Runway Rites: Envision Minneapolis Spring 2015

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!

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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.

Ellie Hottinger

Ellie Hottinger

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 tennis-inspired ball gown.

Emily Trevor’s tennis-inspired ball gown.

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.

For more information (and shopping details!), see:

Ignite Models, Public Functionary, Envision Minneapolis, Ellie HottingerHouse of Gina MarieYevette WillaertJenny CarleKozolClicheEmily TrevorGeorge Moskal,

Runway Rites: Roksanda Fall/Winter 2015 RTW

Roksanda Ilincic’s Fall 2015 Ready-To-Wear collection took the old fall adage–somber colors sell–and threw every rich and plush color at it: mustards, fuchsias, cobalt blue, neon pinks, eggplant. This is hardly surprising considering Ilincic was recently named “the woman who brought color back to fashion,” but the mastery of Ilincic’s collection is not just in its celebration of color but in the harmony between the dramas of color and the meticulous architecture of the clothing, a harmony that brings her closer to a tradition of modernist art than it might to other designers (except, perhaps, for Christian Lacroix).

In this collection and in collections past, Ilincic produces clothes whose folds, pleats and lines serve to bring color to deeper and more complex life. The pleats of this dress (here), for instance, are the perfect canvas for intense color blocking and even the more soft renderings of color in the Spring 2015 collection (here) still showcase her expertise in executing color through shape. For Ilincic, color is as much about the quiet display of space as it is about light and vision, a variation on Marc Chagall’s insistence that “when color is right, form is right.” It is this minimalist restraint that makes Ilincic’s clothing breathtaking, even if the clothes inevitably demand attention.

Fur Stole

It takes a brave woman to wear such saturated, intense colors in a season known for its worship of black, but the silhouettes are so feminine that no one could be accused of breaking the rules of good taste. The short tailored jackets featured stunning layered peplums fanning out from under a new signature belt—two asymmetrical silver plates on black leather–and the belts likewise accented the structured coats, calf-length dresses layered over long-sleeved mustard turtlenecks and thick patterned skirts in greys and purples. Pants made a quiet appearance, peaking out as cobalt leather culottes under color-blocked coats, once again emphasizing that this is a collection committed to showcasing Ilincic’s gifts in reinventing the dress and skirt.

And who, in the depth of the cold grey November winds, doesn’t long for a bright, warm and plush stole to wrap around her body, something to ward off both the cold chill and sinking spirits? The stoles were absolute show-stealers (no pun intended), so thick and inviting that the backstage photos might have shown the models surround by cold Londoners burying their faces in the Technicolor fur as they might have once done with their childhood bears.

Peplum

There’s a notable element of the girl-child in this collection, a collection less severe in its architectural lines and more inviting of a girlish spirit, that spirit who might have dressed up in pink tutus for grade school and danced on the street with abandon, her face vibrant and unafraid. This collection celebrates that girl in us—the one so often shamed and silenced—and dresses her in adult clothes that still match the whimsy and imagination of a fearless heart.

It’s a risk, of course, that such playful clothing might infantilize their wearers or turn fashion into a silly game of female “dress-up” (re: Jeremy Scott), if it were not for the intense and dramatic seriousness of the color. Color, after all, is powerful. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle called colors “cosmic rays from God” and their link to the turbulence of emotions is likewise ancient. They have profound effects on perception–McDonald’s, for example, famously painted their restaurants orange because it made patrons eat more- and they tend to provoke violent reactions. We either love or hate color, fear or adore it.

And yet we lack a compelling language for it: try to describe a color to a friend, or even the idea of color at all. It is for this reason that it has considerable political power. Like music or dreams, there’s something subterranean about color, something unclassifiable, difficult. It has rules and history, it’s culturally bound–you can’t wear red to a funeral- but if the history of 20th century art has shown us anything, it’s that those rules can be broken and broken to interesting effect. And more often than not, it’s fashion that does the breaking.

Stole 

If fashion is a public, social and performative art, it’s worth asking what Ilinicic’s collection asks us to think. These are clothes defiant of the patronizing idea that bright, girlish colors are as vacant as their wearers or that a fuchsia suit worn for a job interview means you don’t deserve the job. Or still yet, what to make of such ostentatious colors in an era of European economic austerity? Is it a symbol of the flagrant, baroque indulgence of the elite (Princess Catherine wears Roksanda) or of the irrepressible spirit of democratic change on the verge of sweeping Europe, her colors reminiscent of masses of bodies waving brightly colored flags?

Whether one wants grant so much social significance to this collection is up to the reader, but rarely do you find work that both lifts and frees without taking the androgynous, neutral paths of designers like Rick Owens or Yohji Yamamoto. In defying that masculine flatness with the rich provocations of color, this collection might be read as a kind of feminist sartorial commandment: take up space, speak and be seen.  If every collection tells a story, this one tells us, yes, to ditch the black, the severe silhouettes, the grey depressions of the fall and to wrap ourselves in “happy” but it also asks us to consider just what such colors can do and why wearing color can be an act of rebellion against the codes that drive women into invisibility or vicious competition.

To put it simply, this is easily Roksanda’s best and most conceptually compelling collection, one that should make everyone, especially those who haven’t yet heard of her, sit up and take notice.

You can view the rest of the collection here and the runway video here. The lucky few can purchase online here. A few Roksanda pieces are also available here at Rent the Runway.

Photo Credit: Roksanda Facebook Album: Fall Winter 2015. Media photos.