Models pose on the runway before the finale show. Credit: Kieran Duhl | Lantern Reporter

The ninth annual Finale Runway Show of Fashion Week Columbus gathered fashion enthusiasts to admire the works of many, from local designers that studied at the Columbus College of Art and Design to renowned designers like Brooklyn-based Laurel Dewitt, who was the show headliner on Saturday.

Fashion Week Columbus is a non-profit organization that prides itself on providing a platform to support and showcase local designers. Beyond supporting designers via exposure, Fashion Week Columbus also provides scholarships to fashion students who study in the Columbus area.

One example of these local designers is Maya Eigel, whose brand, SESlines, made its debut at the Finale Runway Show. Eigel graduated from CCAD in 2015, and traveled to China where she networked and developed ideas for her clothing line.

“I’ve always felt connected to animals and have a lot of sympathy for them and the planet,” Eigel said. “I wanted to figure out, ‘What can I do to help them with what I know?’”

Using images from nature photographers and zoos, Eigel created prints inspired by endangered species, such as leggings influenced by the skin of a rhinoceros. In addition to bringing awareness to these endangered species, SESlines will donate the revenue from each piece to benefit the species to which they bring attention.

“If your garment has a rhino on it, the proceeds will go to help the rhino,” Eigel said, adding that if there is a penguin on it, “there are these sanctuaries that really need help, and so the money made selling these leggings will go to help them.”

A model showcases Eigel’s collection SESlines in Columbus. Credit: Kieran Duhl

In China, Eigel spent time researching more sustainable ways to manufacture clothing.

Another local designer featured during this year’s fashion week was Akili Cooper, who is no stranger to the final runway show.

“I started when I was 16,” Cooper said. “I did their first show in 2010, which was really exciting.”

Cooper is a self-taught designer who currently studies business at Central State University. His fashion line, Jahi by Akili, showcases black women and is inspired by houndstooth patterns and the movie “Harlem Nights,” a film released in the late 1980s that takes place during the Harlem Renaissance.

“It’s real black excellence,” Cooper said. “Everybody is real-life flappers, and it is very jazzy.”

Cooper also credits some of his inspiration from the Michael Jackson “Billie Jean” video, with a lot of black and white and a few pinstripe pieces.

Cooper said he is passionate about evening gowns and wanted to focus on more wearable, everyday pieces for women with this line. Jahi by Akili includes many statement pieces such as jackets or wide-legged pants that can be paired with more simple clothing items.

“I’m trying to do stuff that easily transitions through life,” Cooper said.

The headline designer this year was Laurel DeWitt, who is making a name for herself in the world of fashion by creating custom pieces for musicians such as Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B and Jennifer Lopez. Dewitt specializes in all-metal apparel that is inspired by regalia from all over the world. Her collection concluded the Finale Runway Show and Fashion Week Columbus.