Bluffton Native Wins HighBall Halloween Fashion Design Contest in Columbus

by Kathryn Tschuor   For the second year in a row, Bluffton native and budding fashion designer Annie Weihrauch participated in HighBall Halloween’s couture costume and fashion design contest held on High Street in Columbus, Ohio. This year she actually came away as the winner of the featured Costume Couture Fashion Showdown.
   In it’s sixth year, HighBall Halloween was larger than ever and stretched through Friday and Saturday, October 25 and 26. The event was comprised of many stage shows, a 5k Costume Zoom, a costume contest for the general public and many other attractions. Over 20,000 people attended this year dressed in their own Halloween costumes to enjoy the festivities.
   One of the signature events of HighBall Halloween is the elaborate costume competition for fashion designers, the Costume Couture Fashion Showdown. The extravagant and fun creations of local professional designers like Annie were displayed on the runway to the delight of the huge crowd on Friday night. Only 10 designers were selected to participate this year; Annie was one of them.
   What brought Annie and her creations to HighBall Halloween? Well, it all started quite a few years ago. In 1998 Annie graduated from Bluffton High School and then went on to graduate from the Columbus College of Art and Design with a major in advertising and graphic design. Afterward, Annie stayed in Columbus and got a job as a packaging designer at Bath & Body Works. She then started her own business about six years ago, while still working full-time. At first she just created cards and other items with graphics on them, but that developed into making graphic T-shirts and also jewelry. Annie calls her business Rock & Royalty, which accurately characterizes the marriage of styles in her looks.
   Annie describes her style as, “edge mixed with elegance.” She incorporates elements of rock & roll and combines them with feminine details. “This year I have been focused on pulling old Hollywood glam into my collection. I use a lot of metal studs, chain and some spikes, but instead of it looking like clothing a biker or 80s rock star would wear, I mix in a lot of feminine details like ruffles, peplums, tutus, feathers, fur, and rhinestones to give it a romantic and modern twist.” said Annie. Her usual color palette is a posh blend of black, white, gray and aqua.
   When Annie was first selected to compete at HighBall Halloween last year, she hadn’t designed many outfits before she produced the four looks and one costume she specifically wanted to enter into the event. “Last year at HighBall I did not have any construction experience in clothing. My line was graphic tees, embellished apparel and jewelry, but I wanted to design a couture costume.” After participating in last year’s HighBall Halloween she said she still hadn’t planned to branch into clothing design, but so many people had shown interest in her apparel that she decided to show another original collection at Columbus Rocks the Cure (a rock & roll-themed fashion show put on to raise money for breast cancer patients) this past May. She received a little help from some friends and by watching YouTube tutorials, but she made all of the clothing herself.
   With more experience under her fashionably accented belt, Annie decided to tackle HighBall Halloween’s couture fashion show once again. For this year’s Costume Couture Fashion Showdown, Annie said the designers were instructed that they could use items from their existing collections, but the costume was supposed to reflect the collection’s theme. “I really wanted a Great Gatsby inspired theme, so I took a look at my current military inspired collection and accessorized it to fit into the 1920s era.” Putting together her entries for the show was easier this year, now that Annie knew what to expect. She said that last year she focused too much on little details like adding thousands of tiny rhinestones that were beautiful up close, but not as easily appreciated from a distance as the models walked the runway.
   This year, Annie knew that her concept had to be on a grander scale, but she still had to make sure the details were just right due to a new ruling that allowed judges to view the outfits before the show.
   “My first look was a pair of pants that are black on the back and seafoam green on the front with silver studs up the side, along with a black top with a structured side ruffle peplum. The second look was a seafoam green bustier with studs, with a tulle and feather tutu, along with jewelry I made. The third look was a high-waisted white pencil skirt with pleated details, a fur collar and a statement necklace and headband,” she said. Annie’s final ensemble was a gown of peach skin faille fabric that she custom made for a model that will be representing the United States in the Miss Model of the World competition this month in China. “This was the most challenging look for me, as I have not worked with that type of fabric before. I wanted this piece to work with my collection for HighBall, then translate into a Lady Liberty costume for her competition.” said Annie.

See the full story in the Bluffton News