by Beth Hammarlund
It’s incredible to think that Envision, the bi-annual runway show produced by Ignite Models, has been active for a decade, with a total of 20 seasons on its CV. It’s the perfect centerpiece for Fashion Week Minnesota, a beautifully produced runway show featuring multiple local designers, as well as tie-ins to the arts community. For its 10th anniversary and 20th runway show, Envision featured a colossal 13 local designers, a major undertaking for Ignite and co-producers Public Functionary. Downtown Minneapolis’ Orchestra Hall once again served as an ideal venue for the event, with a lengthy runway accented by a sharp neon backdrop by Jonathan Rodriguez. The show drew an enthusiastic and extremely stylish crowd, guaranteeing plenty of satisfying people-watching when the runway wasn’t in use.
Emah The Label
Designer Ellie Hottinger kicked off the show with a modern minimalist collection for her line, Emah The Label. Hottinger experimented with playful details and innovative shapes in a refined palette of beige, buff and black. The looks nodded to several trends that have graced the major runways over the past several seasons, including athletic evening wear, tasseled hemlines and jumpsuits, but never did an individual item seem overtly trendy. Instead, Hottinger created looks that could easily evolve from season to season. Each piece was thoughtfully designed and executed, with solid clean construction. The collection was wearable and sellable, and could easily grace the racks of any of the cities’ contemporary boutiques.
There were several intriguing palettes throughout the evening, and designer Joeleen Torvick may have created the most surprising. Torvick presented a collection in rust, turquoise, navy and neutrals, a color story often associated with the American Southwest. But Torvick’s looks were far more minimal than the traditional Santa Fe styles. The opening look, a quilted coat with trompe l’oeil belt was reminiscent of ’80s Issey Miyake. An asymmetrical cocktail dress in dark rust and muted teal would be a welcome alternative to the typical little black number. A tweed shift with 3/4 sleeve would work in a conservative office and dressed up for late-night cocktails. Like Hottinger, Torvick’s pieces could easily be absorbed into any number of sophisticated closets.
As much as I love the Twin Cities design veterans, it was exciting to see so much new local talent in the show. Reinier Vigoa’s collection of evening wear was an exercise in unrepentant luxury that brought to mind the icons of ’80s excess: Joan Collins, Phyllis Nefler, Ivana Trump. I’m surprised the models weren’t sent down the runway wearing bejeweled satin turbans and carrying champagne flutes. Continuing the night’s theme of interesting color stories, Vigoa worked with striking shades of burnt orange, pale silver, navy, and blanched seafoam. With high slits and dramatic capes, the looks glimmered with drops of Old Hollywood glamour. These dresses are not for wallflowers. Although there were some issues with fabric puckering along the seams, Vigoa’s bold and ambitious collection was one of the highlights of the night.
Russell Bourrienne is a long-time fixture in the Twin Cities fashion scene, and at this season’s Envision his acclaimed tailoring skills and deft ability to combine textures and patterns was on full display. Leathers and tweeds were mixed with plaids and stripes, and neutrals were paired with pops of primary red and yellow. Though there were plenty of stand-out pieces in the ’80s-inspired collection, a knee-length tweed cape elicited audible gasps from the audience. Bourrienne has mastered the art of creating looks that demand to be noticed, but are not desperate for attention, a balancing act that’s difficult to pinpoint, much less create. His presentation was my favorite of the night, a humble celebration of style and craft.
Kindred Folk, formerly known as Kjurek, knows their customer inside and out. Their sustainable bohemian clothing with notes of gothic witchiness appeals to a very specific consumer, and with each collection, designers Kimberly Jurek and Jen Chilstrom find new ways to play within what could be a fairly narrow category. Their latest collection featured plenty of their staple details and techniques, including drapey dresses, fringe and hand-painted textiles. Despite their established brand, there were some hits and misses in the presentation. A long coat with fur trim was a big hit with the audience (and something I hope we’ll see more of from the team in the future), but some of their separates seemed oddly mixed paired and the trousers didn’t look as expensive as they should have. It was an uneven night for the line, but it still provided plenty of sartorial options for Stevie Nicks lovers everywhere. Kindred Folk may be operating under a new name, but fans of the line will recognize their vision as unaltered.
For several seasons now, Uptown boutique Cliché has been the only retailer in the Envision runway show. It’s never easy for a boutique to stand out in a group show, but Cliché always manages to put together a cohesive sartorial story with memorable conversation pieces. This season’s presentation may not have communicated as specific a narrative as seasons past (Remember last spring’s secret society of diner waitresses?!), but the fall-friendly dresses, separates and outerwear punctuated with pleated metallic headpieces left a lasting impression.
I love the great Japanese designers of the ’80s (Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo, et al.) and I got hit with some of their vibes by designer Anna Chambers-Goldberg’s line ACG. Inspired by the paintings of Cy Twombly, the looks ranged from layered street wear to avant garde evening wear. I was particularly fond of a look that layered a squiggled gray poncho over blossoms of painted fabric that may have been a skirt or may have been culottes. Or perhaps a gathered dress. I’m not really sure. It was hard to tell what exactly I was looking at, but I knew that I really really liked it. The flowy painted caftans were beautiful statement pieces, but the collection faltered in its last several looks. They lacked the relaxed and effortless nature of the earlier pieces. However, it was exciting to see the artist taking risks and trying new things.
Like Reinier Vigoa, newcomer Isaac West of ColdVenus didn’t hold back with his collection of ultra sexy evening wear, but his line of cocktail dresses and full-length gowns was a bit inconsistent. A turtleneck knee-length number and a long-sleeved gown, both in pale liquid gold, were hits with my friends and me. Though the fabric didn’t look particularly expensive, the unapologetic party girl attitude couldn’t be denied. Unfortunately, two looks with twin thigh-high slits didn’t fare so well. The double front slit is a hard sell, and it almost never works when a model is in movement. However, with a little more mystery and higher quality textiles, ColdVenus could easily become the local go-to for sexy evening wear.
Envision marked the homecoming of Project Runway alum Raul Osorio.* After several years in New York City, Los Angeles, and his native Honduras, the designer has come back to the town where he built his brand. For fall, Osorio created a minimalist unisex collection of street wear shown on both men and women. The looks were effortlessly cool and wearable, the ideal uniform for kids too cool to care about fashion. Osorio has designed for both men and women in the past, but it was always his menswear where he really shined. It was exciting to see him take that menswear point of view and fold it into gender neutral clothing that everyone can enjoy.
*Full disclosure: Osorio’s a good buddy of mine and I’m happy to have him back.
Spencer Versteeg showed a series of looks inspired by women’s business wear. Though he explored an interesting palette, the majority of his looks integrated pinstripe, a choice that felt rather dated. (Pinstripes are due for a comeback one of these days, but at this point, they still bring to mind cute work pants from the mid-aughts.) However, there were some winners, particularly a look that mixed a pinstripe blouse with striped trousers and a leopard print short-sleeved coat. Although the pinstripes were closely linked to his inspiration, this collection would have been stronger if he had used them only sparingly and focused on his interesting palette instead. The designer clearly has a ton of ideas in his head, and once he’s able to edit without mercy and kill his darlings, we’ll be able to see what he’s truly capable of creating.
Kyra Deva’s collection provided the best demonstration that thoughtful styling can make an outfit. (The designer worked closely with Envision head stylist Amy Shetler to execute her original vision.) An otherwise simple body-skimming sheath in black and white rose print became an Instagram-ready fashion moment when worn with a flat-brimmed hat and a knotted black scarf. Throughout her segment, the designer repeatedly broke some of my least favorite fashion rules, juxtaposing navy, black and brown to create a sophisticated modern wardrobe. A Western girly trench was a stand-out piece, while the rest of Deva’s patterned and textured separates could be easily mixed into a wide variety of closets. (Though no one would fault you for buying and reproducing entire looks exactly as they were shown.) Deva’s line may not have had the same level of drama as some of the other collections, but her segment was infinitely shoppable and a solid establishment of her brand.
George Moskal is one of the most consistent designers in the Twin Cities fashion community. He has a knack for creating elegant day wear and evening wear that’s both modern and timeless. Moskal’s collection for Envision beautifully paired burnt orange and navy in a collection of luxe expensive-looking evening wear. (It’s by no means an obvious color combination, but Moskal, Vigoa and Torvick all found success with the pairing in their own unique ways.) Moskal used luxe materials that begged to be touch, particularly sumptuous velvet and delicate feathers. One of the simpler looks, a layered asymmetrical navy gown, tapped into my late ’90s Sarah Michelle Gellar style obsession. (As soon as time travel is invented, let’s prioritize getting her to wear that dress to the premiere of Cruel Intentions.)
Though Moskal is known for his dependable construction, there appeared to be some fit issues with his first look, an alluring velvet jumpsuit with daring cut-outs. Such a complicated piece practically needs to be custom-made for the wearer, so it’s not shocking to see some minor flaws in a runway presentation. It was the only snag in an otherwise brilliant collection.
Closing Envision is a tall order, but Xee Vang’s collection of separates, dresses and outerwear ended the night on a high note. It was my first time seeing Vang’s work, and her imaginative color choices and painstaking embellishments left a lasting impression. Blouses in gradients of squash and a cranberry finale gown were paired with shades of cream and khaki. Tops worn with shorts and culottes communicated a relaxed form of elegance. And that last look? It was clear why the Envision producers chose her to close the show. I’m looking forward to seeing much more of Vang’s work in the future.
The night’s beauty was kept simple and sophisticated, with hair by HAUS Salon and a makeup team headed by Fatima Olive that easily transitioned from one collection to the next. Models wore their hair pulled back in sleek chignons, while their lips were painted with autumnal washes of crimsons and berries. The styling team, led by Amy Shetler, made every collection feel unique and special, no small feat when you’re working with 13 different designers.
Once again, Envision created a grand and polished event, the main attraction of FWMN. Due to the show’s long run and consistent production, we tend to rely on this one event to pack as much of the Twin Cities fashion scene as possible into one single night. However, 13 designers is a lot of responsibility for one show to carry, and the event could benefit from a trim. If not the number of designers, then perhaps some time could be shaved from the video segments, hosting duties and intermission. Fashion collections can almost always benefit from a robust round of editing. The same is true for fashion shows.
photos by Josh Stokes, courtesy of Envision