When it comes to the fashion cities of the world, it’s time to be brutally honest: Minneapolis simply doesn’t register. As someone who routinely covets the NYFW tents and the Paris couture shows, it’s easy to feel marooned in this arctic city. And with the news that Macy’s is ending its Glamourama show and the folding of MNFashion, it seems ever more fashion desert. But on May 2nd, hundreds of people (hundreds of incredibly well-dressed people) packed into the new Orchestra Hall to watch the spring edition of Envision Minneapolis, a bi-annual runway show that has been bringing local designers to the eyes of the Minneapolis fashion scene for over 15 seasons. In collaboration with Ignite Models and Public Functionary, Envision donates part of its ticket sales back to Public Functionary (an nonprofit art exhibition space), a move that keeps the event committed to both design talent and public art.
If there’s one thing Envision does well, it’s to inspire you to wear local designers. Collection after collection, the work spoke for itself. Wearable and brilliantly designed, the show’s designers were stellar (trend tip: culottes and crops!). It was also fantastic to see a design roster almost entirely featuring women, a rarity in a male-dominated field that often spends more time celebrating masculine virtuosity than mentoring women. I hope to feature a few of the great pieces I saw on the runway in future blog posts but in the meantime, you can catch my review of my favorite collections below. Enjoy!
Considering that I was sitting in the front row wearing my brand-new pair of blue culottes from ASOS, it was fantastic to see Ellie Hottinger’s collection feature not one but two gorgeous tailored summer culottes in light crisp linens. Hottinger transformed a difficult and potentially unflattering pant into an impeccably tailored and stylish summer staple. While white is a safe color for a summer collection–always sellable and perfectly on point–Hottinger’s unfinished edge detailing on a trapeze dress took a one-season summer item to a statement piece, perfect for those days when it’s too hot to think about what to wear but you still need to look polished. Summer pieces tend to have a disposable feel but her choice of textured white linens–heavier than most but light enough to move–gave the collection a durability worth investing in.
Inspired by the iconic images of Audrey Hepburn’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (the definition of classic style depending on who you ask), the House of Gina Marie + Mien Kielo collection featured a fantastic light-weight camel trench with large white buttons that gave a definitive answer to the perennial Minneapolis problem: What to wear when it’s too hot for wool but too cold for bare shoulders? A few of the daytime pieces felt a little forgettable if still perfectly wearable (the nod to Hepburn coming mostly from the accessories) but a stunning pale blue ‘kimono’ sleeve dress brought the collection back to the whimsical feminine image for which Hepburn was so often celebrated.
Yevette Willaert designed a beautiful collection, through and through, that matched daring with outstanding design. This is especially admirable considering that tropical patterns are one of the most difficult patterns to execute well. It verges on the garish, it recalls middle-aged men at tiki bars and it’s usually found on cheap swim-wear. But Willaert sent out a perfect tropical romper with sharp collars and a structured white blazer (one of two well-tailored summer jackets). A two-piece skirt and crop followed in a charming green and yellow polka dot pattern. Matched with a wide-brimmed white hat, it was both chic and fun. A pair of white wool wide-legged pants rounded out the collection, another fantastic item for cool evenings or summer travel.
Of all the collections, Jenny Carle designed the most mature. Featuring a stunning chartreuse pattern floral textile (a found vintage textile, no less), Carle built a remarkable palette out of greens, beiges, yellows and blacks. The first dress was brilliantly executed, designed so that the white and grey floral dramas of the found pattern moved with the shape of the body. A light camel leather mini-skirt followed, proving once and for all that leather need not be black to be sophisticated and stylish. And if there’s one piece I buy locally this year, it’ll be Carle’s fantastic black and beige geometric print crop top.
Kozol’s breezy mints and sherberts were a refreshing take on summer colors, offering a light-weight swinging crop top, a daring horizontal stripped pant and classic denim pencil skirt with dramatic buttons. Cliché, one of Minneapolis’s foremost fashion boutiques (and strong supporter of local work) sent out the best of the store, from causal printed pants to a black and orange abstract maxi dress. Their fantastic eye for unusual statement jewelry was front and center, with a couple of beautiful knotted fabric tassel necklaces (also seen on the fall runways, from Lanvin to Mara Hoffman). The styling of Cliché’s collection was one of the few to tell a story, the models sporting septum rings and towering black platforms reminiscent of Alexander Wang’s recent goth-inspired fall 2015 collection. If there’s one thing to take away from Cliché’s runway show, it’s that they pay close attention to the trends inspiring New York and Paris, and bring them quickly to Minneapolis.
Emily Trevor’s collection was the “talked-about” collection of the night. The halls were buzzing about the tennis-wear inspired collection, featuring the “Adidas” stripe on tight white midi-dresses with polo collars, mesh tops with billowy sleeves, cute bustiers and tennis visors. Trevor also sent out the dress of the evening: a “tennis wedding” inspired work of serious genius with a deep-halter bodice, white mesh skirt with neon green satin stripes and flawless flounces. The dress was as impeccably designed as it was cheeky and irreverent. It was a dress to show the rest of the world how do we here in Minneapolis and we do very well, thank you.
George Moskal’s collection was the last of the night, featuring icy pastels and sophisticated evening pieces. Moskal is a clear master of the full skirt, featured in a boldly colorful sequined skater dress and an absolutely outstanding silver snake pattern knee-length skirt. A lilac grecian dress and risky “pajama” style pant suit showcased his ability to both keep to classic silhouettes while still testing boundaries. I’d love him to design a whole collection of gorgeous skirts in statement patterns because like Trevor, he has a gift for bringing fabrics to life, a necessity for any ambitious designer.
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