Friday, April 27, 2012

In review: The MIA's Art in Bloom goes high fashion with "Haute-House Garden"

 To kick off its annual Art in Bloom exhibition, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts went haute couture, with looks by local designers that were as artful as they were garden-fresh. In a challenge straight out of Project Runway, designers created looks inspired by flowers - and in some cases, including actual foliage, courtesy of Bastian + Skoog florists. Emma Berg presented two gorgeously draped gowns, made all the more exquisite with hand-painted abstract floral designs by frequent collaborator Max Lohrbach. The silk shirt he wore was also cleverly painted with a tulip design. Former Voltage: Fashion Amplified director Anna Lee - who got her start as a milliner - seems to be going back to her design roots, showing a simple twisted jersey dress accented with an artfully arranged bouquet train of real flowers (topped by a decadent headpiece, of course). Two local Project Runway alumni also got into the mix, with season nine's Danielle Everine showing a pair of shorts woven from leaves and a moss jacket - an impressive feat not only for the fact that it was more organic material than fabric, but also for exhibiting a stylish use of proportion. Season six's Christopher Straub took over the second segment of the show, showing a series of structured looks made from canvas painted by Patrick Kemal Pryor, previously shown as part of a collaborative art exhibit. Joy Teiken of Joynoelle showed her signature delicate sensibility with a lovely ivory gown strewn in tiny rosettes, while up-and-comer Nicole Larson showed a violet dress sporting a matching peplum of actual violets. While the presentation and production of the event was a bit lacking to say the least - heed attention to detail, MIA! - the resulting looks were truly inspired.

Look by Emma Berg with Max Lohrbach
Look by Emma Berg with Max Lohrbach
Look by Joynoelle
Look by Anna Lee
Look by Danielle Everine
Look by Nicole Larson
Look by Christopher Straub
Look by Christopher Straub
Look by Christopher Straub
Look by Christopher Straub
Look by Christopher Straub
Look by Christopher Straub
Christopher Straub with his collection
Above photos by Tiffany Golberg for MIA
Max Lohrbach in his painted shirt (Photo: Jahna Peloquin)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

In review: "Envision: Artopia" Spring 2012

Every six months, an avalanche of fashion descends upon Minneapolis in the form of "Envision: Artopia." The annual two-part fashion show jams together 15 individual runway segments (eight local designers, six local boutiques), a bass-thumping soundtrack, and art on display from nine local artists spread throughout three hours within the glitzy, club-like atmosphere of the Graves 601 Hotel fifth floor ballroom.

The design team of Sara Lopez and Lizzie Hillmann, both standouts in February's University of Minnesota senior show, were the most forward-thinking, showing a feminine yet futuristic collection of cream and pastel-colored looks expertly-rendered in pleather and stiff cotton. It may not have been the most wearable collection, but it certainly showed perspective and experimentation - something all young designers should be exhibition.

Caroline Hayden and Gina Marie Vintage, both of whom debuted at last fall's "Envision," also earned points, Hayden with her glitzy, sophisticated collection that evoked modern-day Studio 54 and Gina Marie, whose sheer ponchos and drawstring silk shorts would appeal to the Urban Outfitters hipster and jet-setting sophisticate alike.

Caroline Hayden
Gina Marie Vintage

Another surprise was longtime menswear designer Russell Bourrienne's first foray into womenswear, and his adept tailoring skills were perfectly translated to the female form. His ivory cape-yoked trench coat and green cape-trench were simply to-die.

Local shop Cliché's segment, as always, featured the most inventive styling of the evening. The theme, which I would liken to "acid-boho," consisted of layers-upon-layers, zany legwear and contrasting patterns, accented with custom shoes decorated with Good and Plentys, comically big neon sunglasses and extra-large lollipops.

And while the sensory onslaught is clearly a big draw for the nearly-sold-out event, it's unavoidable that some of the finer details would get lost amongst the shouting. The art was all but invisible in the crowded hall. And with a couple of exceptions, much of the styling looked like an afterthought - clearly the result of one team of stylists of being spread too thin having to style nearly 150 looks in one night. A look from Karma that included a boho top and a scarf tied around the model's head, Hendrix-style, was particularly costumey, and local designer Amanda Christine's chic, sophisticated collection was inexplicably topped with Jackie O-esque headscarves and oversized sunglasses. Meanwhile, local designer Kathryn V's breezy but plain collection was shown with literal Crowns of Thorns - surely an unfortunate but unintentional correlation.

Kathryn V
Amanda Christine

Another side product of showcasing emerging designers are the occasional missteps. Autumn Kirchman's collection of bridal-y, Victorian-inspired looks were poorly constructed and fitted, rendered in cheap-looking, too-shiny polyester fabric, and showed poor taste on all fronts. Though no newcomers to the game, CounterCouture also showed poor judgment with their use of shiny, shiny fabric, which only serves to exaggerate every puckered seam and was not well-fitted on their models. It should be said that the line uses fabric recycled from bridesmaid dresses, and while admirable in intention, there is a reason people get rid of their bridesmaid dresses.

Autumn Kirchman

Despite its relative shortcomings, "Envision" is the rare show that provides emerging designers with an audience for their work, as well as a platform for most established designers and retailers to maintain a presence - and hopefully make some new customers in the process.

Photos by Corey Tenold Photography
Originally posted at

Friday, April 13, 2012

In review: "Fashion Ball"

What would theater be without costumes, and fashion without theatricality? For local dance company Ballet of the Dolls, a separation of the two would be unthinkable. Their costume designer Grant Whittaker (also a dancer in the company) is, after all, a noted local fashion stylist, known equally for his high-fashion looks gracing Macy's Glamorama year after year as he is for his '90s club culture-referencing costume work for the Dolls. The combination of fashion and dance is never more apparent than at the dance company's third annual "Fashion Ball" benefit, which combines dance interludes imaginatively choreographed by Myron Johnson with runway fashion segments.

The two-part show kicked off with - what else? - an early '90s club scene, also in a nod to the current neon trend in fashion. Dance performances alternated with runway segments, each taking us to a different corner of the earth - a Far East opium den, the Arabian desert, ancient Egypt - mashing up historical and fairy tale characters with pop culture references ("Cleopatra Meets the Hip Hop Divas," "Rapunzel at the Toddlers & Tiaras Pageant"), set to a booming club soundtrack. The show is a clear labor of love by Whittaker, who not only created six different sets of elaborate themed costumes for the Ballet of the Dolls dancers, but also styled six segments of ten looks each (not to mention the ridiculously over-the-top wigs) - which, let me tell you, is no easy feat. It's a full-on fashion marathon, featuring looks from Fashion Avenue, Ragstock, Grethen House, and local designer Joynoelle.

As much as "Fashion Ball" is about the fashion, dance also plays a key role in the show. The sure highlight of the performance was a hilariously cheeky riff centering around an incestuous Hansel and Gretel, a down-and-dirty soundtrack of songs like Vanity 6's "Nasty Girl" and Kelis' "Milkshake," and glittery, gaudy costumes in a Christmas-y palette of red and green. In this case in particular, it was all about the energy and personality of the company's excellent, charismatic dancers - most memorably John Paul, a beautiful black man who makes dancing in heels look effortless and pulled off a mean Azaelia Banks impression in a blue wig, walking the runway as he lip-synced to the words "I'm fierce, goddamn it!" The clear takeaway of the night: fashion shouldn't take itself too seriously. It should be fun, goddamn it.

"Fashion Ball" continues tonight with an 8 p.m. show (7 p.m. doors, $35) and a VIP night tomorrow evening that includes a cocktail reception, silent auction, and dessert post-reception at 8 p.m. (6:30 p.m. reception, $75). Visit for details and tickets.

[Originally posted at]

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Photo of the day: Mary Cann by Peter Holme

A little morning gorgeousness, courtesy of a cast of locals: photographer Peter Holme, stylist Jane Belfry, Vision model Mary Cann, hairstylist Charlie Brackney of HAUS Salon, makeup artist Andrea Holton, and jewelry designer Stephanie Lake.

Full credits: Photographer: Peter Holme
Model: Mary Cann (Vision Management Group)
Styling: Jane Belfry
Styling Assistant: Caleb Gudmundson
Jewelry Designed by: Stephanie Lake
MUA: Andrea Holton
Hair: Charlie Brackney (HAUS Salon)
Assisting: Tim Ho (HAUS Salon)