With many of MNfashion Week’s biggest events happening mid-week this fall, here’s your pre-weekend recap by l’etoile's fashion editor.
Wednesday, September 23: “Charmed Life” and “Couture Noir”
[Laura Fulk's vignette at "Charmed Life" / Image by Marcus Metropolis / interior by Jeffrey Valley]
It just so happened that two of MNfashion Week’s biggest events, “Charmed Life” and “Couture Noir,” overlapped on a Wednesday night of all nights. The events couldn’t have been more different, but I couldn’t stand to miss either. I donned my black asymmetrical dress from Laura Fulk’s “Suffocate” collection, a nod to the designer who would be participating in “Charmed Life” that evening and the elegant Gothicism of “Couture Noir.” I added a vintage feather headpiece and vintage black lace pumps and off I went.
By the time I arrived to “Charmed Life” at the International Market Square at 7:20, the event co-produced by l’etoile with METRO Magazine, was in full swing. With the open bar ending at 7:30, I made a beeline for the bar to grab a couple glasses of wine before checking out the stylized interior/fashion vignettes created by interior decorator Jeffery Valley in the middle of the atrium. Two-fisting it, I immediately ran into local songsmith Jeremy Messersmith, who was there supporting his wife Vanessa (co-owner of Blacklist Vintage, one of the night’s vendors), Laura Fulk, and Xavi Sostre, one of the stylists competing in that evening’s style-off I would later sit in to judge. “I love your dress!” Xavi exclaimed, not realizing it was a Le Fulk original. Laura’s vignette, decorated in a contemporary theme by Valley, included some clever leather cuffs ($10), knit hats with lace trim ($25) and faux fur cropped vests ($45), a retail-ready way to own a piece of the usually-avant-garde designer. (She’s not planning to sell them anywhere post-show, but you can contact her at email@example.com if you missed out.)
[Max Lohrbach's vignette at "Charmed Life" / Image by Stephen Stephens/Digital Crush / interior by Jeffrey Valley]
Before I knew it, I was being struck from behind with some kind of stick – it was Max Lohrbach, nearly unrecognizable at first with his brand-new super-short haircut. I hadn’t seen Max since he was last in town for the Vita.mn Poolside Fashion Show, and I had to see his adorable vignette. It was composed of a lifesize paperdoll lady and child, which he illustrated himself. “It’s kind of dark,” Max smirked. “The picture the little girl is holding is of her dead father.” I immediately coveted the ivory silk dresscoat, but decided not to muss up the parlor-esque display by trying it on and called dibs on it. He also was selling his one-of-a-kind “hair hats,” originally created for Voltage 2009. And sell he did – two of them ended up in the hands of a couple of fab ladies, with some sales help from one of my favorite stylists in the city (and Max’s newest fan), Richard Anderson. The hats are currently available at Design Collective, if you’re interested.
[Blacklist Vintage's booth at "Charmed Life" / Image by Stephen Stephens/Digital Crush]
At some point, I knew I had to step in to judge the evening’s stylist challenge so I went to hunt down Kate Iverson, editor of l'etoile magazine, who co-presented the event with METRO, running into Ellen Dahl of Vita.mn and The Minneapoline, looking chic as always, and City Pages’ blonde style mavens, Emily Utne (a fab photog in her own right) and writer Stacey Tuthill. I spotted Kate with Emma Berg of mplsart.com (in an adorable Max Lohrbach sheer coat dress) near Blacklist’s booth, which was fabulously decked out with the vintage shop’s delectable selection of hats, pretty as little cakes. A couple steps to the left, Robyne Robinson’s booth of her ROX jewels was swarming with shoppers, and next to her, “Project Runway” darling Christopher Straub hawked his popular leather accessories, in which his hard-meets-soft aesthetic was evident. Everywhere I turned, sales seemed brisk and excitement was in the air.
[Jahna, left, at the judging table at "Charmed Life" / Image by Stephen Stephens/Digital Crush]
It was time for the competing stylists to get to their challenge. The trio were quite the venerable crew: Xavi Sostre, who has worked with me recently on Ra’mon-Lawrence Coleman’s Fashion Week show; Molly Roark, a visionary known for her fabulous work in l’etoile magazine when it was in print back in 2007; and Zach Pearl, a longtime stylist to Laura Fulk who styled for Voltage 2009. As they styled their models, I sat down with the rest of the judging panel, which included Mary O’Regan of METRO, MNfashion board member Jessica Palkowitsch, Christopher Straub, and a very chic blonde woman – whom I eventually realized was none other than famed model Cheryl Tiegs. (Apparently, Miss Tiegs was there as a spokesperson for the new Cambria showroom at IMS.)
[Molly Roark with her winning look at "Charmed Life" / Image by Stephen Stephens/Digital Crush]
First up, Xavi presented his look, his assigned them “bohemian chic.” It was very chic and wearable, but not really outside of the box. Next up was Zach Pearl’s “first lady” theme, which he edited to mean “first lady of the 21st century,” pairing oversized pearls, a fuchsia boucle coat, and layered vintage hats. It was brilliant in theory, with every detail purposeful, but the wearability factor was low. Finally, we had Molly Roark’s “holiday chic” look, a feminine gold dress paired with a black sequin skirt underneath, and a black Dries Van Noten scarf wrapped around the model’s neck like a bow, giving it an edge. Thoughtful and wearable in one. We tallied our scores and Molly came out the winner, her prize a fancy leather portfolio. I myself left with my own prize – a gift bag stuffed with swag including hair product samples from Aveda and Bumble & Bumble, perfume samples from Thymes, coupons for free drinks at area restaurants and a can of Red Bull. Fancy!
[Emma Berg & Jahna at "Couture Noir" / Image by MJF Foto]
By then, it was 8:45 – I had fifteen minutes to get to “Couture Noir” and I didn’t want to risk missing a moment. It ended up not starting until 10 p.m., so I needn’t have rushed, but it gave Emma Berg and man-about-town Christian Erickson (who was gearing up for his reunion performance with Astronaut Wife at Saturday’s Jagerfest) enough time to catch up with me. Held at the decadent, charming Varsity Theater – one of my fave venues in town – the show kicked off with collections from newbie Anthony Eliason and a couple of talented designers we haven’t seen for a while, Danielle Everine and Elizabeth Chesney.
[A look by Danielle Everine at "Couture Noir" / Image by Marcus Metropolis]
The three were hit-or-miss. Eliason’s party-friendly looks were fun and youthful but the execution wasn’t quite there yet. Both Everine and Chesney showed some strong pieces incorporating difficult-to-manipulate leathers, but with the focus on one part of a look, other details appeared to be forgotten. However, Everine’s light pink minidress constructed of large round discs sculpted from pieces of saddle grade leather was particularly inspired, eliciting an “ooh” from both me and Emma. It was all good and fine, but overall it wasn’t anything we hadn't seen before.
[A look by Apatico at "Couture Noir" / Image by Marcus Metropolis]
To my delight, the second half of the show was significantly higher on the drama, quality and construction. It started off with two of the city’s hardest-working designers, Megan Bishop and Samantha Rei of the Libertine Asylum collective (which will be having their own show later this fall). Megan’s Apatico line was youthful, feminine, extremely well-made, and dare I say, actually somewhat wearable.
[A look by Blasphemina's Closet at "Couture Noir" / Image by Marcus Metropolis]
Samantha continued on that note, with her Blasphemina’s Closet line showcasing plenty of ruffles, bustles and bows, ending with an incredible bell-sleeved dress coat in baby pink. I got butterflies dreaming about it in black. It’d be the perfect opera coat to see “The Pearl Fishers” next week at the Ordway.
[A look by Seamstrix at "Couture Noir" / Image by Marcus Metropolis]
But the real drama of the night came from Melanie Ree’s Seamstrix collection. Until now, I’d seen her work only in pictures, but the collection as a whole was breathtaking, gorgeous, edgy, and completely unwearable – everything that a show like “Couture Noir” should be, in my opinion. Much of it was in unexpected shades of white, the most ingenious looks pairing Southern-belle ruffles with menacing eyeless silver masks. It’s country club goth futurism, I thought; and Emma echoed, “It’s like what you would wear to have mimosas with Marilyn Manson.” The segment ended with none other than Venus DeMars of All the Pretty Horses rocking the runway in a crazy-good black beaded gown. What a finale!
[Mackenzie Labine, right, with her model at "Couture Noir" / Image by Marcus Metropolis]
But wait – what of the show producer, Mackenzie Labine? I had so been looking forward to seeing what the designer has been working on as she’s been off the radar over the past few years. Her anime-meets-goth aesthetic in her line oiishimomo was always delightful. One model came out, and then…Mackenzie herself walked down the runway. WTF? I thought. One look? The show has been Mackenzie’s labor of love over the past couple of years, and credit must be given to what was a successful event, but I couldn’t help but be disappointed to not see an actual collection from her. Her own dress, at least, was appropriately decadent and true to the Mackenzie aesthetic we love. Incorporating lace, taffeta, beading, and more detail than the eye can take in from ten feet away, as well as varying lengths and shapes, it all managed to work together in beautiful chaos.