By Juleana Enright
First time Voltage:Fashion Amplified runway designer, Elena Mercurio, is quite the jetsetter. And when she’s not trotting the globe designing red carpet-worthy gowns or styling models for the runways of London Fashion Week, Elena dwells alongside Twin Cities’ leading fashion designers, creating stylish pieces that scream confidence for the everyday woman. After earning a bachelor’s in Apparel Design, Elena landed prestigious positions we’re a little jealous of, including a studying stint in Finland - the place that would later inspire her award-winning senior collection, “Midnight in Moscow.” For her Voltage line, Elena draws inspiration from subtle shapes and feminine silhouettes with a cache of unexpected details, textures and delicate finishes. Her edgy, power-ridden pieces pair and manipulate atypical fabrics for a sophisticated, Frankenstein-esque style creation. From what we’ve heard, be prepared to see mesh used in such a unconventional way that even the Ground Zero peeps will be awed.
Elena chatted with us about her work and what we'll see from her at Voltage this year...
l'étoile: Your fashion talents have taken you all across the globe including a summer studying at Parson's, positions under designers in both NYC and LA, studies in Finland and a gig as lead assistant for a designer during London Fashion Week in 2008. What brings you back to the design scene in MN?
Elena: I have been so blessed to have traveled to many places and experienced what I have already in my life. I have come back because MN is where I am from, and I am very proud to be! There has been a lot of talent I have seen coming from this great state. I thought it would be perfect to debut my own line at my home base. I also have been watching MN grow tremendously in just the past few years in the fashion industry. I wanted to be a part of Minnesota’s growth and success, being recognized and gaining a place in the art & fashion community.
l'étoile: You designed a dress that was worn at the Emmy's in 2008. Dish a little on the dress and who it was for. Can you explain the creative process that goes into making a garment that will gain such exposure?
Elena: The dress I made was for Jaime Killion, who is a production assistant for the CBS show NCIS. She is actually a long time friend of mine who called me up one day and said she was invited to the Emmy’s and would be honored if I could make her dress. Of course I wanted her dress to be a shining star in the crowd. You have to be very careful about editing and picking just the right amount of details in order for a winning red-carpet look. I wanted to find a beautiful print for her. I found a gorgeous silk satin flower print fabric by Ellie Tahari. The colors were all jewel tones - which I think look stunning on anyone - in fuchsia, violet and turquoise on a black background. I wanted to keep the details pretty simple, with just a few pleats at the waistline and on the straps. I did add in a subtle surprise in the back of the dress. I put in a cut away of raspberry colored silk chiffon coming out from under the print in an A-shape when she turns that was just beautiful.
l'étoile: What do you like about the local fashion in the Twin Cities? And how does it compare to the international fashion scene?
Elena: I’ve been meeting so many talented and wonderful people while working on this Voltage collection. I love how Voltage is built on collaboration. When people are working together, the success that emerges is exponential. I think this communed effort is a really unique quality that MN has - instead of constant competition - and I think that mentality is what is going to make Minnesotans stand out in the fashion world. The biggest difference is MN/the Twin Cities has a pretty new fashion scene, compared to other cities like London and New York. Here in MN, we only recently started having a MN Fashion Week, and we are slowly establishing our own scene here, but it has taken a lot of time and effort. It is really hard to compare, in that sense. I think that all the people involved with putting together MNFashion are pioneering the way to make more resources for the local fashion community and to put Minnesota on the map as a place to look for some really great designers.
l'étoile: If your Voltage collection was the love child of two designers, who would they be?
Elena: I like to think I have my own unique vision for my collection, however since I can remember I’ve always been in admiration of the collections by the late Lee “Alexander” McQueen. I always was amazed by the subtle and not so subtle shapes and details that he put into his work. I always try to pull from some of his genius in all that I do, and will continue. For the other “fashion parent” I would say my Voltage collection is the Minneapolis version of Balenciaga in sorts. I always love to pull in unexpected fabrications into my collections, like Balenciaga has been known for. For example, I’m using a lot of mesh and applying it in silhouettes where mesh isn’t normally used. I’m ruffling a stiff, textured faux leather, to seem almost delicate. Also, I like to mix more structured details with feminine draping.
l'étoile: What advice do you have for up-and-coming local designers to advance in the fashion community and get noticed?
Elena: Be open to every opportunity that comes your way. Don’t be afraid to fail when many of the opportunities don’t turn out like expected. Most of all, try to stay true to yourself and your vision as much as possible throughout it all. It is so easy to lose when trying to gain appreciation of your work by others.
For more information on Elena Mercurio click HERE
For more info on Voltage: Fashion Amplified and to purchase tickets to the April 16th event at First Avenue click HERE