by Beth Hammarlund
Although Minneapolis and St. Paul are referred to as the Twin Cities, when it comes to fashion, almost all fashion-related events are held in Minneapolis. And it’s a shame really. Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older, but I’m certainly starting to appreciate St. Paul more and more for its beauty and charm. So it was exciting and refreshing to see one of the best fashion shows I’ve ever seen in the Twin Cities, held in downtown St. Paul in one of the gorgeous historical buildings for which the city is known. Held at the recently renovated Union Depot, “Time/Travel” featured three-piece capsule collections from eight local designers custom-designed for the show. As a train whistle blew, Vision models emerged in clouds of smoke from behind screens projected with images of trains arriving. It was a charming, but not overly cute nod to the show’s theme and location.
The first looks to go down the runway were from boutiques OPM and Cliché, and the selections were a bit reminiscent of Parisian style meshed with Minnesota’s balance of playfulness and function. Models came down the runway in a wide variety of shoes from John Fluevog, a choice that gave the looks even more individual personality.
The eight designers presented three-piece capsule collections inspired by the past, present and future of travel, and half the fun of the show was appreciating how wildly different the eight interpretations were. Samantha Rei opened the show with a collection of outerwear inspired by the classic traveling trunks of Hermès and Louis Vuitton. The first look down the runway (worn by local treasure Ashlee Walker) took the inspiration literally. The rich brown coat adorned with leather and buckles was my favorite look from the designer. A charming bellhop-inspired number followed, and her presentation ended with a lively nod to Takashi Murakami’s iconic collaboration with Louis Vuitton.
Christopher Straub presented a socialite-inspired collection of ivory pieces, practically a 180 from his Spring 2014 collection. I was particularly taken with the first piece of outerwear, a delicate coat that mimicked the techniques echoed in his third piece, a gown that embodied his aesthetic. Mary Pranica further established herself as the local queen of knits with her collection of cozy dresses and separates. There was some beautifully intricate pattern work that nodded to Minnesota winters while remaining firmly chic. Nothing about the collection felt crafty or homespun. Ivan Idland’s three looks featured several of his signature shapes. I particularly loved a pair of tailored olive overalls with sheer paneling. Though the pairing with the multi-colored blouse made for an engaging runway look, in real life I would love to see these worn with a minimalist gray tank. And by that I mean that I want to wear those overalls with a minimalist gray tank. Ivan, call me.
Emma Berg’s looks in black, navy and white showcased the designer’s playfulness with shape and functionality. When she showed me her pieces after the show, I was quite taken by all of the functional details that couldn’t be featured in the runway walk. The complex design of her outerwear and her use of asymmetry were flawless. Her final piece, a white cocktail dress with sheer paneling and a minimalist bow in the back, was somehow both innocent and seductive, but there was nothing infantilizing or Lolita-esque about it. It managed to walk a fine line between sophisticated and coy.
Time/Travel awesomely nabbed designer Laura Fulk, a major creative force in the Twin Cities who’s been lying low the past several years. Her play on the theme incorporated the structural shapes she is known for, while incorporating images of newspapers and postcards into the textiles. Fulk is one of those designers who definitely have favorites when it comes to the shapes that she creates, but her inspiration varies so much from collection to collection that the work is always fresh and different. Lindsey Hopkins, the relative newbie of the bunch (though I’m sure she’s tiring of hearing that) showed a fire-inspired collection of black and ivory pieces which created an effect that was literally smoldering. The smoke-stained ivory darkened into ragged sooty edges featuring a razor thin strip of flaming orange. As models walked down the runway, it truly looked like their dresses were on fire. (I know it’s dorky, but it totally made me think of The Hunger Games. But that says more about me than it does about the clothes.)
Max Lohrbach offered the only menswear of the evening, showing pieces that were intimate enough to suggest a gentleman’s version of the vacation trousseau. A vintage-inspired one-piece bathing suit featured some suggestive details that elicited one or two gasps from the audience. I particularly loved the silk “Vacation tee” and the “Super 8” swim trunks. (And it should be mentioned that although I will never be one of those people that “woo” when male models come down the runway, I’m pretty sure that this crop of male models elicited an under-my-breath “day-um” from me.)
The show’s timing and length were perfect, the music was on point, and the runway length ideal. The long terminal was an optimal setting and the lighting was extraordinary. (And when it comes to events like this, lighting can make all the difference.) It was clear that this was a show with a budget, and that budget was used beautifully. When it comes to ranking fashion events in the Twin Cities over the last ten years, Time/Travel is tied for first with my favorite Voltage shows. However, since Voltage is a joint presentation of music and fashion, when it comes to straightforward runway presentations, Time/Travel takes the cake. I hope that the Union Depot will consider making this an annual event, and that other gorgeous venues in downtown St. Paul take notice.
*It’s only fair to note that Time/Travel ‘s fashion director was l’étoile’s own editrix, Jahna Peloquin. I have tried to be as objective as possible in this review and I’m confident that if she were not involved, my opinions of the event would remain unchanged.
photo by AJ Olmscheid