IMG_0403And to think: there are those who see fit to mock the world of fashion. Tuesday's Voltage Spring 2010 Preview was supposed to be a showcase of retail-ready apparel. This…men's onesie seemed more ready for "Saturday Night Live." But then, knitwear designer Kevin Kramp's bio says he designs for a "globally nomadic tribe of gritty, physical and elegant men."  Sold? Well get this: Kamp was just hired as lead knitwear designer for venerable men's brand St. Croix Collections. He moves to Winona tomorrow. Can't wait to see the traditional St. Croix crowd in this!

Fresh from the Voltage Spring 2010 Preview fashion show tonight at the studios of Vision Management, it's exciting to see the local fashion scene growing up. This was an invite-only event geared towards getting retailers interested in selling the clothes that will appear in the Voltage: Fashion Amplified show on April 16. The objective being to take local designs from runway to retail. I'll share my perspective on that in my Savvy Shopper column in this Sunday's St. Paul Pioneer Press. But I won't keep you in suspense over the hip crowd that attended tonight's show: Project Runway's Christopher Straub and Fox 9's Robyne Robinson were there, having contributed accessories for the show. Macy's fashion expert Laura Schara and the owners of several local boutiques were there – as was my shopping buddy, Calvin Klein model Will Defiel, just back from walking in the Alexander McQueen and Dolce & Gabanna shows in Milan. Not bad. But about the fashion. PFT Couture was a definite highlight (shown with a Christopher Straub handbag): IMG_0404

Danielle Everine showed potential with a feminine take on tailored clothing: IMG_0398 And here's CK model Will Defiel, just because he looks so cute. IMG_0396

Can't say I'm surprised: popular Highland Park boutique Stephanie's is closing its 50th & France location. Perfect example of success at one store not guaranteeing another. Stephanie Morrissey has such a great eye for fashion that it seemed like a sure-thing to bring her well-edited assortment across the river. Unfortunately, she didn't follow and her absence was obvious. The Edina store lacked the warmth and personality you feel in St. Paul. The clothes don't sell themselves – even when they're adorable. The Edina inventory will be absorbed by Highland in the coming months (translation: no blowout sale). Currently, the winter 50-70 percent off sale is still on at both locations, and some new merchandise for spring will be brought in at 50th. "We're in no hurry to leave," Morrissey said. But when they do, lines only carried at 50th, including Tibi, Genetic Denim and Shoshanna will be available in St. Paul. And while no other street addresses are planned, Morrissey is turning her attention online. She plans to open an online store and expand her inventory for that venture, while holding on to price-friendly but fashion forward brands like Costa Blanca and Urban Behavior as well as the tried and true Nicole Miller, Susana Monaco and James Jeans. Sounds like a plan.

Urbanjunketred I get compliments on my red T.O.T.E. bag from Minneapolis-based Urban Junket every time out. I can carry it three different ways, it has compartments for everything I need, love the vivid color -and it's made of recycled bottles. It's the perfect time to get your own: Through Valentine's Day, Urban Junket will donate $10 to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund for every bag ordered on its website. Comes in three sizes, ranging in price from $86 to $143. (In the Twin Cities, if you want to save on shipping charges, ask to pick up at UJ's St. Louis Park office.)

This sounds promising: Just got word about a new showroom that will allow the public to shop for designer furniture and accessories at deeply discounted prices at International Market Square. (Generally, you need a date with a decorator to get in.) The Sale Room @ IMS is scheduled to open March 4 with furniture, decorative accessories, textiles, rugs and lighting consigned from designer showrooms for at least 50 percent less than the suggested retail price. Check back – I'll let you know when it's ready to shop.

Nicolekidman I thought Nicole Kidman looked hot at the 2010 Screen Actors Guild Awards on Saturday night. So refreshing to see her hair loose and a smile on her face. Her updos tend to look so…uptight. Lest you think she just towel dried and ran out the door, celeb hairstylist David Babaii gives the play-by-play in a press release delivered bright and early this morning. Color: Gingered Toffee Red, applied "with a combination of deposit-only color, a foil-out reverse highlighting technique and a sulfate-free glaze." (I'm lost too.) To style, David says he gently towel dried the hair and sprayed Bohemian Beach Spray throughout. Next, he "gently rough dried" (thinking he missed the oxymoron) the hair moving his hands in various directions to create texture. Once dry, he fashioned a center part and divided tresses into 4 sections (sides, back crown & nape). Starting at the nape area, he alternated between 1-inch and 1 1/2 inch ceramic curling irons (that half an inch makes all the dif), taking "V" shaped partings. He then wrapped hair around the inside of the barrel, holding for 10 seconds then gently releasing the curl. With each alternating curl, David slid his fingers up the curl to gently create a soft back combing effect and enhanced texture. After finishing the entire head, David used his fingers and added extra Bohemian Beach Spray to loosen the curls and highlight the richness of the hair color.
Now, all of this should convince me that a new product will make absolutely no difference in my appearance, without David Babaii's team to rough up my tresses in some four hour process. Still, I want that Bohemian Beach Spray.

Sad shopper Mike asks: "Ali,
Has Lava Lounge closed? I'm hoping they have just moved, but the store was boarded up today. What do you know?" Well, Mike, I know that Lava Lounge lasted much longer than most. I know that we must support our innovative, out-there boutiques or they won't last as long as Lava did. In their case, it was time to move on to a place warmer and well, fancier. Read about it here and see pics of the new Wil Stiles shop in Palm Springs here. Meanwhile, support our independent boutiques and hope there is another bold, funky, edgy, weird, hip, warm, savvy retailer waiting in the wings to take a chance and dazzle the Twin Cities.

Plant markers Bachman's is teaming up with junk queen Ki Nassauer to reinvent its gift and home business. The new department will mix vintage finds with repurpose artifacts and artisan-made decor. Goods will appeal to a variety of tastes from Euro and modern country to loft living, cottage and kids. Nassauer, whose Junk Market Occasional Sales have grown into an annual Junk Bonanza as well as several decorating books and an editor post at the new Flea Market Stylemagazine, has been scouring the country for vintage finds and unique artists – the kinds of items you wouldn't expect to find at a major garden store. The new gift and home department will be unveiled on March 20 at Bachman's flagship Lyndale Avenue store in Minneapolis as well as Plymouth and Eden Prairie locations. The plan is to expanded it to Bachman's in Apple Valley, Maplewood and Fridley by August.

Voltage: Fashion Amplified has announced the lineup for its April 16 show, which will kick off Spring MNfashionweek. The high-energy fashion and music event will feature designers Carmichael Claith, Geroge Moskal, PFT Couture, Raul Osorio and several other Twin Citians you probably haven't heard of…but perhaps should. I'll tell you more next week, when I attend the Voltage designer preview. For the first time, MNfashion is staging a private preview for retail buyers and media in hopes of getting these fledgling lines into stores by April so that Voltage can become a career launcher, rather than just another party. Got to respect that drive. Stay tuned!

NelleclutchThere has never been a better time to buy a handbag. On Friday, Jan. 29, local designer Laura Nelli will donate 30 percent of every Nelle Handbag  purchase to Vision of Hope Ministries Earthquake Relief Fund, a non-profit that has been empowering the people of Haiti since 1993. "Like many small business owners, I felt compelled to contribute," said Nelli, who happens to be close friends with the founders of VOHM. "They are providing necessary care to those most in need." Purchases on Jan. 29 will be shipped in time for Valentine's Day with a small note mentioning that a portion of proceeds went to help the people of Haiti.