Fashion reviews always make me snarky. I’ll admit it and I can’t help it- as much as I hate to say things that may seem to unfairly undercut the hard work that someone has put into presenting their artistic labors, fashion seems uniquely positioned for this kind quipping. It combines the general pretentiousness of art (“Look at me!”) with the everyday instincts of “I can’t believe she wore that!” All too often, this means objective discussion about the aesthetics of a bias cut, the superiority of certain fabrics and the process of dyeing devolve into dialog from Mean Girls. Fight against those urges as I might, I have definitely succumbed to them. Hell, it’s half the fun, and it’s not for nothing they call it a “catwalk.”
All that said, it is getting harder to get good shots in when the overall quality of fashion lines presented in the Twin Cities keeps on increasing as it does. Some of the standard-setters and standard-bearers of local fashion were on display at SCENEaSOTA on Saturday night, the show organized by Maritza Ramirez– a designer of no small talent herself. The event has grown from a handful of designers at the 331 club two years ago to a packed industrial loft this year with a runway show featuring eight clothing designers complemented by eight accessories designers with nary a stinker amongst them. Stinkers usually come in two forms- plain old lack of technical skill, with loose threads and frayed ends on obviously ill-fitting clothes that lead more towards pity for the models than anything else, or on the other hand, the concept line gone utterly haywire and awry, the kind of line that leaves eyes bugged and heads shaking without any impressed “wow!”
Neither of those problems were on display at SCENEaSOTA; concepts were tight and coherent and if anything, trended towards a more conservative and economic use of materials. Of the female designers, Britta Feuerhelm had the most outré but also bold combinations; her hand-dyed silks paired with leather choker collars and belts struck a vibrant balance between delicate and powerful that worked as a high concept, as did Jenn Bratvold’s combinations of wool, leather and knit with their dash of bright plaid. Kathryn V and Frances Zerr built upon their own deserved reputations with girlish and flattering separates that would make a smart addition to any number of wardrobes. Frances Zerr was accessorized by the furry hats, muffs and stoles of Ruby3 and the creations brought an appropriate winter playfulness to the airy looks.
In their classic cocktail-hour lines, both Jenny Carle and Carmichael Claith showed dresses with stiffly ribbed fronts that swung like metronomes as the models walked, something that never flatters, but that did not diminish the strength of their lines overall. Carle’s variations on cocktail dresses culminated in long gown with a vintage silhouette but offset by a bold choice of a coarse knit grey wool. Carmichael Claith is a designer whose work I have come to admire since the first time I saw it at Voltage in 2008 (and was admittedly snarky about then) but with her muted pinstripes, bunched crinolines and newly sculptural pleating, she built upon an exacting standard of construction that helps raise the bar for her contemporaries. The necklaces with feathers by Bionic Unicorn added a light touch that lifted the designs and held their own as well.
Raul Osorio’s slim-cut takes on pageboys and paper-sellers was as well conceived as an idea as it was executed and appeared on the models, making it both bold and practical, a tightrope walk usually, but especially difficult in the morass of menswear. Usually, it is so easy to take a potshot at designs for men, but not in this case. The one tangent and pet peeve that I’ll indulge here is that the Freedom from Doubt bows that adorned the necks of Osorio’s models fail my own test of men’s neckwear, namely, you don’t do it yourself: a bowtie is a bowtie because it ties. I would happily wear a bowtie in the two-tone velvet fabric combinations presented and am all for challenging notions of masculinity and femininity, but without tying the neckwear yourself, all you are doing is popping a barrette in your collar. That said, if you want to end the night with a masculine/feminine challenge and a “wow!”, Kevin Kramp is more than up to the task. The billowing shapes of his knitwear are soft and inviting, but they are subversive in the way they constrict legs and Kramp took it a step further, tying a model up and two together, playing with the erotic potential of yarn. His palette was dizzying and thrilling, and the brooches of the model’s names by Ferociter, styled like the chrome script on a muscle-car, added that winking touch of masculinity to the affair.
Clothing by Kevin Kramp, Accessories by Ferociter
It should be noted that Ramirez very appropriately thanked Anna Lee of MNfashion and Voltage: Fashion Amplified in the program for SCENEaSOTA; Lee’s unflagging efforts have set a standard for the expected quality of design work here in the Twin Cities, as well as level of event production. With SCENEaSOTA, though, Ramirez pulled off a great event that showcased not only our designers who build from a strong foundation, but also those who are raising their conceptual stakes. Onward and upwards with the arts, as they say, and hopefully I’ll get a few zingers in.
For more photos from Staciaann Photography for MNfashion, click here.