Friday, February 24, 2012

MSP Fashion Week in review: "Resurgent"

Despite only being Thursday, last night officially wrapped up the final night of Minneapolis-St. Paul Fashion Week with "Resurgent: A Winter Rock Fashion Show." Though it seemed to take a page out of the handbook from the late, great Voltage: Fashion Amplified (which is officially on hiatus indefinitely) with its mix of rock 'n roll and runway fashion, the show put on by Uptown designer-run boutique You And Me seemed to harken back to a time in the Twin Cities, circa 2005, when DIY fashion was au courant and techno reigned. Take a look back at photos from the first two Voltage fashion shows, and you'll see what I mean. Back then, fashion had a punk rock, we-don't-give-a-fuck attitude: Yes, we MEANT to leave that hem undone. Yes, the hair is SUPPOSED to look like that. No, it's not SUPPOSED to be wearable. And you know what? It was a pretty fun, theatrical, and over-the-top time. It was entertainment.

But things have evolved in local fashion over the past five or six years. Voltage went from a flipping-the-bird-to-the-Man, rock 'n roll-centric event some zany fashions to a cleaned-up, professional runway fashion event with some live bands. Designers started moving out of the nightclub circuit to host their own polished runway shows in art galleries, raw studio spaces, and posh hotel ballrooms. They've begun creating size runs (as opposed to simply one-of-a-kind garments in a model size 2), manufacturing their lines, learning how to sew a proper hem, promoting themselves, creating lookbooks, selling their lines in stores across the country, and learning how to sew a proper hem. It may not be cool or punk rock, but it's the start to making a successful living as an independent designer.

Enough backstory - let's get to the review of last night's show. As I said, "Resurgent" was produced by designer-run store You And Me, home to brother clothing designers Tim and Thom Navarro, clothing designer Deborah Block, and jewelry designer Katy Vereide. The 27 looks shown under the collective You And Me label had a sort of post-apocalyptic, survivalist bent to them, most literally in a look that included a floor-length duster, gas mask and combat boots. By committing to showing so many looks, it appears the designers spread themselves a little thin. Hems were badly sewn (or left unhemmed for that purposeful "distressed" look), zippers were ham-handedly inserted, and garments were oddly fitted and proportioned on the whole. Many of the men's pants, for instance, were too-tight in the crotch and butt, but loose everywhere else.

Many of the looks were not only unwearable - which isn't always a detriment in my eyes - but plain odd, nonsensical and ugly, like a men's cropped suit jacket, an extremely weird men's poncho paired with inexplicable fingerless gloves, and a plaid women's cape in which the arms poked out of scarf-like sleeves. For all this talk about utilitarian, survivalist fashion, much of what was shown was just plain unwearable.

There were a few pieces that stood out as genuinely well-designed and intriguing, such as an extremely well-cut leather motorcycle jacket and denim-and-leather pants, as well as a structured, blazer-like cape - what an extremely chic, clean, and unique piece! They served as testaments to the potential of these designers if they could only edit and fine-tune.

It must be said they do not lack of ambition, ideas or vision - things many aspiring designers are sorely without. The worst thing is to be boring, and the show was anything but - complete with theatrical hair, makeup and staging. But as Twin Cities fashion works to become a sustainable industry and local designers begin expanding in markets beyond Minnesota, shows that focus on concept over execution are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

Handout photos by Nic Abrego

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