By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Hot fashion on the square
International brand to showcase its holiday line in Savannah

The high–heeled glow of Savannah Fashion Week may have faded into a summer slump of cutoffs and flipflops, but local fashionistas have new reason to rejoice.

Come Friday evening, Monterey Square will be transformed by a long gold runway, flashing lights across the sky and lots of long–legged models wearing designs so au courant New York hasn’t even seen them yet.

Express Inc., the international women’s and men’s retailer that specializes in affordable workplace chic and nightlife style, is staging “Rock the Sidewalk,” a full–fledged runway event to showcase its 2012 Holiday Collection—months before it’s introduced to the rest of the country. For free.

Express stages a couple of these shows a year—in places like the stretch of Broadway in front of the New York Stock Exchange, Chicago’s Millenium Park and Miami’s Lincoln Road.

Savannah has joined the ranks of these much larger cities as a destination for the brand to present next season’s looks as well as gather on–location photo stills for marketing purposes: Images snapped during the two–day long photo shoot featuring models vogueing around Savannah’s historic district will be plastered all over Express’ 600+ stores across the U.S. and Canada for the next six months.

Jennifer Bayley, an Express PR rep, says much thought went into the decision to bring the show down South.
“We have the clothes, we have the models, but ‘place’ plays a very important third character in these shows,” Bayley tells Connect.

“Our creative director was charmed by Savannah’s elegance and went down several times to scout locations,” she says. “Ultimately, it was the classic Southern gentility juxtaposed with a real, urban setting that got us.”

Express is importing its production team, hair and makeup artists and a passel of New York models, but the company has also partnered with the SCAD Fashion Department, enlisting students as dressers, coordinators and warm bodies to keep the 70+ crew on schedule.

“Of course, SCAD had a lot to do with why we’re here,” explains Bayley. “It’s become an important name in the industry, and we knew there would be support as well as an audience.”

Michael Fink, SCAD Dean of Fashion, attests that Savannah’s star is rising higher and higher in the eyes of the world’s tastemakers.

“The school of fashion is attracting international attention for the success of its job placement rates, and in the last three to four years, we’ve had so many people coming down from New York and doing workshops,” says Fink.

“When they come to Savannah and see the facilities and what SCAD offers, they go back to New York and say ‘you can’t believe what’s going on down there.’”

But let’s get down to what’s really important: The clothes. What’s in store for 2012’s holiday parties?

Bayley generously shares a few advance tidbits:

“For the women, we have a lot of tuxedo–inspired looks and deep berry hues. You’re going to see lots of plums, lots of reds. There are some heavy knits and wool blends, a bit of fur trim.”

Also: “The Express woman never met a sparkle she didn’t like.”

For the men, “we’re bringing a little color, those same berry shades with some dressed–up denim.”

Um, do the models know they’ll be coming down the catwalk in wool and fur while it’s almost 90 degrees out and 90 percent humidity?

Bayley assures they’ll remain cool no matter what.

“These are professionals,” she laughed. “They’re the same models in the big magazines that you see wearing bikinis next to an ice floe.”

Express has reached out to the local United Way chapter, involving the charity in the publicity for the event, and will use its Monterey Square office as an ad  hoc headquarters, as well as Congregation Mickve Israel next door for hair and make–up.

Fans of the brand are encouraged to style their best Express looks for the chance to win $100 gift cards.

Bayley laments that she won’t be able to attend the event due an advanced state of pregnancy, but assures that her colleagues are looking forward to spending time—and money—in Savannah.

“It’s a nice little boost for the local economy when we do these. We’ve got 70 hotel rooms booked and everyone will eat out.”

Combined with the buzz of Savannah Fashion Week and the upcoming Fashion Night Out on Sept. 6, the runway show/photo shoot amps the city’s style street cred and opens the door for more major brands to discover the city.

As Fisk puts it, “All these little things that happen outside of New York can add up to one big thing for Savannah.”

Express ‘Rock the Sidewalk’ Fashion Show

When: Friday, July 13, 6 p.m.

Where: Bull and Gordon on Monterey Square

Cost: Free