Photos by Michael Moore
The evening gown walk might look effortless, but the road to success for a pageant girl takes a lot more than you think. An estimated 2.5 million girls compete in more than 100,000 beauty pageants each year according to Statistic Brain. Beauty pageant competitions epitomize glamour and are largely misunderstood by outsiders.
Thousands of girls across the world spend their paychecks and time in the effort of winning a prestigious title. Hair, makeup, wardrobe, interview training, and walking coaching are just a few of the expenses contestants put themselves through. Countless cocktail dresses and evening gowns are sold every year in boutiques and stores across the globe. It takes a lot to win a title, but especially a killer wardrobe. No one understands that better than Erica Abke, who started competing in pageants when she got her first paycheck at the age of 16. Fast forward ten years and she is an avid competitor and titleholder who recently launched her exclusively designed collection of dresses, gowns, and formal suits in 2015.
Every week somewhere in the world a pageant takes place. Pageant gowns alone can range from $300 to $1,000, or even $5,000 for a serious competitor. Contestants often spend more to compete than the grand prize is worth, which is typically thousands of dollars and an appearance or modeling contract. Contestants need more than just an amazing evening gown, there’s also the opening number, interview with the judges, rehearsals, swim suits, and any public appearances. “The crown goes to the competitor with the highest level of confidence – every outfit counts,” says Designer Erica Abke. Since she began competing, Erica has always designed and made her outfits for her competitions. In 2009 she decided to take her love of competing to the professional level, and enrolled into the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Los Angeles. Since graduating, Erica has developed product for other pageant designers like Scala USA and La Femme, as well as GUESS Jeans and Alo Yoga. As a fashion industry insider, Erica found herself disappointed by large corporations valuing profit over people. Thus, Abke Collection was born. Erica donates the majority of her profit to California charities, like the AIDS Foundation San Francisco. Erica also casts models who do not fit the standard norm of fashion magazines – girls who maybe have a disability, or have never modeled before. “I want to encourage girls to be confident in who they are, no matter their size, color, shape, or background,” says Erica, “I’m not in this to make money – I want to help people.”
After the lights are turned off, the curtain closed, Erica says she would not be the confident woman she is today without having competed in pageants. “At the end of the day, it’s not about winning – personal development and growth makes it all worth it,” says Erica. If you met the Designer and Creator of Abke Collection you would never guess that she grew up incredibly shy and with a speech impediment.
“I’ve invested so much of my love, time, money, and imagination into my brand,” says Erica, “and I just cannot say enough how much I appreciate support from the people who are touched by Abke Collection. Thank you sincerely to Photographer Michael Moore and Fashion Xchange Magazine.” Abke Collection is making it’s national debut this August at the World Of Prom Tradeshow in Atlanta, Georgia. Stay tuned for more!
America's Miss California 2015 www.QueensCourtProductions.com
CEO & Creative Director www.AbkeCollection.com
t: (323) 271-7872 | e: Erica@AbkeCollection.com