IMG_0402Lane Bryant model Ashley Graham (with fellow LB model Tonya Pittman) was at Mall of America Thursday for the opening of the plus size retailer’s redesigned store. But all eyes were on her, thanks to the controversy over television networks reportedly refusing to air the lingerie commercial she stars in. Once we got the serious questions out of the way about size and prejudice in America (read it in the St. Paul Pioneer Press), we talked about her exercise routine (yoga and a trainer once a week – “If I’m not busy”) and what she’d eaten for the day (yogurt, a ham and cheese omelet with whole wheat toast for breakfast; a chicken Cesar salad and side of fries for lunch). And we talked about being a size 16 – which frankly, has never looked so good. Ashley, who doesn’t seem “big” in the least in person, had not yet changed into her Lane Bryant uniform when we met. She was wearing Robert Rodriguez skinny pants, a Top Shop shirt, a cropped jacket from Barney’s and carrying a Mui Mui bag. What’s that about plus size girls have no shopping options? “I can’t just walk into Yves Saint Laurent and buy a cute shirt,” Ashley said. (Neither can I, honey – wallet size hurts, too.) But she did name several designers that have extended their size run, including Marc Jacobs and Prada. Of course, her size 16 might technically be considered “plus,” but it isn’t exactly the same league – or struggle – as a 26. Ashley said she’d like to see the retail world do away with the “plus” label. Why can’t every women’s department simply feature clothes from a 0 to a 32 without, as she says, “banishing (plus size women) to the back of the room?”

Straubshow1 More surprising than the foil as fabric, silver pants and layers of ruffles and feathers at Christopher Straub's premiere fashion show at the St. Paul Hotel Sunday was the menswear he sprinkled in. A slim leather jacket with stripes on the sleeve (shown on a female model as well), hooded sweatshirt, tailored pants and black high tops. In short, Straub's style. And it looked cool. Kudos to Straub for taking risks, hustling and making the most of the spotlight he is currently enjoying.

IMG_0368 Model, actress agent, reality star-who-won't-quit Janice Dickinson killed some time talking to me before Christopher Straub's show at the St. Paul Hotel Sunday. She looked better than expected up close, although nothing moves on that face. She was aloof, yet down-to-earth ("When I'm not painted and pulled, I'm a middle aged fatigued old lady.") She had never met Minnesota's "Project Runway" favorite and she called him Christian (Siriano slip?) when she introduced him. But she did sit dutifully in the front row next to her good friend, Privileged Model Management owner Craig Damon, who was involved in producing the show. She curled one of her inflated lips when asked to take pictures with fans, but did it anyway. She complimented my dress. She talked to me about beauty ("Drink TONS of water"), modeling ("They look like a factory stamped bunch of cattle"), Heidi Montag's plastic surgery, by her own doctor ("At least I was 32 – I waited until I lactated"), Dancing with the Stars ("Pam Anderson is just neat.") and volcanic ash ("It's so important for algae levels in the ocean. And did you know it's the best thing for damaged hair?") She didn't seem to care much who I work for, only that I had a notebook. I told her I'd likely write a little something for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "Little?!!" she said. If you want an expose, I told her, you've got to give me more. "Read the books," she retorted with a shrug.

IMG_0363 And to think, I worried my sparkly eyeshadow was a little bit over the top. Leave it to stylist, dancer, dreamer Grant Whittaker to create an event that brings together burlesque dancers, pageant queens and upper crust clients from Edina boutique Grethen House N'Etc. The Fashion Ball at the Ritz Theater in Minneapolis combined over-the-top dance numbers by Ballet of the Dolls with runway segments featuring some knock-out looks from Grethen House and J. Novachis. It was glittery, raw and irreverent, as only male dancers in wedding dresses and head-to-toe leopard print can be. Fun. Exactly what fashion should be.
Some tickets still remain for Saturday night's show.

You know you've been on the beat a while when covering a store opening for the second time at the same mall. Hugo Boss has announced plans to open at Mall of America in August. But those of us who've been shopping a while know it's not Hugo first trip to the MOA. Back in 2000, local retailer Cedric Kirchner (yes, he of the furs) opened two Hugo Boss franchises – Hugo for men and women and Boss with men's dress clothes – at MOA in one of the mall's early attempts to go after luxury shoppers. Both stores were short lived. But the mall's executive vice president Maureen Bausch said that had more to do with Kirchner being spread too thin at the time with four stores around town. "I do not think the reason they left was about performance," Bausch said. This time, it's the Hugo Boss company itself bringing Boss to MOA. The 3,000-square-foot store will carry several shades of the brand, including BOSS Black, BOSS Orange and BOSS Green menswear collections, which encompass everything from dress to golf apparel along with shoes and accessories. It fills a void left by Brooks Brothers. And of course, it is being hailed, along with the recent arrival of Bestey Johnson, as a swing towards luxury at MOA. But we know: it's more of a swing back.

Who needs the BabyGap clearance rack when you've got moms staging mass consignment sales? Spoiled Little Rascals opens its spring sale at the Eagan Community Center today featuring around 25,000 gently used items from more than 150 sellers. Meanwhile, a Just Between Friends kids and maternity consignment sale is going on today through Saturday at Southdale Center in Edina. For both, consignors pay a small participation fee and a percentage of profits and in return, they avoid the hassles of setting up and advertising their own garage sale. Is this the way to go? I've got many boxes of outgrown boys clothes I'm itching to get out of my basement, but every time I even contemplate a garage sale, I need a nap. Spoiled Little Rascals Eagan sale runs 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Today and Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $1 Thursday only (free with a non-perishable food donation to charity.) Just Between Friends in Edina is 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. today, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The owner of two popular Galleria home decor stores, ATAZ and Three Rooms has decided to combine the two. “After 50 years in retail, I was ready to retire,” retailer Patty Burrets said in a statement Wednesday. “But
then the idea of uniting both stores re-ignited the passion that
motivated me years ago. So I’ve landed on a phrase I’ve come to enjoy –
‘semi-retirement’.” Say goodbye to Three Rooms as you know it – the store will close at 5 p.m. Friday, April 23 for remodeling and will reopen in its current location on May 20. ATAZ will remain open through May 28. In the newly worked space, Burrets plans to focus more on local artists while continuing to spotlight the contemporary design that has always distinguished the store. 

IMG_0345 From last spring's suffocation theme to Tuesday evening's chic office separates, chunky knits and asymmetrical coats – what a difference a year has made for Minneapolis designer Laura Fulk. She's got financial backing and is focused on polishing her line for retail sale. She showed great promise, expert craftsmanship and a flair for putting on a solid fashion show. IMG_0347

Ivy is closing after five years in Uptown. Owner Ini Iyamba, who hosted a denim event just last weekend, said simply, "It's the perfect time to say goodbye." All merchandise is now 50 percent off. Sounds like talks for an Ivy store at Shops at West End are off.

Lulu A wave of black lycra is about to sweep through the Shops at West End. Lululemon Athletica opens Friday, April 23. Click here for info on opening festivities (forget the yoga – I'm going for the free eyebrow waxing!). Actually, I was at West End last night and already spotted a crew of women shopping Anthropologie in their cropped exercise pants and zip up hoodies. And that was after visiting the new "inspired activewear" boutique Maha! in Wayzata, where owner Krista Fragola called herself the anti-lulu because she offers yoga pants and activewear from lesser known brands you won't see everywhere. Even anti-lulu means more yoga pants. Is studio-to-street dressing a trend, a way of life or a sign of laziness? Weigh in!