Wednesday, April 27, 2011

MNfashion Week in review: Sol Inspirations

Text by Beth Hammarlund, l'etoile magazine Creative Director
Photos by Jules Christman

MNfashion Week came to a close last Saturday night with Sol Inspirations, an eco-friendly fashion show and design competition held at The Depot in downtown Minneapolis. The event showcased both local talent and a trio of Project Runway alumni - season seven winner Seth Aaron Henderson, and Christopher Straub and Ra’mon-Lawrence Coleman of season six, all showcasing designs with an eco-friendly focus.

The show began with a mix of looks from local designers Jenny Carle, CounterCouture, Renalie Bailey and Kathryn V. I’d seen some of the pieces at previous MNfashion Week events, but they got a fresh twist from stylist Hollie Mae Schultz. But when a few designers showed pieces from several seasons ago, it felt more like a re-run.

The design competition featured looks created by Coleman and Straub, as well as several local designers. They were challenged to create pieces for three categories: upcycled/recycled materials, non-traditional materials, and sustainable fabric. At least one look had to feature solar panels, but they did not have to be functional.

[A look by Niki English]

[A look by Ra'mon-Lawrence Coleman]

[A look by Christopher Straub]

Coleman’s looks showcased his elegant, modern style, and Straub went out of his comfort zone with edgy structured pieces, but the clear winner appeared to be Niki English. Her sculptural pieces and use of color would benefit from some editing, but she took big risks and most of them worked. She was also the only designer who appeared to use the solar panels as functional elements on a light-up dress. On the other looks, the panels dangled lifelessly, clinking together like odd plastic fringe.

The event concluded with a new collection from Seth Aaron Henderson, winner of Project Runway season seven. As he introduced his collection, he explained that it was theatrical, and not meant to be worn. Though the collection certainly had edgy elements, many of the pieces were certainly wearable. Perhaps this is his standard introduction, but if it was specific to Minnesota, it seemed a bit condescending.

Henderson’s looks were streamlined and interesting. Exaggerated hips and shoulders punctuated the collection, and the construction was exquisite. A black and white striped dress was unassuming from the front, but the back was paneled and sewn so that the stripes connected in an impeccable pattern. It was a great detail on what could have been a relatively quiet piece.

At the end of the show, Straub was crowned the evening’s winner, and though I enjoyed his pieces and appreciated his departure from his usual aesthetic, I was shocked that English didn’t take home the prize.

Nervous emcees and a few technical snags were normal glitches for a first-time show. Gift bags sat on VIP seats, which made me feel a little better about that steep ticket price. Minneapolis is an eco-conscious town, so Sol Inspirations could certainly find a home here. Their cause is certainly noble and they’ve got the local talent to support it. I look forward to seeing what they do next year.

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