RALEIGH — This week at least, the Raleigh Convention Center lived up to its stated mission of "attracting a wide variety of functions," with two events appealing to equally passionate but divergent groups.
On the top floor, it was Raleigh Fashion Week, a three-day effort to highlight the area's potential to compete with New York, Los Angeles and Chicago as a center of current design and taste. The event was sponsored by The Plaza Condominiums, which sees the audience for Fashion Week as the same demographic that might buy its $270,000 units 23 stories above downtown.
Its schedule culminated with Saturday night's Strut 09, a runway fashion show that was expected to fill Ballroom B with the 942 people the fire code allows.
On the lower floors, it was the National Genealogical Society's Annual Conference, where more than 1,400 people from around the country could choose among hundreds of sessions on how to research family history. Their methods include tracking illegitimate ancestors and studying census schedules and land records.
During breaks between sessions, the genealogists and the fashion plates crossed paths in the common areas.
"I did see a lot of young people walking around that didn't look like they belonged to our group," said Dorothy Stanton, 78, who came for the genealogy conference from Danville, Calif. Stanton wore jeans and a gingham top embroidered with cherries.
"There are a lot of people around dressed in black, with really short skirts and interesting hairdos," said Phillips, 33. Earlier, she said, she saw a group of young women coming into a restroom and wondered who they were.
"At first I thought they were lost," she said. "But they were fashion people."
Each group had its celebrities. The genealogists had Ira David Wood III as a keynote speaker, as well as national genealogy lecturer David McDonald and author Elizabeth Shown Mills.
Fashion Week presented designer Alexander Julian, Miss Black N.C. Nefertiti Byrd and members of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Brian Williams, a television producer whose idea it was to create Raleigh Fashion Week out of a one-day event held last year, said he approached the National Genealogical Society to see if its members might want to buy tickets for the nightly fashion shows but was told they were too busy with conference events.
Williams said he was encouraged by Fashion Week attendance and by the region's interest in style in general. It makes sense for North Carolina, with its textile history, to be a player in the world of fashion, he said.
In fact, Williams organized Strut 09 with a genealogist's eye, highlighting the work of five fashion designers with North Carolina roots.
The genealogists are not blind to style, either.
"Sometimes you get into fashion when you're trying to identify people in photographs," Stanton said, such as using Civil War uniforms to figure out a soldier's unit.
Of the devotees sharing the convention center this week, Williams said, "I'd venture to say ours is the better-looking group."
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