published Monday, May 14th, 2012

Chattanooga's top annual fashion show features designer Karen Kane

Leon Craig wears a dark suit and open-collared shirt by Geoffrey Beene.
Leon Craig wears a dark suit and open-collared shirt by Geoffrey Beene.
Photo by Dan Henry.

Modest swimsuits, maxi dresses and sky-high heels were some of the fashions seen on the runway at the StyleWorks fashion show held recently at the Chattanooga Convention Center.

The 36th annual event benefiting Siskin Children's Institute was a sellout with more than 800 in attendance.

Dozens of Belk's top trends in clothing and accessories for men and women were showcased, as well as some children's attire modeled by Siskin Children's Institute students.

A bonus this year was the chance to mingle with one of the nation's top designers, Karen Kane, who attended with husband Lonnie and son Michael to show her latest collection. The Kanes live in Los Angeles, where Karen Kane Inc. is headquartered.

"It was so nice to be able to premiere my summer collection and be a part of such a wonderful event," the designer said. "Seeing all of the Siskin children on the runway was such a heartwarming moment for me. ... I was really touched by the event and how nice everyone was in Chattanooga."

Arlene Goldstein, vice president of trend merchandising and fashion direction for Belk, said Kane's appearance was a boost to the event.

"Karen is a long-standing partner with an amazing following in the Chattanooga community, and her collection reflects the heavenly hues, bold patterns and the femininity that is so important to this season's aesthetic," Goldstein said.

Craig Ingvalson, director of development for Siskin Children's Institute, said Kane's involvement lifted the financial success of the event. Nearly $140,000 was raised, he said.

"This amount goes a long way toward supporting the programs and services that help so many children and families each year," he said.

StyleWorks is considered by many to be the area's top annual fashion show. Vendors in an adjacent Marketplace offer items for purchase, and the runway show has the vibe of events held in cities such as New York or Paris, said Laurie Stevens, communications manager.

Of the many trends spotted on the runway, the maxi dress seemed to be a crowd favorite.

"Maxi dresses have been around for a while, and they don't seem to be going anywhere soon," Kane said. "They are so easy to wear and can really be worn almost year-round."

Chattanoogan Myra Brown-Dooley, a professional model for nearly 30 years and a spokeswoman for Audi, said the maxi dresses are among her favorites.

"I like clothing that can be both elegant and casual at the same time," she said. "You could wear pearls and heels, or change the look by slipping right into flip-flops. If you don't like to damage your skin with tanning, long dresses are a cooler alternative to shorts."

Like maxi dresses, skinny jeans are another item that started as a trend and turned into a staple. Kane said she is updating the jeans silhouette with "tons of different colors" for summer and fall but keeping the twill fabric.

"Nothing's better than our twill skinny jean -- the lightweight fabric makes it so easy to wear," she said. "It's the perfect pant to pack in a suitcase and take with you everywhere."

Also a hit with most of the audience were conservative swimsuits.

"I think they look much nicer than baring everything, no matter your age," Brown-Dooley said.

The models' gravity-defying shoes commanded a lot of attention on the catwalk.

Brown-Dooley said it was fun to watch the shoes go down the runway -- some with 7- and 8-inch heels -- but the only people she sees actually wearing them on her travels for Audi are generally 20 or younger.

"They looked more like a piece of furniture than shoes," she said. "To me, those ... are a good stage prop but not for walking in. (They) are over the top."

Regardless of trends, Brown-Dooley said women should choose fashions in which they feel comfortable.

"I am no fashion expert, but it seems you can pick one trendy piece and work it into your wardrobe of more basic pieces," she said.

Contact Karen Nazor Hill at khill@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6396. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/karen nazorhill. Subscribe to her posts on Facebook at www.facebook.com/karennazorhill.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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