text by Jahna Peloquin
Photos by Stephen Stephens for Digital Crush Photography
It was a gorgeous spring evening this past Sunday in St. Paul as Christopher Straub, fan favorite of Project Runway's sixth season and Shakopee native, debuted his first full collection. Ever. That's right - the designer who won so many hearts with his earnest hopefulness and optimism, and a penchant for feminine, wearable designs, had never before created an entire ready-to-wear collection that would grace the catwalk.
The results? It was all very Christopher, to say the least. His signature petals, ruffles and folded organza detailing were all there, as were his tried-and-true one-shouldered, empire-waist silhouettes. That's all well and good -- and wearable -- but a bit predictable at this point.
It was on the strength of his design portfolio, a small collection of adorable dresses with a slightly tough, modern edge, that helped score him a coveted slot on the reality show (along with one-time Minneapolis designer Ra'mon-Lawrence Coleman). Straub went on to place fourth, nearly making it to Bryant Park. In the beginning, Tom and Lorenzo of go-to Project Runway blog Project Rungay gave him high marks, saying it was "some of the best pre-show work we've seen yet. This stuff could be hung right on a rack in a boutique, ready to go."
And if nothing else, Straub's greatest strength continues to be the off-the-rack wearability of his garments. After all, it's hard to say no to a cute dress. And this is much of what the packed audience of fervant Straub fans and local fashion kingpins were treated to against the decadent, old-world glamour of the historic Saint Paul Hotel -- where incidentally, he celebrated (with Coleman) at the l'étoile-produced premiere party for Project Runway just last August.
Perhaps it's a nod to his born-and-raised, aw-shucks Midwestern roots that he appears to market to those outside of the world of high fashion. His designs don't necessarily take bravery to pull off - these are dresses for the girl who likes to dress up on weekends, out of the suburbs. And there ain't nothing wrong with making fashion accessible, say we. Besides, it's a way for a fledgling designer to make a living in what is a very tough business.
However, it would be refreshing to see Straub push his aesthetic a bit more in the future. His most forward designs of the night did just that, tempering his soft, petal and ruffle-drenched aesthetic with a tough edge.
It was the new elements he incorporated into the collection that really worked: knits, jackets, leather-work, and pants (!), including one particularly hot pair made of electric blue leather.
The leather-like studded mini skirt was another favorite of the night, the swingy shape complimented Straub's aesthetic easily. Also particularly refreshing were the two well-styled menswear looks that hit the runway. One thing's for sure: the boy can cut a mean leather jacket.
Another point of criticism not to be taken lightly: presentation. Presentation can turn a collection from bland and dull to exciting and fresh, at least to the eye of the audience. While the lighting and production were top-notch, the models were sub-par and the styling was uninspired. When included, his belts and handbags were integral to the show, but some jewelry, gloves, and hot shoes would've amped up things considerably.
All that being said, Straub debuted a well-produced show of wearable, sellable clothing, putting an exciting and ambitious cap on what has turned out to be the biggest and best MNfashion Week to date.
Christopher Straub accessories are available at www.christopherstraub.com. View more photos at www.digitalcrushphoto.com.
Jahna Peloquin is the Fashion Editor for l'étoile magazine, Lead Stylist for Voltage: Fashion Amplified, and a freelance fashion writer and stylist.