Sunday, April 17, 2011

MNfashion Week in review: CounterCouture & George Moskal

Text by Beth Hammarlund, l'etoile magazine Creative Director
Photos by Stephen Stephens for Digital Crush Photography

The MNfashion Atrium in the Grainbelt Building hosted several shows over the last week. With the moody lighting and stylish atmosphere, the unfinished warehouse space was the perfect backdrop for local lines CounterCouture and George Moskal to unveil their new collections.

CounterCouture, an eco-friendly design collective that uses recycled fabrics, based their collection on Eloise, the charming children's book character known for making elegant mischief in the Plaza Hotel. The collection opened with a selection of cocktail dresses and skirts. Square flaps of a variety of textured fabric adorned several looks, but the patchwork effect felt homespun.

A pale blue shift with a black peter pan collar had lots of potential. The black belt and sheer black back took it from girlishly innocent to coy. However, the asymmetrical hemline, strange construction, and questionable fit kept the look from working. There were too many bells and whistles and not enough substance. But with better construction and a few edits, it could be a very clever and wearable little dress.

There were several charming separates shown, including a sheer black blouse with a peter pan collar that went directly on my shopping list. An ivory lace tank with a deep scoop in front and back had the unexpected detail of black edging. It would look great with a pair of high-waisted jeans or trousers.

Much of the collection veered toward vampiness, with figure-hugging pencil skirts and fitted shifts that seemed at odds with the collection's inspiration of little Eloise. A simple black and white cocktail dress with sheer side panels gave the audience a clear view of the model's every curve. The juxtaposition of the conservative cut and the exhibitionist side panels was confusing.

In many cases, the difficulties appeared to stem from the availability of materials. Many of the fabrics used in the collection are notoriously challenging to manipulate and the results can be unforgiving. There were multiple looks in which the idea worked, but the execution didn't. Though it's admirable to use only upcycled and recycled fabrics, the last thing you want is for someone to say, "It was great considering it was all from recycled fabrics." CounterCouture has plenty to offer, but the designers need to focus more on fabrics and technique to drop that qualifier.

George Moskal presented a collection inspired by the quintessential French woman. In lieu of an obvious theme, he focused his collection on fabric and silhouette. But the result was far from disjointed. The looks may not have told a narrative, but they created a character. The opening floaty periwinkle mini-dress with a gold belt had a very Mediterranean feel. Though beautifully made, it was nothing new. However, as the model turned back down the runway, the folds in her skirt shifted and the audience gasped at the realization that it was actually a romper. Making a romper seem elegant is a major achievement for any designer.

Moskal is known for his separates, and his offering of dainty shorts and casual blouses was a pleasant departure from his cocktail attire. Plenty of pieces could be mixed and matched and layered. The collection could easily create an entire warm weather wardrobe.

The most Parisian look of the evening was perfectly suited for the easy city style of Jean Seberg in Breathless. A relaxed gray blouse and full green skirt captured the relaxed French style that American women are constantly attempting to emulate. A simple white linen shift with clever seamwork was a perfect summer basic. With the right accessories, it could easily be dressed up or down.

A structured blouse in periwinkle floral brocade and a pair of high-waisted linen palazzo pants received a burst of applause. The look was perfectly suited for a mid-afternoon glass of wine on the French Riviera. It's the first time I've ever seen a design succeed in making a brocade feel positively summery.

An orange sherbert halter gown closed the show. Though the construction was immaculate and the colors delicious, the design felt forced compared to the ease of the rest of the collection. Finale gowns are a tradition, but the penultimate white and periwinkle separates were the high note of the evening.

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