It's no secret that our homegrown fashion week has undergone a significant transformation this year. After the past few seasons saw the week of events having ramped up to a breakneck pace, with multiple events sometimes overlapping on the same night, this year the lineup has been whittled down considerably, moved from April to February, and gotten a name change (from MNfashion Week to the more official-sounding Minneapolis-St. Paul Fashion Week). Growing pains aside, last night's reprisal of the Shows - a series of official runway events showcasing full Fall/Winter 2012 collections from the cities' top emerging designers - made a bold case for the fledgling fashion industry in the Twin Cities.
Kimberly Jurek and Amanda Christine - longtime friends and collaborators who have paired up on shows in the past - bookended the evening with collections that showcased their knack for producing retail-friendly, wearable designs. It's no wonder that they're two of the few young designers in town to find success selling their lines in dozens of stores across the country. For her part, Jurek showed one of her most sophisticated lines to date, full of sheer silks and draped knit jersey dresses and separates that emanated chic, relaxed elegance (which were perfectly paired with bold pieces by local jewelry line KR Designs). Unfortunately, this new streamlined effort from Jurek seemed to whitewash some of her personality, particularly felt in the lack of vintage touches and outerwear (excepting one fantastically chic cape-coat) - two of the designer's strengths.
Meanwhile, Amanda Christine stuck to her strengths, showing a great mix of well-cut dresses, skirts, jackets and tops that offered just enough eye-catching, subtle details - cutouts, colorblocking, asymmetry - to make each piece feel special, fresh, and dynamic enough to easily mix-and-match into a modern woman's wardrobe. Especially mouth-watering were the elegantly-cut, chunky knit sweaters and circle scarves - a new addition to the designer's ever-expanding repertoire. (It must be said, though, that the designer lacks an eye for prints; her shiny paisley prints were a bit of an eyesore.) The designer smartly left on each chair a glossy lookbook highlighting the looks from the richly -hued collection - a great takeaway for clients to peruse while planning their orders.
But the fashion with a capital F moment came with Emma Berg's startlingly realized, ambitious and inspired 20-look collection. The eye-poppingly colorful line, entitled "Que Sera Sera," heeded Berg's background as an arts curator, taking inspiration in large part from iconic Minneapolis painter Frank Gaard, not only in its pastel-with-neon-pops color palette and general spirit, but in a couple pieces of imagery culled directly from his work, rendered in shiny, happy, hand-embroidered sequins. One, "Swan Head on Branch", appeared draped over the shoulder of a dress and a puffy white coat, simultaneously seeming to reference Björk's infamous swan dress. (Berg is, after all, the Björk of the Twin Cities, isn't she?)
But the inspiration didn't end with the Gaard homage. Berg carried over her love for Mongolian goat hair, inserting neon-dyed bits of it as trim throughout and utilizing it in a short, chubby fur coat dyed every color of the rainbow - inspired by "My Little Pony," Berg told me - with help from master colorist Mark DeBolt of HAUS Salon, which styled the delightfully zany, neon-dipped hair and makeup for the show (pastel eyelashes, oh my!). The collection also nodded toward Chanel and Marc Jacobs with some prim, buttoned-up looks, contrasting nicely with the mad-looking styling, without being overly referential. Above all, it was refreshingly fun, at once unpretentious and subversive.
Of all Twin Cities designers, it can be easily said that Berg is one of the few (among, say, Kevin Kramp and Max Lohrbach) who are truly internationally-minded, pushing the boundaries of fashion beyond a local level into true inspiration, and dare I say, art.