Sunday, April 24, 2011

MNfashion Week in review: Sol Inspirations

[Originally posted at]

It's hard to believe a large-scale eco-fashion show has never taken place in the Twin Cities. This bit of trivia was espoused by Sol Inspirations and the Global Eco Organization founder Alex Detrick as he introduced the show from the runway in an asymmetrical Asian-inspired shirt. After all, we're unofficially the bike city of the U.S. (by Bicycle Magazine), the home base of the Horst eco-beauty empire (Aveda, Juut Salonspas and Intelligent Nutrients), and according to a study, we've got cleaner skies and water than any other city in the United States with the exception of a Pacific island.

The show took place in The Depot, which houses an ice rink during winter months and weddings during the rest of the year. With its high ceilings, expansive space and plentiful windows, it's an ideal venue for a fashion show. The show kicked off with a runway show impeccably styled by Hollie Mae Schultz of HM Styling with fun, oversized headbands and accessories from KR Designs, Rewind Vintage, and shoes from eco-friendly brand Naya on Ignite models. (I happened to be wearing a brightly colored feather neckpiece by KR Designs with my Ra'mon-Lawrence Coleman dress to the show.)

It was fun to see local lines Jenny Carle, Kathryn V, CounterCouture and Renalie Bailey paired together with the Hollie Mae touch. Having seen most of the pieces shown in Envision, Avoid the Grey and Voltage: Fashion Amplified this spring, it was nice to see the looks given a fresh Hollie Mae touch, some of the different designers even paired together.

However, it was a bit of a disappointment to see some fall 2010 pieces from Jenny Carle showing up on the runway along with some Renalie Bailey showpieces that - stunning as the pieces were - are at least two years old. (After the show, Bailey explained to me that originally she had planned to include some new designs in the show, but as the result of miscommunications with the event organizers the line didn't happen.) It should go without saying but fashion show producers should realize that those of us covering fashion in the Twin Cities will definitely take note.

[A look by Jenny Carle]

[A look by Renalie Bailey]

[A look by Renalie Bailey]

Afterward, others showcased some unusual materials designs. Of particular note was interior designers Victoria Steidler and Anne Graham's stunning wood bodice and skirt, which was used for the Sol Inspirations promo image.

UPDATE: It's since been brought to my attention that this dress is a nearly exact copy of the Hussein Chalayan A/W 2000 Wooden Table Dress:

Then the competition portion of the show was underway. The six designers showed designs one by one in each category of the competition: Non-traditional fabrics; recycled or upcycled materials; sustainable fabrics (plus one of the three looks had to include solar panels within the design).

For her upcycled challenge, local knitwear designer Allilamodie showed a chic, oversized knit sweater over skinny leather-looking pants - a strong streetwear look to be sure, but was it really pushing the idea that this was a design competition?

Ra'mon-Lawrence Coleman, in town from his new home in New York, had the most relevant, stylish collection of the bunch. His stunning orange gown with a high slit at the back thigh was best-in-show (though the African print jacket he paired with it looked a little dated and thrown-on).

New-to-Minneapolis designer Tara LaTour's bridal-y dresses were cute and well-constructed but pretty safe. And in white and off-white shades, they faded into the background amongst the other more highly-designed pieces other designers sent down the runway.

The team of Atom Pechman and Jenn Bratvold seemed outmaneuvered by the competition. I had to review the photos from the show to remember what they showed, and that's never a good sign.

Niki English's wowed with a trio of looks that pushed the boundaries of what would be considered wearable, and of the designers, most fully lived up to the challenges. Her bodiced dress with a jutting, sculptural skirt filled with tulle and a tie-dyed dress with two metallic side panels had the most personality of the bunch, exhibiting Niki's signature futuristic, gothy edginess and pushing the boundaries. My only criticism would be that she perhaps took her designs too far, incorporating too many elements into one piece.

Project Runway season six contestant and local darling Christopher Straub showed three looks that were more McQueen than the ruffly, cute looks he's better known for. That's not to say the looks weren't well-designed - I particularly liked his printed denim bustier & leggings (though on the fence the froo froo underskirt) - but they didn't seem very Christopher.

The show went out with a bang during the finale of the show, a showing of the conceptual SolarWorld collection by Project Runway season seven winner Seth Aaron Henderson.

The seven-piece collection was full of architectural shapes rendered in PVC (with a little bit of silk and cotton thrown in), all stunningly constructed. My favorite looks included a black jacket with Minnie Mouse-like sleeves and an extremely wearable black and white-striped dress. He introduced the show by saying the collection is purely theatrical and not meant to be worn off the runway, but there were more than a few pieces that I would've died to wear on the street. Perhaps he underestimates us Minnesotans.

Finally, it was announced that Straub was the winner of the competition (and a $5,000 cash prize) with his collection of uncharacteristically architectural looks. It was a bit of an upset as Niki English seemed the clear winner with her trio of over-the-top, edgy looks. I heard that Straub was selected as the winner for showing the most cohesive collection, which seems off on various counts - it wasn't all that cohesive, and since when was cohesion mentioned in this design competition as a deciding factor? It was a head-scratcher of a decision, not to say that Straub didn't show a decent collection. It's just that English's better delivered to the competition.

All in all, it was an entertaining show for a good cause. The mark on the environment caused by the fashion industry is not the most glamorous side of the industry, but eco-fashion and entities like the Global Eco Organization are doing what they can to clean fashion up.

[All images Jules Christman-Photography courtesy of VimLab/Ignite Models Inc.]

More Sol Inspirations coverage:

Metromix takes crowd and runway shots.

METRO Magazine fashion editor Mary O'Regan takes runway and crowd shots for her blog, Art of Wore.

Hina Khan has backstage photos of the Evolution Hair team at work.

Beth Hammarlund reviews the show for l'etoile magazine.

1 comment:

  1. Nice rundown on the show Jahna. I wasn't able to attend and it sounds like it was a great show.
    As a sustainable designer, I 'd love to hear more about the types of materials the designers used and what made the clothing/materials environmentally savvy and sustainable.