by Beth Hammarlund
photos by Erik Hess
Art and fashion enthusiasts crowded the halls of the MIA last Thursday to support the museum's First Thursday collaboration with MNFashion. Four esteemed local designers selected inspiration pieces from the museum's vast permanent collection. Their final creations--three looks each--were displayed in a runway show held along the grand, marble-lined corridor of the museum's second floor.
Emma Berg opened the show with her Dali-inspired look: a sheer, buff blouse with a flouncy collar and a caged skirt of boning draped in the same delicate fabric. It was an elegant juxtaposition of hard and soft. Berg is known for her bright and playful palette, and it was a pleasant surprise to see her aesthetic captured in subdued neutrals.
The second piece, clearly influenced by Pablo Picasso's "Woman in Armchair," was Berg in her comfort zone. Pops of brilliant blue, green and fuchsia sequins brightened up the asymmetrical black and cream dress. Though it wasn't a great departure from her signature style, it was Berg's most daring runway look.
Berg's final look, inspired by an African Nkisi sculpture, consisted of a floor-length black crushed velvet skirt and a dramatic neckpiece over a sheer black blouse. The show-stopping element was the neckpiece, a tangle of cotton coil dyed black and intricately wound and sewn to create a collar that was gothic and aggressive.
Designer Laura Fulk, who has graduated to mostly solo shows in the Twin Cities, was back in the mix. The designer presented three variations of an oxford shirt and knee-length pencil skirt. As is Fulk's style, something was askew in each of the designs. There was a buttoned front opening that fell at a diagonal, a shirt collar twisted to the side, and a tie that hung off-kilter.
Fulk was inspired by Harold Edgerton's famous photograph of a bullet shooting through an apple, and the designer attempted to capture the freeze-frame the bullet's path with carefully placed explosions of white tulle. Unfortunately, the concept didn't quite shift into a fully realized sartorial interpretation. Fulk is one of the Twin Cities' most intellectual designers. She tells a nuanced and fully realized story with each collection. Sadly, in these pieces, the story didn't quite translate.
Fresh off showing his new men's collection at SCENEaSOTA, Raul Osorio constructed three looks inspired by the MIA's collection of Native American art. Though such a selection could tempt a designer to go off the deep end with something cliche like beading or fringe, Osorio kept it simple with subtle, consistent references.
Osorio's collection at SCENEaSOTA was created for the modern dandy. It's an aesthetic that suits him well. So it was quite refreshing to see the designer expand his range for the MIA show by creating pieces that were more understated, even a bit rugged. An elegantly draped black coat stood out, and I'm hopeful that the designer will eventually make a women's version.
Finale designer Samantha Rei surprised quite a few local fashion followers when she announced that she had chosen architectural furniture design as her inspiration. Rei is known for her extremely feminine, Lolita-like dresses. So to hear that she would be taking inspiration from artists such as George Elmslie was quite intriguing.
Her first look was an asymmetrical party dress in an unexpected burnt orange. Heavy rectangular fringe along the hem and criss-cross ornamentation recalled Elmslie's work. The lines created in the look were both flattering and impressively thought out.
The second look boasted a similar shape as the first, but this time the design was perfectly symmetrical. Though the hard lines and heavy fringe were still in place, this look was set apart with it heavy floral fabric, recalling the upholstery of one of Elmslie's signature chairs.
Rei's last dress, the finale of the show, combined both the strong lines of the first look and the heavy floral fabric of the second.It was a strong finish for the designer. Rei's work is not for the faint of heart. She walks the line between the princess and the warrior, and it takes a great deal of confidence to wear her creations. However, the women who wear her dresses are guaranteed to appear both fearless and feminine.
Between the runway show, the trunk shows, the l'étoile-sponsored scavenger hunt, and a performance by local punk act Pink Mink, there were plenty of activities for the art-hungry guests. The MIA was a perfect venue for a fashion event, and we're definitely hopeful that the museum will make this fantastic concept an annual happening.