The main stage of downtown Raleigh’s fashionSPARK event pulsed with anticipation on Saturday as DJs ExMonkeys and Nixxed blared high energy beats from the stage, and roughly 1,500 people trickled to their seats for the start of the show.

The event, MC’d by 96.1 radio host Jamie O’Brien, showcased the polished work of eight designers, most of whom are based in the Triangle, and all of whom represented distinct and developed styles.

Jessica Palmer’s “Faith” opened the show with a large collection of romantic, 1950s boardwalk-inspired pieces. There were plenty of large sun hats, parasols, bikinis and elegant formal dresses, and seemed to leave the slightly chilly crowd wishing there were a few more weeks of summer left to accommodate such sartorial choices.

Next came Jessica Johnson Moore’s collection “Little Grey Line,” an audience favorite for one very simple reason: the models looked, on average, to be about three or four years old. These pint-sized girls marched around the runway winningly (with minimal coaxing from the show’s staff) in tiny, tasteful frocks made from repurposed button-down dress shirts—the staple piece of the collection. Each girl had her hair in a tight bun and wore white tights with no shoes. Most carried tiny leather lunch boxes, and one carried a stuffed animal. (Adorable, I’m telling you.) The audience doled out continuous applause, and understandably so.

Rebecca Ann Walker’s “RAW” collection of emerald and black pieces and Laura Meredith Tripp’s self-titled collection of 1930s and ‘40s-inspired florals followed with clean cuts and sophistication. Each piece in these two smaller collections was remarkably wearable.

The collection by Zac Schell mixed leather and metal in unorthodox, artful designs. Models hit the runway to “D.U.R.M.” by Durham hip-hop artist The Real Laww. Notable was the impressively ornate makeup designed by Marissa Rhoades.

Candace Organ’s dichromatic designs in her collection “Le Neva” used black and plum fabrics and form fitting cuts to convey both the strong and the sensual. Each model took on the character of what Organ herself described as a “strong independent woman” with across-the-board, full-body confidence.

Kristin Robbins’s “Tyger Alexis” featured a live performance by Sam Harmonix and was inspired by the 1920s silent film Metropolis, with a futuristic spin. This collection’s presentation conveyed the idea of fashion as performance, as Harmonix and another identically dressed male performer followed with their eyes as each model walked the runway, aptly set to the Harmonix’s “Into You.”

Keely Lauren Cansler’s self-titled collection, inspired by the surreal world of Salvador Dalí, closed the show with perhaps one of the most advanced concepts. What resulted was a line of pieces that blurred the line between animal and human, natural and synthetic. Winding snake-like necklaces wrapped around a face, clawed hands, a ram’s horn and a necktie made of black hair closed out the show with a dystopian, animalistic bang.

More photos below: