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It was nearly 11pm by the time Atlantic City’s own Ray Oliver Bacoy’s models strutted the runway to the Platters’ “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.”

The girls were growing weary, having walked for four hours already, going through the paces down a makeshift runway inside a cramped second floor hotel conference room.

Despite some guests departing before the final show of the night, now running an hour late, chairs were still in high demand and short supply. Latecomers clung to the wall, bloggers with digital cameras, more interested in shooting the models fierce and hardened and young and plush than the clothes, continued to jockey for position on the photographers’ riser.

The lights dimmed and rose one final time to quiet down and alert the rows of pompadours and patent loafers hot pink hot pants and black lace bodysuits leaning forward from worn velvet parlour chairs that Huckle Gatsby’s Fall 2011 presentation was about to close another Plitz Fashion Marketing production: “Fashion Democracy Fashionistas Rule!”

The Platters gave way to Queen, then Florence The Machine and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. There was no more Rihanna, no more Lady Gaga or Pitbull pumping out of the speakers.

The music mellowed, the girls straightened up, slowed down, and walked the carpet with pride, eschewing the garish body hugging clubwear and emblazoned T shirts that would put them on the wrong side of the velvet rope at Borgata’s MIXX, for the ruffles, tunics and tuxedo shirts, florals, ruffles, and checks that draw on the seersucker Americana of Twain and Fitzgerald and from which Huckle Gatsby (Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald) takes its name.

“They’re Ray’s favorite two books,” Rachele Greenberg, Huckle Gatsby’s accessories designer told us.

“But also they represent both ends of the spectrum for our line. The clothes are upscale, with elegant touches and very reformed and tailored,
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but also have lots of notes of rustic comfort, relaxed and carefree in the garment design.”

The complexity of Bacoy’s clothes in contrast to the audience’s attire, and their acceptance of them (the crowd put golf pencils to paper, voting to award Huckle Gatsby a $6800 grand prize of editorial and advertising placement, web and video production before departing) was a huge gamble for the Atlantic City resident, who grew up in the shadow of the Showboat casino.

But both the risk he took and the look he crafted are a testament to the city he loves and which his extended family still calls home.

“The moment I stepped foot into town [moving to the city at age 14], my eyes were met with a plethora of contradicting visuals of organic and artificial matters,” he says. “The beach, the ocean, the marshes, the casinos, they all left me flabbergasted with joy. I love nature and architecture and both happen to coexist in Atlantic City.

“We found each other in college,” Greenberg recollected. “And realized that as a whole we strengthened each other’s weaknesses and worked well as a team. We wanted to start our fashion label based on the idea that we could give women the opportunity to attain high fashion with their everyday look.”

That vision of a high fashion woman first took its shape while he worked at the outlets of The Walk.

“My favorite stores are the Polo Ralph Lauren outlet store and Tommy Bahama because I used to work for both and the clothes are stupendously prepp,” he says. “I did not appreciate the art of tying a bow tie and dressing so refined until I started working at both places. That kind of lifestyle has carried on to the Huckle and Gatsby aesthetic.”

Huckle Gatsby doesn’t have the means to present a collection like Polo or other Atlantic City retailers such as Betsey Johnson and Michael Kors who both showed in the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week tents at Lincoln Center the following week.

Nor do they have the higher profile of so many independent designers who attempted to circumvent the official Fashion Week calendar with presentations at hotels with greater cache than the Beacon Hotel conference room reserved by Plitz, such as risque jeweler Bijules, whose show rocked the Gramercy Park Hotel rooftop and Bravo TV’s The Fashion Show favorite Daniella Kallmeyer who presented in the basement of the Plaza hotel where she also recently worked.

But for what Huckle Gatsby sacrificed in exposure to glossy editors, department store buyers and boldface names, they made up for in efficiency, the low cost of production and high reward of winning the tools to keep going and eventually reach that all important audience.

“Even though it wasn’t the venue everyone had hoped for, it was a catalyst for us to get our name slowly out there, sort of like an indie movie entering different film festivals,” Bacoy says. “We hope to showcase our lines at New York Fashion Week in the near future, but for now we are going to settle for local venues until we reach that peak of success. We have a few things lined up for the whole year.

“We will be at the Baltimore Fashion Week in late August where we will be debuting our Spring 2012 collection,
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[and] at Charlotte Fashion Week in September and New Jersey Fashion Week in October.”