manney’s designs showcased outfits like pleather, circle miniskirts with matching bicycle shorts below a multicolored, shiny jacket. The color purple resurfaced a multitude of times, along with colorful vinyl and plush leopard print.

After the shows, attendees voted via Twitter using designated hashtags to pick the People’s Choice winner.

Tucker and Dwight Carter, co-producer of Project: Design!, according to AliveMag.com, explained before the show started that the six finalists were selected from 46 submissions. The submissions were narrowed down to 20 by a panel of professionals and morphed into the top six by fashion-adoring voters.

Project: Design! is one of five events during STLFW, excluding the two launch parties from weeks prior.

“A team of us who felt like there was a need for a fashion week in the Midwest,” said Tucker in regards to the creation of STLFW during an interview prior to the most recent event. “At the time, Chicago wasn’t even doing it.” Tucker estimated it took approximately six months to plan the first fashion week in 2007.

STLFW will wrap up this Saturday with the Liquid Style boutique show with nightly shows during the days prior. Information for the upcoming events can be found at AliveMag.com.

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