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Ali Shops Blog

Fashion, and MNfashion

September 10th, 2010
by Allison Kaplan

Sitting through the underwhelming MNfashion Week preview show this week, I couldn’t help but think about some of the Twin Cities-based designers I’ve talked to in just the last few days, like Katherine McMillan of super cool men’s accessories line Pierrepont Hicks and Jessika Madison-Kennedy of Dadadress. Both rave about Twin Cities – it’s creativity, liveablity and support for the arts. Both are career designers whose fashions are sold internationally. Both are giving back to the local scene: McMillan helped produce tomorrow’s Northern Grade Men’s Market, a celebration of American-made men’s brands, including many local; Madison-Kennedy is running the new fashion design program at the College of Visual Arts.

Neither is involved with MNfashion, the organization that aims to support emerging designers and champion fashion as a viable industry in Minnesota. From Sept. 20 to 26, many of those young designers will participate in fashion shows throughout the Twin Cities – at least two dozen events are planned. Based on the preview, many shows will be fun, but few will be memorable, or lead to commercial placement of the clothes. And that is the goal: to sell the clothes that come down the runway. MNfashion is in danger of falling into the rut it aimed to help designers avoid: staging fashion shows just for the sake of something cool to do on a Saturday night.

In the spring, it seemed MNfashion was finally reaching beyond its core supporters – mostly artsy 20somethings with time to go to fashion shows every night of the week – and exposing itself to the rest of the city, including older women with money to buy the clothes. There were events at Galleria boutiques and designers that are working on manufacturing and distribution, like Laura Fulk and Christopher Straub participated. The only true shining star this time is Joynoelle, which will show on Sept. 23. (tickets available here.) Retailers chose Boutique Week over MNfashion Week.

MNfashion Executive Director Anna Lee continues to work passionately and tirelessly on behalf of local designers. She’s assembled an impressive troop of volunteers. She’s coordinating events with museums and working on securing grants and establishing a sewing cooperative for designers. But the group needs to look beyond its members and the endless parade of wannabes and reach out to the many designers in the Twin Cities who are already doing it – and doing it well.

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One Response to “Fashion, and MNfashion”

  1. Chris says:

    Your summary of MNfashion week makes a lot of sense from a consumer/shopping perspective—if the designer can’t sell it, what’s the point? As many local designers are working tirelessly creating artistic, well-crafted, fashion forward garments, they’re asking themselves that same question.

    That said, anyone can register a fashion week event with MNfashion; it’s an inclusive way for the organization to build a lineup that addresses not only designers of all experience levels, but also retailers and arts organizations. This isn’t necessarily about Bryant Park or mass production. It’s about celebrating independent moxie, vibrant local talent & supporters, and drawing attention to the different ways that people—in our community, specifically—experience fashion, from Uptown to Downtown, from the street to the mall.

    Speaking of the mall, there are more than just 20-somethings taking notice. The Mall of America is the primary sponsor of Pale Rider, an MNfashion-produced joint show from relative newcomers Danielle Everine and Raul Osorio. Sponsorships like this are particularly thrilling, because really allow designers to get their feet wet creating cohesive collections and making important decisions about personal brand. The fact that we have the largest mall in the country supporting local independent fashion is a testament to how cool our community really is. The opportunities for designers to develop and earn the kind of cred you’re lauding the fabulous Joynoelle for will continue to grow as MNfashion’s sewing cooperative takes shape, providing designers with more muscle to create and sell full size runs, etc.

    It’s an uphill climb, and while it’s not happening overnight, it’s happening. I’d like to encourage all of your readers to check out an MNfashion week event, and let us know what you think. Your feedback is crucial! I’d also love to reach out to the more seasoned designers out there—if you want a bright, talented, eager team of volunteers behind you, this is it.

    Thank you for your thoughts!
    Chris Larson
    Art Director, MNfashion

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