by Jahna Peloquin
Leave it to Allison Hamzehpour and Jessica Cunningham, founders of Ignite Models Inc., to throw one of the best-produced, see-and-be-seen fashion shows going down during MNfashion Week every season: Envision. The gorgeous ladies - both former models themselves - seem to balance running a fledgling modeling agency and throwing regularly occurring events with equal aplomb.
This spring’s Envision was decadently subtitled “Artopia," a nod to the bright colors, painterly prints and voluminous silhouettes of the season, and the show’s boutiques and designers - not to mention lead stylist Alice Sydow of I've Got Your Style - didn’t come up short in this area. After an interactive hair show that featured hair stylists live in action on the runway, the show kicked off with spring looks from some of the Twin Cities’ most-loved local boutiques. Bumbershute showcased edgy body-con and glittering drapey dresses that would be at home in a Robert Palmer video or on the dance floor of Studio 54, respectively. (It didn’t hurt that the models were chic-ly styled with slicked back hair, bold red lips and kohl-rimmed eyes.)
Next up, local boutique Drama offered looks that were perfectly feminine, modern and wearable in a simple black, white and grey palette - all the better when stylist Angie Hanson added a Drama-tic! touch with bold jeweled statement necklaces.
Our fave destination for sophisticated menswear, Elsworth, was up next with a segment that merged its dapper aesthetic with a geek-chic style and street sensibility. Layered looks featuring cardigans, bowties and oxfords came down to earth with denim and just a little bit of swagger. And the propping was pure Keith Dorsett and Jordin Filas (the shop’s owner and manager, respectively) - one bespectacled model sauntered down the runway with a book in hand, while a bow-tied fellow took an umbrella with him, which upon opening revealed a graffiti art design. Who knew nerds could be so hot?
Local Motion, OPM and VState followed with a plethora of trends: Strong shoulders, feminine ruffles, and bold prints. But it was one of our all-time fave local boutiques, Cliche, that stole the show with denim-dominated and color-drenched looks topped with Carmen Miranda-inspired headpieces. Apparently, the fruit basket hats and headwraps were the ingenious handiwork of designer Emily Bryngelson and stylist Andrea Oseland. As a “guest judge,” I and the rest of the illustrious panel - Mary O’Regan of METRO Magazine, Allison Kaplan of Pioneer Press, Jen Boyles of City Pages, and Hollie Mae of HMStyling among others - chose Cliche as the clear winner of the boutique segment.
After an intermission to refill our drinks and entertain ourselves by watching DJ Ken Hannigan bob his head to the beats along to a live soul singer, the second half of the show began. As usual, Kimberly Jurek’s kjurek couture was effortlessly chic, tempering her trademark bohemian flair with adorable skirts and ruffle-front dresses in a plethora of exotic, colorful prints. It was also exciting to see one of Jurek’s strongest pieces, the jacket, return to her collection.
Amanda Christine showcased her tailored and extremely wearable dresses, skirts and tops that - thanks to textured cottons and printed silks juxtaposed with sharp cutout details - are as perfect for the yacht as for the dance club. Another longtime Cliche designer, Arwyn Birch, showed an increasingly diversified collection of dresses, incorporating lace and ruffles into her knit and belted designs.
Esteemed local designer Russell Bourrienne yet again offered a fresh take on menswear in a collection of cropped trench coats in plaids, stripes citrus brights that had l’etoile magazine art director Chris Larson’s tongue watering. Our favorite piece had to be the hunter green-and-white plaid trench, which clearly deserves a spot in the wardrobe of Gossip Girl’s Chuck Bass.
Jenny Carle’s on-trend collection of denim and pastel dresses, skirts and tops exhibited the designer’s penchant for the sweet (bows, retro collars and ruffles). The designer appears to grow exponentially each season, her casual, girlish aesthetic tempered by a slightly bolder silhouette and luxurious fabrics, and increased attention to detail and fit. The whimsical woodland crowns were a nice touch.
The dresses and separates by longtime Cliche line Peloria (by designer Korrin Lohmann) featured unusual cutouts,which worked in some cases, and seemed overwrought in others. Lohmann has always been known to incorporate a unique artistic perspective to her clothing, but it doesn’t always translate as wearable or flattering (or well-executed). However, the line did feature more tailored, sophisticated silhouettes than we’re used to seeing from the designer, and the juicy colors really set off the collection.
The winner of the designer segment was the evening’s biggest mysteries to even those firmly entrenched in the fashion scene. The line, Rose White, came courtesy of recent St. Kate’s grad Amanda Chaffin, who once interned under Amanda Christine. The young designer came up with a au-courant collection of neutral separates that made up the most sophisticated line - and one of the most well-styled - of the evening. The drapey pants, one-shouldered tanks, gathered-waist skirts and elegant blouses didn’t exactly break the mold for originality, but it was a fresh, cohesive and well-executed statement from a designer who’s certainly one to watch. And: she did swimwear! Quite a feat, if you ask any designer. Accessorized with darling sheer white gloves and white gauzy veils, it felt classic yet perfectly now.
The show ended on a dark note with Sarah M. Holm’s nearly all-black collection. It struck us as overly derivative of Alexander McQueen and Lady Gaga, with headpieces completely enveloping the models’ faces and elongated sleeves straight out of a Tim Burton movie. But despite the darkness, the collection did cleverly play into spring via the idea of rain. The umbrella-shaped skirts and headpieces (finished with a drip-like effect) seemed a bit obvious and a little wonky, but the drip-shaped cutouts and black rubber rainboots were subtle and well-executed. Obviously, most of these looks are meant for only the fashionably brave, but, as Lee Alexander McQueen once said, “You have to push forward and realize the power of fantasy and escapism.”
All photos by Chris McDuffie.