Great idea, colleagues exclaimed when they saw that we mixed consignment and clearance clothing in with new arrivals for the St. Paul Pioneer Press fall fashion section. It did work out amazingly well and was the perfect way to balance our desire to update and wear designer pieces at a time when buying them full price still seems gratuitous. But here's a little secret: I didn't really set out to mix old with new. It happened when the new stylist I hired, Jane Belfry, indulged her penchant for vintage by pulling clothes from June and gh2 despite my sending her out with a shopping list of new fall trends. I'll be honest: at first I was freaked. I've got one day to get this mammoth shoot completed. The models, the hair and makeup team the photographer were all set to go, and I had a rack of not-so-new clothes. But forget about the red marks on the price tags – there were some amazing pieces – Lanvin; Jean Paul Gaultier – everything looked perfectly modern and now…even if it wasn't. So who cares what the tag says? I know we're lucky to have designer resale shops like June and gh2 in town, but seeing some of the amazing buys really told me I need to look beyond the new arrivals when shopping for fall – or any season. See for yourself.

In a last-ditch effort to save its three shops, veteran Twin Cities retailer Sonnie's is staging what looks a whole lot like a going out of business sale. The signs say "Fighting For Survival Sale" and that's exactly what Sonnie's is trying to do, but with brand new fall merchandise already discounted by 40 and 50 percent, shoppers are easily getting the wrong idea. Owner Barb Bergen isn't worried – she told me Friday she needed to shake things up – and this massive sale is doing just that. But she spent the afternoon "softening" the windows at the Rosedale store, fearing the stark black signs and lack of clothing in the windows might be giving customers the wrong idea.

Straub He's got immunity, so Shakopee designer Christopher Straub, winner of "Project Runway's" first challenge of the season, can kick back and enjoy this week's "Project Runway" screening at Hell's Kitchen. Feel free to join him – and study up for the fashion trivia. Details here.

Coreymonteith His show has aired just once and already Corey Monteith, star of the new Fox musical comedy Glee, has gaggles of girls following him around. No wonder: he's handsome – and sweet (as long as you don't compare him to Zac Efron). He was also a little confused. After his official promotional appearance ended at Mall of America today and he and his co-stars took a ride on the SpongeBob roller coaster, the actors split up to explore the mall. Corey wasn't sure what to do, so he tagged along on my shopping excursion with co-star Amber Riley (I sure wasn't complaining; can't speak for Amber who did mention Corey's instant fan club). Amberriley "Bet you've never been to Torrid," I told him as we headed to Amber's favorite plus size store. He didn't even know what it was. But he waited patiently while we shopped. At Hot Topic, where today's Glee appearance took place, he bought himself a "Gleek" t-shirt promoting the show (geez, give the guy the t-shirt) and then proceeded to ask two Goth salesgirls about cool places to go out in the Twin Cities. Poor guy – he's probably stuck at some dank and dreary headbanger club right now.

Ramoncollection Straubcoleman At a "Project Runway" season premiere party Thursday at the St. Paul Hotel, Mayor Chris Coleman called St. Paul "Center of the fashion universe tonight." That was a stretch (as was his claim that he resembles Tim Gunn), but St. Paul was the center of "Project Runway" news: Shakopee designer Christopher Straub (left) won the first challenge and former Minneapolis resident Ra'Mon-Lawrence Coleman unveiled the collection he called "A Cool Summer's Breeze" (above) and revealed that he will show it, on his own, during New York Fashion Week next month. While "Project Runway" was held up by a legal dispute between Bravo and Lifetime, design careers apparently moved forward. Coleman presented a collection of refined resort wear for women and men with safari influences. Surprisingly reserved, perhaps, for a confident designer with a major Mohawk, but Coleman has worked for both Target and Kohl's. He knows what sells. Straub, meanwhile, showed his new handbags: fancy clutches and satchels with loads of embellishment. Check them both out online: Christopher Straub and Ra'mon-Lawrence Coleman. They gave out each other's URLs on stage before the show. "We are not afraid of shameless plugs," said Coleman, who slipped in minutes before the show started. Straub, with his mom, aunt, brother and supportive partner (an engineer, whom he dresses) was one of the first to arrive, happily working the room for more than an hour. Read more about the premiere party and the contestants' reaction to the show in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Just got home from Glamorama, nursing sore feet. Ne-Yo and Kristinia DeBarge were still partying in the VIP room when I left. They know a good party when they find it. Read my review of the show in the St. Paul Pioneer Press Saturday, Aug. 15 and tune in to Shop Girls 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on FM107.1 for tons of backstage gossip. (Don't miss my exclusive sit-down with Glam surprise performer Miss Piggy in the Pioneer Press on Sunday, Aug. 16)
Besides learning about Ne-Yo's "shopaholic" ways and Kristinia's love of Steve Madden, I learned tonight that iPhone pictures don't turn out well in the dark. I'm left with the memories. Sigh…
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Guess it takes a front page column in the St. Paul Pioneer Press to get a car salesman's attention these days if you don't have a clunker to trade. I've been contacted by several from here to North Dakota this morning, wanting to sell me everything from a Volkswagen to a Chrysler (curious that no one is talking prices). But more interesting are the calls and emails I'm receiving from other prospective buyers. One caller told me she's holding off until December after being ignored or discouraged at several dealerships. Justin, who is trying to replace a 2001Chevy Malibu, shared with me his favorite outrage: the Nissan dealer that tried to charge him $3,500 more than the one down the street. He's hanging on to the Malibu for now – which is just what a Consumer Reports expert suggested. Wait – until the clunkers craziness settles.Jackie couldn't wait. When a Toyota dealer told her to come back another time, she went to Honda and finally found a salesman at Buerkle willing to stay late to help her. She's driving a new Civic – with a sign in the rear window that says "This is not a clunkers deal!"

It's gotta be the animal crackers. How else to explain Hot Mama bucking the boutique blahs and expanding at a time when so many local retailers are downsizing or closing? Hot Mama just announced plans to open its 12th location (fifth in the Twin Cities) at Rosedale Plaza in Roseville. The store will open Nov. 4. But first, on Oct. 22, Hot Mama will unveil a new, larger store at 50th & France in Edina. Hot Mama is moving down the block to the old Acorn space where there will be room for maternity and regular fit to combine (now they are across the hall from each other). Hot Mama sells contemporary women's fashions including a lot of designer denim and accessories often seen on celebs. The store understands what makes women in their 30s and beyond feel sexy. But more than that, Hot Mama knows the key to a shopper's wallet is her children. Ply 'em with snacks, provide them with toys and even have salespeople double as babysitters – then mama can shop.

If you feel like there are a disproportionate number of extremely tall, lithe, good looking people on Nicollet Mall this week, it's true. They're The Models. Pros from New York have descended on the Twin Cities this week to prep for Glamorama, which happens Friday at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. More than a runway show, Glam is like a Broadway production requiring a lot of coordination, glitzy numbers and plenty of dancing. (Models will not only shake their booties – they are allowed to smile.) Poor things, they'll be working long hours on stage, in fittings, with hair and makeup all week. Many tell me they live a bit like hermits while working – early to bed, nothing stronger than milk to drink.
Yeah, right.
They're here all week, so dress nice, get a blow out and be ready to cross to the other side of the street to avoid an inferiority complex.

After inhaling something greasy or sweet at the Uptown Art Fair this weekend, do your skin a favor and visit the Dermalogica Air Stream Trailer, which will be parked in Uptown Friday, Aug. 7 to Sunday, Aug. 9 offering free consultations. Hop aboard for free skin analysis (to reveal your skin's past, present and future), advice on improving your skin and complimentary product samples. For every person who comes through, Dermalogica will donate $1 to the Skin Disease Foundation.