Sunday, April 17, 2011

MNfashion Week in review: Emma Berg & Kevin Kramp

Though MNfashion's 2011 Fashion Week calendar is overflowing with events, Emma Berg and Kevin Kramp's joint runway presentation managed to create constant buzz. Held in the MNfashion Atrium in the Grainbelt Building, the show was straightforward and gimmick-free.

Berg presented "Tragicomedy," a collection focused on 2010, an mournful year politically, socially and environmentally. Touching on events such as the passing of Proposition 8, the BP oil spill, and the earthquake that gutted Haiti, Berg's thoughtful collection cataloged and reflected these events with a sense of dark irony.

The show opened with a pair of ivory palazzo pants and matching blouse in watery silk. The graceful neckline and delicate sleeves clashed with a garish red smile sequined across the front of the blouse. It was beautifully vulgar, something the late Alexander McQueen probably would have loved.

A red t-shirt blouse re-worked the classic British World War II poster, replacing "Keep Calm and Carry On" with "It Gets Better." Despite the potential for cheesiness, the look worked. It felt modern and relevant.

An ivory shell with a sequined drops of black oil was paired with cropped wide-leg pants with a beautifully dyed band of bluish black just above the hem. Photographs do not due this look justice. The dyed pant legs appeared again on a pair of ivory silk overalls. The allusion to the plight of Mexican migrant workers in the Southwestern United States was made clear with an appliqué of the eagle crest from the Mexican flag. Compared to the rest of the collection, the look felt heavy handed.

Halfway through the presentation, a gown of fluttery white layers with bloody red strips of silk received a burst of applause. The design was sophisticated and feminine, but the unexpected streaks of red are what elevated it to a higher level.

A black cocktail dress and a funereal full-length gown served as chic mourning wear. They weren't as edgy as some of the other looks, but they were emotional pieces, well-designed and constructed.

An outstanding red lace number felt like a finale look. Though it incorporated elements frequently seen on the runways of Marc Jacobs and Christian Dior, it didn't feel derivative. It could easily be worn down a runway in New York or Paris Fashion Week.

The overt sweetness of the ruffled ivory and cream finale dress veered into Erin Fetherston territory. A tiered dress paired with Louis Vuitton-esque bunny ears and lacy leggings ended the show on a welcome note of optimism, but its unapologetic girlishness and naivite distanced it from the rest of the collection. I would have liked to see a more gradual transition from pessimism to optimism in the narrative.

As the line of runway models took their final lap, the thoughtfulness and skill of the collection hit home. It was a rousing success. Berg took her bow in one of her own designs and her excitement was palpable as she giggled down the runway while the audience stood and cheered.

Kevin Kramp has been making the rounds at Paris Fashion Week and was recently featured in Vogue Italia, so it's a privilege to catch the designer's work in Minneapolis. He opened his presentation with a pair of his signature dropped crotch knit trousers that were surprisingly wearable considering the avant garde nature of the designer's work.

Open weave sleeveless sweaters made several appearances. Seeing the intricacies of the knit displayed on bare skin gave audience members further back a chance to better appreciate the intricacies of the design.

Kramp included several looks for women (though much of his work is unisex), much to the audience's delight. The baggy shapes paired with angled baseball caps created a look was feminine, but tough. Almost street-wise.

The elaborate finale look was painstakingly intricate. Several complicated patterns wove together effortlessly. The piece was, without question, a work of art. Audience members craned their necks to catch every loop and stitch, but there was so much to appreciate that it was impossible to catch all of the details.

Not one to shy away from a good time, Kramp wheeled out onto the runway in one of his own creations. As he half-pedaled half-walked on his little bicycle, he gave out exuberant high fives and handshakes to audience members lucky enough to score a front row seat. Fashion is often serious to the point of self-parody, so it's always refreshing to see a successful designer who is clearly having fun.

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