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Ali Shops Blog

Archive for May, 2010

Double the shoes

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

After more than 20 years together, Grethen House and Netc are splitting up. No need to pick sides – the separation is amicable. Netc is moving down the block at 50th & France, to the former Stephanie’s space near The Loft. Owner Nancy has a new partner as she starts contemplating scaling back her workload. They will open as Netc the first week of June with an expanded assortment of high-end shoes and accessories. Meanwhile, Grethen House is wasting no time filling the void with its own spin on shoes and accessories to complement the designer fashions that have made this boutique a destination for decades. From two proven vets like these, I say the more the merrier.

How do rumors get started? Well, this one seems to have been fueled by the gorgeous new Anthropologie store at Shops at West End in St. Louis Park. Since it opened, shoppers – and even other retailers – have been asking me if Anthropologie will close at 50th & France. I was dismissive at first – the 50th store, I’ve been told, is one of the retailer’s most successful – you can tell just by the wait for a fitting room on a Saturday afternoon. The opening of West End was about capturing more shoppers in a hungry market. But the question about 50th hasn’t gone away, so I asked the company: Are you closing your Edina store? The answer is a definitive NO. This comes straight from an Anthropologie spokeswoman who told me “We are not closing in Edina. You can be assured that it is a rumor!”And that’s that.

The concept of fashion

Friday, May 21st, 2010
Kevin Kramp Voltage 2010

Kevin Kramp Voltage 2010

The term “conceptual” gets tossed around a lot in fashion journalism. I tend to use it when writing about a collection that shows promise, raw talent, but little wearability beyond the runway. But then, I’ve never spent a mortgage payment on a piece of art, or a designer handbag. I’m hopelessly practical. So Kevin Kramp’s Voltage 2010 collection has been nagging at me. A designer for St. Croix Knits by day, his eponymous men’s knitwear collection showed enormous skill and flair. But really. Rompers? Parachute style pants in chunky sweater material with a crotch hanging below the knees?
I can hardly imagine Johnny Weir in one of these getups, let alone the average guy. Kramp’s collection was a big hit on the runway – due in no small part to the hot male models chained together with one fabulous knit scarf. It was dramatic. It was showy. It was weird. But I doubt anyone expected the pieces to show up in stores. Did Kramp? I had to know. Excerpts from our recent email conversation:

The Voltage collection. Do you consider it conceptual, or do you imagine a man who would wear these pieces on the street? Would you?
There is a globally nomadic tribe of intelligent, beautiful men who are part of a processional union ceremony of two of their brethren. Traveling alongside this tribe are guardsmen, serving as physical and spiritual protectors. My Voltage capsule collection is my offering to these stoic, elegant guardsmen.

Kevin Kramp Voltage 2010

Kevin Kramp Voltage 2010

“Conceptual” is not the opposite of “wearable”‘ The wearability of a garment is determined by the individual, not by the degree of concept. Any good creative work begins with a concept, though most “creative” work we see in this world begins (and ends) with copying. Men do wear my work in their lives, on the streets, after hours in clubs, for Sunday coffee, and other special moments. I do not wear my work because I do not create for myself, I create for those inspiring and courageous individuals that have passed through my life and left me thinking and longing.
Is it difficult to go from designing St, Croix’s classics sweaters to your own edgier work?
I’m a schizophrenic moody freak, and a Gemini to boot. My life has consisted of nothing but extremes, opposites, contradictory coexistence, and brutal transition.
What will become of your Voltage collection?
I am at the moment focused on cultivating the Kevin Kramp brand. I have recently been invited to show collections at fashion weeks in Paris, London, Berlin, Vienna and Lithuania. I had a wonderful time at Voltage, realizing a fun and light-hearted project with many kind and enthusiastic people. I have been approached by a couple of local retailers to carry some of my items, though I am very selective as to where my work appears, it must be the right situation and context.
What fashion risks, improvements, changes would you like to see men make?
This isn’t about fashion; this is about life. I always encourage individuals, men and women, to thoroughly and severely examine their personal history, ignorant preconceptions, and bizarre rules of right, wrong, should and shouldn’t. Discover beauty, understand joy, turn off the hating and turn on the being. If one cannot fathom the smallest feat of wearing a garment of a different color, how can one possibly hope to live life?

Kevin Kramp London 2009

Kevin Kramp London 2009

Day trip: Stockholm, Wis.

Monday, May 17th, 2010
Savvy in Stockholm

Bogus Creek courtyard

I’ve been to Red Wing; visited an apple orchard on Lake Pepin. But I hadn’t spent time in Stockholm, Wis. until assigned to write a story about shopping and eating there (look for it in the August issue of Spaces magazine). Long overshadowed by larger river towns, Stockholm is a charming alternative. The stores – many with an art/home/gourmet bent – are far more sophisticated than one would expect for a town of 97. “Downtown” is literally two blocks that cross, but with stores like Abode and The Palate, garden restaurants like Bogus Creek Cafe & Bakery and The Stockholm Pie Company, plus quirky antique shops, little galleries, street musicians and a riverfront park, there’s plenty to warrant a day trip, or even a weekend.

Men without socks

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

Outside Colorado and retirement communities, the grief guys get for wearing socks with sandals is universal. So I wondered whether people would have such clearly defined thoughts about the opposite: a man in a suit and loafers with no socks. I got to pondering the look last week during “Oprah” – for her “Radio City” show to celebrate the 10th anniversary of “O” magazine, resident designer Nate Berkus and the fashion editor of “O” magazine suited up and went sock-less. They pulled it off, with a just-back-from-St. Barts panache. This image is courtesy of The Sartorialist, who wrote, “A well-cut blue suit, crisp white shirt and some type of loafer (in brown) can create a look that is just dressy enough and just casual enough for almost any occasion.” Any occasion, maybe. But not any guy. I tried to imagine my husband in the same look, but I just don’t think it is possible for a guy to both wear a cell phone case on his belt and skip socks with a suit. I took a poll on Facebook and was surprised to find public opinion divided. Answers ranged from “Love it” (always with the caveat “on a well dressed man”) to “Yuck.” My friend Margot aligned herself squarely in the “Yuck” camp. But she deserves the final word on the matter with this observation: “I do like a man just in socks and no suit.”

Benetton closing at MOA

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Americans associate Benetton with colorful, “We are the world” type ads from the ’80s. That is, if they think of the Italian retailer at all anymore. Still a powerhouse in Europe, Benetton has struggled to remain relevant at U.S. malls, with neighbors like H&M and Banana Republic interpreting trends faster and cheaper. Benetton has already closed some East Coast stores and is getting ready to clear out of Mall of America. A local Benetton manager blamed high rent. May 24 will be the closing day. All remaining merchandise is now 40 to 50 percent off. It’s worth checking out – Benetton does offer some chic tailored pieces (best for the skinny and young). Too bad they didn’t do more to connect with customers.

Euphoria Cut-a-Thon

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Your hair cut will do good for more than your appearance this Sunday, May 16 during the Cut-a-Thon at Euphoria Salon in St. Paul. Cuts cost $40 and 100 percent of the proceeds benefit the Breast Cancer Awareness Association of Minnesota. Stylists from several salons are participating, including Accolades, Moxie, Salon George, Root and Cole’s. DJs will spin disco in the parking lot. Enjoy appetizers from local restaurants Punch Pizza, Highland Griller, Cossetta’s and others. And leave with a gift bag. Call 651-698-6385 to book an appointment.

St. Paul on the Fringe

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Don’t be surprised to see a few extra bangles on the wrists of St. Paul shoppers next month: 50th & France accessories boutique Fringe plans to open a second location on Grand Avenue. The locally-owned shop, which offers fashion jewelry, scarves and other accessories at affordable prices, will take over the Saga Living space at 1055 Grand Ave. on June 15.

Third spot’s the charm?

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Zelaz is on the move again. Following stints at Ridgedale and the Wayzata Bay Center, the locally owned tween and teen retailer plans to settle down in Excelsior. The new location will open Thursday, May 20 at 287 Water St. Let’s hope the third spot’s the charm for this mother-daughter owned boutique – one of the very few independents that balances a look trendy enough for tweens but modest enough for their moms. Click here for details on the opening sale.

Shades of green

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Moss EnvyIt’s not easy being green – so Twin Cities Green is becoming Moss Envy. The new store will open June 19 at 3056 Excelsior Blvd. near Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, next to Whole Foods. It will still be green, but a little less GREEN as owners Ryan and Tina North try to move from niche to mainstream lifestyle store selling a broader range of goods, from furniture to clothing – all of which happens to be eco-concious. (Read more about the evolution of Twin Cities Green and the green movement in my Savvy Shopper column.) May 28 will be Twin Cities Green’s final day at 2405 Hennepin Ave. S. in Uptown. A moving sale is on now. | Mpls.St.Paul Magazine © 2008 MSP Communications, Inc. All rights reserved