Monday, November 8, 2010


by Beth Hammarlund / photos by Stephen Stephens

Last Saturday night, fashionable Twin Citizens flocked downtown to attend the sold out fashion show SCENEaSOTA. In its third year, the production has matured to become an anticipated annual event in the local design community. This year's incarnation was held in Loft2 above Om Restaurant, an airy warehouse space with a picture window view of busy First Avenue. Before the show began, guests sipped wine and pouted for photographs, while taking the occasional break to sample fragrances and test Smashbox cosmetics. Eventually seats were filled, gift bags were inspected, and the fashion chatter came to a halt.

In addition to featuring collections from eight designers, producer Maritza Ramirez broadened this year's presentation to include four fashion-centric short films by Elijah Chhum. As the lights dropped and the projectors rolled, you could feel the crowd's energy and excitement in the air.

The fashion kicked off with looks from Jenn Bratvold and accessories by Carrier Pigeon. Bratvold's collection included nods to schoolgirl style, English country dressing, and retro mod fashions. The designer clearly has a lot of great ideas, but needs to streamline her point of view. At times the collection felt jumbled, but a number of pieces were quite sharp and gave audience members a sense of the designer's potential.

Britta Feuerhelm showed a collection of drip-dyed silks in a variety of blousy shapes and colors. Though the designer has a great eye for creating interesting palettes, she still has room to grow with her construction, which was often overly basic. However, a few dresses and separates boasted clever shapes and cuts. Hopefully the designer will continue to move in that direction. The collection's leather accessories by Feuerhelm deserve a mention as well. The juxtaposition of drapey silk and structured leather and accessories by Ann Lambrecht was chic, without feeling overly styled.

Kathryn V's segment opened with a ladylike dress that was heavily featured in one of the accompanying short films. Though the elbow-length sleeves and graceful scoop back conveyed a coy sexiness, the shirttail hem felt strangely out of place. The designer had better luck with separates, where she showed mix-and-match skirts, blouses and jackets. Playful baubles by Timmilynn Johnson accessorized the collection.

Jenny Carle has become known for consistently feminine and well-tailored cocktail dresses, and while she maintained her signature aesthetic (there were plenty of tiered skirts and and structured strapless necklines), she broadened her range with a selection of full-length gowns. A sweetheart navy number was smartly accessorized with gold jewelry from Tasha Rae, the overall effect of which was Grecian without veering into the costume. A stunning closing gown was one of the highlights of the entire show.

Christine Carmichael of Carmichael Claith opened with a full-length one-shoulder gown in dramatic crimson. For the most part, the designer stuck with what she does best: ladylike pieces with a whiff of classic Brittania. The last three looks (despite an addition of a fun pinstripe menswear-inspired jacket complete with coattails) were all variations of the same olive party dress. It was a gorgeous look (the tea-length version is pictured above), but it was disappointing not to see more variety from an established local designer. Feathered and beaded accessories from Bionic Unicorn kept the styling from veering into the overly sweet.

Though Raul Osorio has been straying more into womenswear, his menswear is still where he best captures his unique sensibility in his designs. Accessorized with pieces from Freedom From Doubt, Osorio's well-made collection of drop-crotch coveralls, skinny trousers and tailored shirts was sophisticated and irreverent. Contrasting pockets and crotches coupled with two-tone bow ties and dapper hats served as a necessary reminder that Minneapolis fashion has more to offer consumers than cocktail dresses and princess coats.

Frances Zerr's collection of dresses and separates immediately reminded me of Beverly Hills 90210. In a good way, I promise. Tapered pants, casual bustier tops with spaghetti straps, and button-front dresses felt fresh and modern, while still referencing the style of our favorite '90s teenage heroines. There were plenty of styles suitable for modern Kelly Taylors and Brenda Walshes, not to mention a few black pieces that felt very Emily Valentine. The collection was paired with delicious faux fur accessories from Ruby3, though there were a few moments when accessorizing a thin sundress with a faux fur ushanka didn't make sense.

Finale designer Kevin Kramp continued along his path as the Twin Cities' most avant garde menswear designer. Though many of his styles are reasonably unisex, I couldn't ignore a pang of jealousy as the male models paraded down the runway. It would be a treat to see the fearless designer tackle womenswear. As has been the case in the past, Kramp's pieces were paired with accessories by Ferociter, a line also known for taking risks. Ferociter designer Aimee Dukes and Kramp continue to compliment one another's aesthetics.

Despite a few minor technical hiccups, the presentation ran smoothly. Chumm's short films were an unexpected treat for many guests. Though the films included moments that felt overly self-aware, they were tightly edited and successfully atmospheric. Chumm excels at communicating moods and feelings, and his films consistently set the tone for the following designers.

Models were provided by Vision Model Management, and considering the whitewash of models on the international runways, kudos must be given to both Vision and SCENEaSOTA for casting an array of gorgeous models that were racially and aesthetically diverse. Though there were still the occasional self-conscious poses, the majority of the models walked at a confident clip with a seasoned attitude.

All in all, a dynamic showing of local talent across the board, from design to film to production. We expect that Loft2 will be booking a number of fashion events in 2011, as SCENEaSOTA proved it to be a perfect setting for a large scale, stylish soiree. In fact, we're already fantasizing about next year's SCENEaSOTA in our heads...

For more photos from the event, check out our post HERE.

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