Thursday, April 14, 2011

Voltage Designer Spotlight: Frances Zerr

by Tara Sloane

When Fargo native Frances Zerr broke into the Twin Cities fashion scene, we were (and still are!) completely twitterpated with her wearable design aesthetic, responsible for clean, multi-seasonal wares that both challenge fashion’s innate disposability and epitomize what it means to look effortless. The Voltage veteran and Parsons The New School design grad recently launched an online store at, where you can find pieces from last fall’s gorgeously tailored, 100% organic line, titled ANNA. For this year’s Voltage collection, Zerr is re-tackling basics with an unexpected twist: workwear meets activewear (think high-waisted microshorts and a matching sports bra). We can’t think of a more perfect fashion fusion for gals on the go.

We talked with Frances this week about sustainable shopping, how she’s shaking up basics for her Voltage line, and why she can’t stop watching Lykke Li’s new music video.

l’etoile: Your Voltage collection mixes classic workwear pieces like trench coats, blazers and pencil skirts with activewear. What inspired such an adventurous juxtaposition?

Frances: I saw a spread in a Danish fashion magazine and loved the play between the two polar opposite groups of basics. It gives me an excuse to make what I love and show it in a more surprising way. I also saw it as a challenge. It is pretty different for me in a lot of ways. It’s more urban, less safe, less clean, but I hope that it gives a new element to my work.

photo by Charlie Ward

l’etoile: Your design philosophy is largely centered on creating “sustainable” fashion – pieces that can be worn over and over again and that won’t go “out of style.” What are some of your biggest challenges in doing so? Do you think the fashion world is moving in the direction of sustainability?

Frances: I think the biggest challenge is cultivating the market for this philosophy. I don't believe that there is a shopper that wants only sustainable fashion -- but just hope that we all start thinking about the impact that consumerism has on the world. I shop as much (or more) as the next girl, and almost nothing in my closet is organic besides my own pieces. It isn't realistic to think that there is a girl that even seeks to be like that. I just want us all, including myself, to think a little bit more carefully about what we buy and where it is from, where it will go when we are done wearing it. Or can we wear it again and again and again? I hope so. Those are always the best pieces. I am making a product, and I want to do it in the best way possible.

photo by Wynona Grey of the Minneapolis Affair

l’etoile: From delineation and conception to construction and completed collection, do you find that your design inspiration is an external process, or something more instinctive? What is your typical method for bringing a concept from inception to a blossomed full collection?

Frances: For me it is very technical. I see the trends and I decide what I think the key pieces of the season are. Then I try to relate them to my life and wardrobe. The collections form around those pieces. That's why this collection is a risk for me personally. I gave it a theme: "sports." It isn't defined by me and my simplicity -- it is me, applied.

Photo by Stacy Schwartz

l’etoile: Now in its seventh year, Voltage Fashion Amplified has only intensified in popularity and local talent. To what do you attribute Voltage's success and why do you think it continues to gain momentum?

Frances: Voltage is great because it brings together so many talented people. Talent attracts talent. I'm absolutely not talking solely about designers, but photographers, stylists, PR people, project managers, models, bands, graphic designers, everyone. Voltage is a celebration of all of these people. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that?

Photo by Stephen Stephens

l’etoile: If you could design a collection for any band - past or present - who would it be and why?

Frances: Probably Lykke Li. I think I might just like her new video for "I Follow Rivers" too much, though. I mean, chasing your lover across a beach in head to toe black chiffon? Yes, please.

Voltage: Fashion Amplified happens this Friday, April 15th at First Avenue. For more info and tickets visit

For more info on Frances Zerr visit

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