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.