Voltage 2011

28 Apr

Ed. note: Yes, we know this is late. It just goes to prove what we’ve been telling ourselves: Do it now. If you put it off once, you’ll put it off again.

West African funerals (and a lot of rites of passing outside our dreary funeral dirges) are all out wild parties, a riotous display of emotion and music that lasts well into the night and beyond. The 2011 edition of Voltage Fashion Amplified was certainly no funeral, but in the same way as a Ghanaian celebration marks passing, this year’s Voltage signaled an end of an era. After 7 years of tireless work as Voltage producer and leader of the MNFashion organization, Anna Lee is stepping aside from those roles and Voltage as an event enters into a new phase of existence. It was a testament to the work of Lee, and the hundreds of other volunteers that made Voltage a reality, that the night was exuberantly filled with high-concept, lovingly-executed and all-out dazzling lines of clothing and accessories, not to mention explosive music. Strength like that doesn’t pop up overnight and if things are going to change for the fashion industry here in Minnesota, the foundation and momentum of Voltage is a huge gift.

In an unannounced addition, Hastings 3000 opened up the festivities with a solo guitar jam, carried from the side of the stage to the runway by a quartet of First Ave staffers. Decked out in a white suit with silver reflective tape applied like a mirrorball to the jacket, the only thing that was missing was a formal gasmask. Something in a black silk for next time maybe? For the stage show proper, Phantom Tails got the crowd moving with tunes from their Song of the Hunchback Whale release, looking relaxed and stylish onstage in clothes from b. (a resale shop).

Kathryn Sterner with bag by ACKJ Handbags and jewelry from Sweet T by TimmiLynn Johnson

The first designer of the night was Kathryn Sterner with accessories by ACKJ Handbags and jewelry from Sweet T by TimmiLynn Johnson. Her organic cotton dresses and one-pieces rolled easily onto the runway, the soft earthtones naturally stylish but it was when she began mixing in a peacock batik fabric that things got exciting. A knee-length batik dress with volumizing folds and hidden pockets got the first rousing ovation of the night, showing that a judicious use of color and pattern really does get the blood going.

Danielle Everine with undergarments by Jagress Intimates

Danielle Everine then got even more blood pumping with a line of sheer outfits, collapsing the distance between undergarment and outerwear. The chemises, cropped trousers and shirt-dresses were all in Everine’s signature organza. In a muted palette of flesh-tones, lilacs and greys, they floated lightly so that the Jagress Intimates undergarments, the conical brassieres, high-waisted panties and bustieres got their own cloudy, sensuous showing. A highlight of Everine’s was a shirt-dress with a wide lapel structure, lightly lifting open like a blossoming orchid, and the mix of suits a delicate wink at the power-play of sexuality and work apparel.

Fort Wilson Riot outfitted by Carly Schoen

Fort Wilson Riot (who, for full disclosure, c.a.s. works with in PR and other associated fields) took the stage outfitted by Carly Schoen, looking sharp in looks inspired by the futurism of the late 60s. Amy Hager was in a flowing white shirt-dress, with two racer stripes of a dense floral pattern balancing out the volume of the sheer white fabric and Jacob Mullis had on blue leather suspenders that, when he turned around, revealed a full, slitted vest back, a fine pair of looks from a busy designer who could have definitely held her own with a full runway line.

Rachel Blomgren with accessories by Lela Horst Baumann

For her part, Frances Zerr’s line was a sporting mix of separates and ready-to wear in athletic jersey with occasional nautical detailing, like rope belts and thick striping. Her choice to show a pair of cropped sweatpants as part of her line didn’t feel out of place, it was refreshingly relaxed, and she followed it up with a navy floor-length gown that had a white shoe-lace tie at the top, recalling a 70s vision of activewear glamor. If Zerr was occasionally nautical, Rachel Blomgren was occasionally piratical. Her precocious sets of shorts, crop-tops and dresses were in a blazing palette based in red and black, with rough stitching details, padding and knitwear, a sweet mix of tomboy and strong feminine. Coupled with the skull, bone and floral accessories by Lela Horst Baumann, her models might have been auditioning to date Rufio from Hook, and that’s no bad thing, ‘cuz that dude had style.

One of the challenges for Voltage designers as always been how to get large bands like Me And My Arrow looking unified and stylish. Renalie Bailey worked her way around the problem of fitting 10 members by creating a number of brown leather vests for the men, complete with MAMA T-shirt patches on the back, and dress-jackets for the women casting them all as a cobbled-together biker gang.

Terri Martin with Me And My Arrow behind

Recent Cincinnati transplant Terri Martin made her Minneapolis group debut with a very elegant line of dresses, tops and trousers in striking black and white. Her generous use of cotton jersey never felt frumpy, but gave the garments a great flowing movement that was contrasted by the simplicity and sharpness of the palette, with a dash of olive green fabric in the mix as well. The stylists had done a great job in coloring the bangs of the model’s hair, adding a dash of neon that by itself would have sparked the outfits, however, the decision was also made to give Day-Glo tape eyebrows to each of the models, one of the few design miscues of the night . The result was an unseemly jumble at the top, and could have been remedied by recalling Coco Chanel’s famous advice of what to do before leaving the house.

Sarah M. Holm with jewelry by Artist Built Bridget Clark

Sarah M. Holm began her line with the splash of Eero Saarinen’s TWA terminal, showing a dress of beautiful curvilinear forms in white shaped into an organic superstructure over lovely painted silk, as audacious as it was perfect. Holm scored extra points with the crowd by getting two looks out her models- the dresses and coats, and then demure black and lace structured undergarments that were exactingly fitted and shaped. Along with pitch-perfect accessories by Artist Built, there was another modernist nod in a standout garment, a white felt cape that cocooned out and then swooped back in, framing the body like the opening of an iconic sphere chair. With the assuredness of design and construction Holm displayed, it was a pleasure to behold and combined smart history with a bright future.

CakeIn15 does a fair bit of shopping at Blacklist Vintage, and their work turning Communist Daughter into a renegade speakeasy band showed why. They managed, against Johnny Solomon’s protestations about being overweight and hairy, to really class up the joint, although CD was lovely enough to have been wearing sweats and people wouldn’t have cared.

Tim + Thom with accessories by Katy Schmarty and East Fourth Street

Now, after seeing some men’s looks of questionable taste over the years, I would personally like to thank Tim + Thom for showing a line of menswear that managed to be practical, forward-thinking and stylish all at the same time. Their bike-inspired gear (with accessories by Katy Schmarty and East Fourth Street) made the promise of summer biking seem just around the corner, and detailing like the snapped cuffs of pants, the bike gear-embellished suspenders and the ultra-soft hooded shirts were a delight. The crowd seemed just as starved, too, if not for bike weather or well-executed menswear, then for the male models themselves, who were shamelessly catcalled and cheered as they stripped off layers. It was, of course, only cruelly fitting that it had started to snow outside.

Ivan Idland with accessories by Lefthand Originals

Following the bikers came the refined tastes of Ivan Idland with accessories by Lefthand Originals. Ivan has been a Voltage staple for several years now and has always come through with flying colors. His line this time around veered away from his recognizable geometric art-deco patterns and for the most part played with patterns and designs inspired by the leisure class of the Roaring 20s. Many pieces included a range of designs and details that sometimes seemed scattered (case in point, a nautical top with anchor details paired with a pleated skirt with horses, what was that, robbing a 12-year-old WASP’s closet?) but when he went for grand, he was phenomenal. He opened with a glorious sheath dress and toreador cape in a metallic peach with a rosy-pink lining and sawtooth detailing in black, like Goya’s Majas transported to a fabulous MoMA cocktail party, and a jawdropping black and tan floor-length number with burlap fringe, detailing and burlap lace elbow-gloves that was one of the singular works of the evening, just stunning.

Pink Mink outfitted by Invisible Outfit

The evening ended with the roar of Pink Mink, outfitted by the Invisible Outfit collective, whose triumph was to get bassist Jacques Wait into Joan Jett-ish drag. Scene darling Raul Osorio kept on poking his head out of the curtain while Pink Mink played their opening numbers, as if checking the audience before his modeled walked. Once on the catwalk, his mix of men’s and women’s suiting and dresses in shades of grey and white felt coldly formal and sedate at that point in the evening. The heavily uniform lace overlays didn’t have the same revealing sexiness as Everine’s organza or playful mastery as Idland’s creations and some of the cuts tucked in too much, leaving the models looking pinched. Needle & Black provided their signature accessories, red patent leather bows and thin black belts that played well with the lace overlays, but again felt austere against the gritty sexiness Christy Hunt and company were providing from stage.

Max Lohrbach with accessories by Bionic Unicorn and Pink Mink behind

To top off the night, though, there were fireworks. Max Lohrbach has always had a ridiculous sense of the artistically possible with his designs, whether showing models smashed through picture frames or a dress sheathed in a plastic duvet cover, his tongue-in-cheek sensibility is carried through by his meticulous execution. His Voltage 2011 was a riot of American crafts and Louis XIV gowns, cocktail dresses made from miles of pastel lace stitched together in a faded yet vital opulence that flounced down the runway with verve. With sketched detailing of kittens, cacti and American eagle crests and shields, the whole affair had an air of sexy decadence, hit home by the hearts emblazoned across so many of the designs. The most impressive heart, though, may have come from accessories designer Bionic Unicorn, who pieced together a chain frontlet in steel and pink links to form a swaying heart across the model’s chest. When that came out, the crowd went wild, primed as they already were by Lohrbach’s designs. With that, and some final, tearful words from Anna Lee, Voltage 2011 was put to bed, and took all of our hearts with it. Those hearts will be there whenever, wherever, however, it turns up next.

Bonus, because we are late in posting this, here is MPLS.TV‘s “What the F*ck are YOU Wearing?”, the Voltage Edition:

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