Perhaps it was the unseasonably warm weather or the giddy rush of a revamped and wildly successful Minnesota Fashion week, but Envision’s Fall 2015 showcase was nothing short of spectacular. If the Spring 2015 show offered impeccably tailored but more restrained clothing, the fall collections were as impudent and playful as they were boundary-breaking. Whether it was the giant black balloons held aloft by melancholic girls dressed in funeral dresses (Cliché) or the blasting industrial soundtracks pushing the inaugural menswear collections boldly down the runway, Envision felt big. To those accustomed to the avant-garde spectacles of McQueen shows past, Envision was perhaps a tame offering. But in a city like Minneapolis, whose collective fashion taste tends toward the conservative (as much due to our weather as it might be due to our Midwestern tastes), it takes serious guts to send out a man’s camel coat with a horse mane stitched to the back or a floor length gown held up by a stiff Elizabethan bumroll (yes, that’s the correct term).
With eight collections, Envision had the proverbial something-for-everyone, from trendy fall plaids and 70’s flared wool trousers to Rick Owens-esque leather pants and graphic printed sweaters. With a plethora of fall fashion events still to come (and a good chunk of time before we have to drag out the parkas), there’s no reason not to shop local. And there’s now even less reason to think that Minneapolis doesn’t stack up against the design legacies of our bigger coastal cities. We do stack up. And we know it. But if you don’t know it, you’ll find my review below and links to the designers themselves. Enjoy!
Ubiquitous Minnesotan fabric though it may be, plaid is the sartorial version of reassurance and comfort. In contrast to the bulky and thick fabrics we associate with “dad” plaids, Jenny Carle delivered two perfect “lumberjack chic” plaid jackets for fall: a structured evening piece and a beautiful daytime cardigan-style layered over a black turtleneck. Paired with fringed ankle boots and sheer black stockings, each of Carle’s plaids balanced the heavy with the light, the trendy with the classic. In keeping with the culottes trend from spring, Carle also offered a fantastic transitional look—knee length black culottes under a boldly printed tunic topped with a long camel vest. Easy, minimal, autumnal. Like collections before, Carle’s collection showcased her eye for fantastic fabrics with a careful design hand. Inspired by the natural color of stone formations, ACG presented a series of beautifully dyed pieces, as much reminiscent of rust and stone as it was of blood or wine stains. Paired with a green coat made from found fabric (vintage wool throw), it left me wanting a whole collection in found fabric.
With the return of the most maligned fashion decade (the 1970’s), one perhaps expected local designers to answer its call with trepidation. A bit of fringe here, some flaring there. But Kjurek’s collection, the love-child of Kimberly Jurek and Jennifer Chilstrom, seemed to take the return of the 1970’s as a dare. Pairing their signature hand-dyed fabrics with long skinny flares and power furs, Kjurek sent out disco queens and hippie divas with a zero-fucks-given attitude. If a delicate ladylike fringe is the detail of the moment, Kjurek’s leather-look top brought fringe to its full unrestrained glory: a swirling stream of black tentacles layered over a purple shimmering dress sailed down the runway, half hippie nightmare and half punk rock dream. If the audience’s reaction to its appearance was any indication, Kjurek nailed it.
Inspired by 1930’s English cycling clubs, Russell Bourrienne’s menswear collection was as much a nod to those classics of British dress—plaid, argyle, cropped pants—as it was an homage to our status as one of America’s great cycling cities. While it was hard to imagine any local Minneapolis bike fiend donning cropped plaid pants for a high-speed spin across Hennepin Avenue, the sporty rain jackets, light-weight black puffers and subtle pattern mixing made it abundantly clear that cycling and fashion need not be opposed. Bourrienne’s boat-neck sweaters layered over high collars and stiff ties were a refreshing take on the old knitwear-over-dress-shirt combo and the triumph of the collection—a deep camel poncho with high pockets draped over a pair of grey plaid crops—was so effortlessly masculine that I wondered why menswear designers rely on heavy masculine signifiers—leather, black–when the simple flow of a well-designed cape will do just as beautifully.
While Cliché is not technically design, their stunning collection showed us once again that styling has a rightful place on the runway. Like their Spring 2015 collection, Cliché told a story, one driven by the great invention of Victorian gothic literature: the melancholy girl-child. Dressed in black lace, pilgrim bonnets, and lace-up booties, she carried black balloons down the runway and black paper roses in her arms. Dead or alive, ghost, or human, Cliché’s girls were as much meditations on the nature of grief as they were on the enduring allure of the goth girl, a modern version, if you will, of Wednesday Addams Grows Up. And however cliched (ha!) it may be to link such funereal clothing to the dying of the summer season, the macabre balloons perfectly captured the strange fall gloom of the average Minnesotan, who much like the inevitably of death knows the inevitability of an impending winter and greets it, rightly so, with a mixture of apocalyptic dread and morbid laughter.
In keeping with the plaid trend and her gift for impeccable trousers, Yevette Willaert sent out a solid autumn collection with subtle 70’s influences, from the flare in the plaid trousers to the yellow and brown toned bags. Willaert was also one of two collections to bring Pantone’s 2015 color, “Marsala” to the Minneapolis runway, offering a scalloped blazer and a fall sheath dressed in the color of the season. In the Tessa Louise collection, “Marsala” came in the form of a stunning waffle textured cocoon coat over culottes and her closing dress, a black and red marvel of sex appeal and festive light, was one of the best of the night.
In contrast to the heavy fabrics, dark tones and overbearing forms that tend to greet us in the fall season, Joeleen Torvick’s collection turned (in her words) from the structured to the fluid. In focusing on draping and the movement of cloth, Torvick took the physics of summer—water, air, light—and the colors of fall—mustard, black, grey—and delivered a collection perfect for fall layering. A pair of loose mustard trousers under a sleeveless horizontal print tank floated effortlessly down the runway as did an all-black silky pants look. Easily paired with a light-weight wool coat for the colder days, it’s the kind of modern minimalism that defines a curated closet, here or anywhere.
If the wild enthusiasm of the leather-clad gentlemen to the left of my seat was any indication, Cory Allen’s menswear collection was hitting the right rebellious note. Inspired by the spirit of the horse, Allen’s collection was the avant-gardist’s response to the nostalgic elegance of Bourrienne’s cyclists. A bold graphic palette—white, black, leather, prints—mixed with the luxury of fall fabrics created an impeccably dressed if still idiosyncratic man. A leather and wool bomber, season-defying white sweaters, and camel-accented accessories rounded out the equestrian notes, but lest you think that equestrian means up-tight country club style, Allen’s equine touches were as cheeky as they were beautiful. A charcoal sketch of a horse-head printed on a pristine sweater opened the collection while the last look, a knee-length wool camel coat with black ombre sleeves and a nautically-inspired rope tie, seemed entirely horse-less until the model passed and the black mane decorating the back gave the final nod. Allen knows not every Minneapolis man-about-town is going to want this coat, but the one who does will be worth the wait. For those of us who love sartorial jokes and a bold design imagination (especially in our men), this collection was long in coming.
It was a particularly brilliant move on the part of the producers to follow Cory Allen’s fantastic collection with Form Over Function’s gender-less work. After exhausting himself on his ovations for Allen, my leather-clad friend resorted to a simple but exact comment: “I can never get this kind of stuff in Minneapolis. I usually have to go to Europe.” Declaring that their collection was neither a men’s nor women’s collection, Form Over Function brought the whispers of “Rick Owens” to the crowd, which is not only a high compliment but yet another sign that Minneapolis design has arrived. Heavy on the leather, low on function (as their name suggests), Form Over Function threw out any concern with wearability and spent it all on architecture and dreams. A leather and wool tunic mixed the medieval with bondage while a boxy white scuba coat softened the hard touches of the leather. Suede made a particularly brilliant appearance in a lightly-colored motorcycle jacket with a spine detail on the back and stiffly pleated kilt (hopefully inspiring the city’s kilt wearers to retire their plaids) worn by a male model, but just as easily worn by anyone.
No matter your position on the ethics of leather, there’s no denying that leather is now the ultimate neutral fabric. Once relegated to the sidelines of the rebel, leather has become a staple of the modern women’s closet. And if the recent Spring 2016 runway collections are any indication, the obsession with leather shows no signs of abating (the new Gucci girl, for example, wears a series of stunning colored pleated leather skirts). Caroline Hayden’s pleated leather midi-dress was just as covet-worthy as those Gucci skirts and while I would have liked to see more of her fantastic leather-look work, the silvery plaids and embellished dresses reinvented fall patterns for evening. The final collection of the night (Sarah Furnae) brought the evening’s most inspired dresses. A belted wood-print gown in deep lilac and green was followed by a towering Elizabethan white lace dress (the fall answer to Emily Trevor’s spring “tennis wedding” gown). A series of fantastic feathered dresses closed the evening, the iridescent feathers begging for our own Bjorks or Tilda Swintons to ferry them around town.
For more information on the designers, see:
For shopping information, visit: Showroom Minneapolis