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Takin' it to the streets
Fashion's Night Out behind the scenes
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Organizers envision Savannah as fashion's go-to warm weather scene.

Mitchell Hall seems remarkably calm.

The professional style consultant and fashion industry veteran has less than a week to put together six runway shows for Fashion’s Night Out, dressing 45 models in over 125 outfits, and he doesn’t even have the clothes yet.

“Oh, I thrive on the stress,” he shrugs, his pinstripe shirt free of wrinkles in spite of the humidity. “This isn’t like a New York show, where you have samples for the models to wear. Everything is coming from our local retailers, and we’ll only have about a day and a half to get everything styled.”

Staggered throughout the evening across two stages with a glittering finale, the fashion shows are the keystone of the community shopping event taking over Broughton Street this Thursday, Sept. 5. Though Hall has overseen similar affairs for the Junior League and the Telfair’s Art of Great Fashion, the scope of this year’s event surpasses even this seasoned stylist’s experience.

“In terms of the amount of looks, this is the biggest production I’ve ever done, hands down,” he says breezily. “But my talented team of associates and I are ready for it.”

Gathered among the racks of colorful silk blouses and strappy sandals at Copper Penny boutique, Hall and other FNO organizers are discussing last night’s model booking and trading to–do lists. Four thousand people showed up for last year’s FNO, and an even bigger crowd is anticipated this time around the block.

Doug Ordway of Crazy Horse Productions is relieved to hear that all the paperwork pertaining to the city went through ahead of schedule, since those details caused no small amount of nail–biting last year.

“We literally didn’t have the permits in hand until the day before,” says Ordway, who along with Bree Thomas, Erin Wessling and marketing guru Celia Russo developed the idea of having the event out in the middle of the street.

Other previous snafus to surmount included an underpowered generator and changing tents for the models that had no walls, all learning experiences that informed this year’s planning.

“We’re building this from the ground up, and we’ve come a long way from last year,” reflects Ordway . “When an event takes shape like this, it can be so rewarding.”

Ordway also owns and runs RISE Model Management, which sprung out of his involvement with local talent from last year’s FNO. In the overarching cooperative spirit of this local collaboration, RISE is working with other Savannah modeling agencies, Tucker Marcom and HALO Models & Talent Group, to provide an army of the area’s leggiest and loveliest runway stars.

“This is everyone’s chance to really ramp up their game,” enthuses HALO owner Stephanie Duke, who will also host a booth during the evening with photographer Luke Andrews. “There’s a lot of logistics to deal with, like call times, fittings, hair and make–up sessions, but this is going to add up to a very high–level production.”

The models certainly can’t strut their stuff in silence, and along with the amount of runways, FNO has doubled its musical component this year. Musical director Summer Teal Simpson has curated a pulsing line–up, pairing DJ D Frost with Whaleboat and Cusses at one end of Broughton Street and DJ WillRock with Triathalon and KidSyc@Brandywine at the other. Backed by a swath of combined street cred, the music is reason enough to draw a crowd and still fits the family atmosphere.

“I wanted to bring some dynamic local bands that would complement the fashion feel and bring out the musical crowd that wouldn’t necessarily come out for a fashion event,” says Simpson. “And the bands are excited to play for an audience that doesn’t necessarily go to bars.”

The technical nitty–gritty is in full swing as well. Production design team Kaufman and Heinz will outfit the east end stage provided by Classic Party Rentals with sound and lighting, and Capital A Productions will cover the west end. Massive speakers, suspension hardware and towers of spotlights are being maneuvered to turn Savannah’s main street into a dazzling spectacle.

“This has definitely taken a lot of creative engineering,” attests Michael Gaster, production designer and technical director for Capital A Productions. “We’ve got to illuminate a stage that’s not just for music but also a 40–foot long walkway.”

The result of this tempest of styling, planning and engineering is a full–scale festival event, one that Ordway believes can put the city on par with other cities favored by the fashion industry.

“Everything is coming together,” assures Ordway, who was in Milan for the first Fashion Night Out in 2009. “We’re building an infrastructure so that the industry can use Savannah as a backdrop for national and European catalogues and photo shoots.”

As word spreads about the Express Fashion Show earlier this summer, SCAD’s fashion department and the high-caliber production of FNO, organizers envision Savannah as fashion’s go–to warm weather locale.

“There is no ‘it’ spot for the industry right now,” muses Ordway.

“I want to help make Savannah the ‘it’ spot.”

Fashion’s Night Out Savannah

What: Shopping, live music, parties and more in a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere

When: Thursday, Sept. 6, 6–11p.m.

Where: Broughton Street between Drayton and Montgomery

Cost: Free


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