by Beth Hammarlund
The final installation of MNfashion’s The Shows held at the Grain Belt Bottling House atrium was the most anticipated show of Minneapolis-St. Paul Fashion Week, headlined by local design darling Emma Berg, proceeded by longtime Twin Cities designer Samantha Rei. And the show didn’t disappoint, showing one collection that toyed with a world of fantasy, and one firmly rooted in our current reality.
Samantha Rei is an established and well-respected designer in the local fashion scene, but many of her gothic, Lolita-inspired designs have often been more cosplay than everyday. Her shows are typically beautiful and engaging, but although guests depart with an appreciation for her vision and skill, they often lack the intention to purchase one of her designs themselves. This collection was different. Still steeped in fantasy, the looks were far more accessible, and in some cases, downright sellable. Models padded barefoot down the runway, each with a black ribbon tied around one ankle, and struck balletic poses in fanciful looks made even more so with dramatic wigs and hair color courtesy of the HAUS and Blowdry! styling team. White summer dresses were intricately detailed and infinitely wearable. Pastel skirts and dresses featuring silhouette prints were marked with the words of William Butler Yeats’ The Stolen Child:
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
The concept of fairies stealing children is a long-time theme in Irish literature, but over the years, the mythology has lost some of its darkness and danger. Rei’s collection sought to recapture that beguiling seduction of fantasy, in a way that, while still child-like, would appeal to full-grown appreciators of fashion. The designer most certainly succeeded, presenting her best collection to date. It may not have had the same amount of drama as some of her previous collections, but it will most certainly be the most memorable.
The second presentation of the evening, and the finale of the Shows, was by local favorite Emma Berg. The reputation that Berg has earned and cultivated over the last several years is astounding. Two and a half years ago, barely anyone realized that she even knew how to sew. Now, she is easily one of the most buzzed-about designers in the Cities.
A typical Emma Berg collection is a sea of color, shape and sparkle, but this season, she eschewed all three (except for a brief moment of sequins in the finale), opting for draped pieces in black, white, and a pale moonstone. Clearly drawing inspiration from grunge, the collection strived to capture the both the apathy and defiance of youth in the face of tumultuous political times. There was nothing frivolous about these looks. Models marched the runway in combat boots, with dirty hair held back by dozens of bobby pins and surprisingly bare faces. Black arm bands and gloves were painted on with body paint, an effect that hinted at war and mourning, without becoming too literal.
Despite the lack of neons and brights, the collection was imbued with the same meticulous thoughtfulness that Berg brings to all of her work. The clothes may not have told a story in the narrative sense, but they conveyed a feeling and a statement in a way that felt raw and immediate. It was touching and non-gratuitous when two male models closed the show with a tender kiss and the final model emerged in a watery skirt, a golden crown, and a black silk tank with the words “Vote No” sequined across the front. Sometimes, the best way to be heard is to make your statement with kindness and beauty, rather than anger and vitriol. Compassion reigned.
All photos by Rhea Pappas for MNfashion