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In Review: Black Hearts Ball Fashion Show


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Designs by Claire Ward

Photo by Gregg Jiracek

On Saturday night, local fashion designers paid tribute to Swedish design as well as Nobel Prize laureates at the annual Black Hearts Ball, held this year at the American Swedish Institute. Timed in tandem with the ongoing ASI exhibit Nobel Creations, the show’s designers paid tribute to both the venue and the touring exhibit, which features avant-garde fashions created by students from Sweden’s Beckmans College of Design that are, in turn, inspired by various Nobel Prize winners in the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology, medicine, literature, economic sciences, and peace.

[Read more: 'Nobel Creations' at the American Swedish Institute]

The VIP portion of the evening began with a performance by local R&B musician Mayda in the beautiful, historic Turnblad Mansion portion of the museum, where guests could check out the Nobel Creations exhibit and make conversation while sidling up to the bar. Then, attendees were led to the new side of the museum, an all-white structure with tall windows that reflects the minimalist aesthetic of Swedish design. That provided the backdrop to the evening's fashion show, which showcased a series of three-look mini collections by a group of Minnesota fashion designers created exclusively for the show. Throughout the show, models dramatically descended from the museum’s all-white staircase as they were accompanied by local opera singers and classical musicians.

Produced by the brother duo of Tim and Thom Navarro, who design under the label Tim+Thom, the show featured a lineup of designers consisting largely of new faces in the local fashion world (apart from one-time Project Runway contestant Danielle Everine). MAI Clothing showcased a line of fashion-inspired yogawear that incorporated tie-dye effects. While it’s unclear whether the line is meant to also be worn on the street, or only in the gym, the collection suffered from construction issues: the waist of a zip-side skirt looked hastily stitched together, and a raw edge of an asymmetrical top looked more unfinished than distressed. It also begged the question of where these garments are supposed to be worn—a side-slit skirt seemed more street-appropriate than workout-ready.

Design by MAI, photo by Gregg Jiracek

Design by MAI, photo by Gregg Jiracek

Design by MAI, photo by Gregg Jiracek

Newcomer Emrys Mariel showed a trio of transitional garments that seemed to speak to the urban traveler archetype. They included an interesting mix of rough-hewn textiles—nubby wools, raw-edged silk—some unconventional color combinations, and cool details (such as a cropped cardigan with epaulets). The basket-woven braids were the perfect punctuation to the collection. Color me intrigued.

Design by Emrys Mariel, photo by Gregg Jiracek

Design by Emrys Mariel, photo by Gregg Jiracek

Design by Emrys Mariel, photo by Gregg Jiracek

Design by Emrys Mariel, photo by Gregg Jiracek

Claire Ward, who has been on my radar since seeing her striking, colorful senior collection in 2013 at the University of Minnesota’s apparel design showcase. At the time, I wrote that her “colorful, four-piece line mixed kitschy, gaudy materials like clear vinyl, plastic beading and plastic gimp with linear silhouettes and detailed embellishment that revealed a sense of humor, conceptual vision and sophistication... It was what a strong student collection should be: experimental and memorable, with a clear sense of identity and purpose.” Last year, she opened Emma Berg’s solo show with a quartet of looks that played with silhouette, pattern, and color. Here, Ward again presented her a trio of looks that played with pattern, silhouette, and color. Unfortunately, a shapeless, oddly proportioned patchwork pant and blouse look brought the collection down a notch. Nonetheless, the trio of looks—particularly a vibrant, hand-painted dress—was one of the bright points of the Black Hearts Ball show (pun intended).

Design by Claire Ward, photo by Gregg Jiracek

Design by Claire Ward, photo by Gregg Jiracek

Design by Claire Ward, photo by Gregg Jiracek

Design by Claire Ward, photo by Gregg Jiracek

Sarah Patros of Jagress Intimates presented three lingerie looks. In an apparent attempt to add a high-fashion element to them, Patros incorporated some textured fringe to the bras and panties, giving them the weird effect of horse hair jutting out of the breasts and crotch But otherwise, the pieces looked well-made and fit the models well, and the styling—gorgeous '40s waves and boudoir makeup, and decadent jewelry by Stephanie Lake Design—was truly lovely.

Intimates by Jagress Intimates, necklace by Stephanie Lake Design, photo by Colin Schye

Intimates by Jagress Intimates, necklace by Stephanie Lake Design, photo by Colin Schye

Intimates by Jagress Intimates, necklace by Stephanie Lake Design, photo by Colin Schye

ArielSimone designer Adrienne Yancy—who typically impresses with her body-con, bold designs—was inconsistent in her collection. Though her aim was likely to be airy and delicate, the sheer fabrics utilized looked more cheap than chic. The looks appeared unfinished, such as an oddly paired tube top, baby-blue pants, and orange cape, and a sheer, unlined, and seemingly unhemmed white lace dress. However, her orange gown with floral embellishments that was perfectly accented with a floral head wreath was a strong and well-made look.

Design by ArielSimone by Adrienne Yancy, photo by Gregg Jiracek

Design by ArielSimone by Adrienne Yancy, photo by Gregg Jiracek

Design by ArielSimone by Adrienne Yancy, photo by Gregg Jiracek

Stacie Yokiel, a recent MCTC grad, impressed with a trio of looks from her line Kozel that demonstrated solid construction and luxe-looking fabrics with a definite perspective and eye for drama. The looks seemed to take inspiration from the commedia dell'arte and harlequin, culminating with an dramatically oversized wolf headpiece.

Design by Kozel by Stacie Yokiel, photo by Gregg Jiracek

Designs by Kozel by Stacie Yokiel, photo by Gregg Jiracek

Design by Kozel by Stacie Yokiel, photo by Gregg Jiracek

Local favorite Danielle Everine finished off the night with a stunning look that touched on her Swedish heritage with an original rosemaling-printed blouse, leather patterned shorts, and a blanket poncho with gold sequin details. It perfectly demonstrated Everine’s strength: combining tough and soft textiles and unique color combinations, telling a story through a single look in a distinct style that is all her own. Unfortunately, the following two looks were not quite as strong—a grey wool-striped jacket was chic, though I wasn’t fond of the proportion that resulted when paired with a pair of cropped wool pants. In the final look, Everine again impressed with her knack for wearable yet unique outerwear, though the mix of fabrics here was overwhelming for the eye.

Design by Danielle Everine, photo by Gregg Jiracek

Design by Danielle Everine, photo by Gregg Jiracek

Designs by Danielle Everine, photo by Gregg Jiracek

Designer Danielle Everine, photo by Gregg Jiracek

On the whole, the evening's designers impressed with their creative renderings of the theme, their innovation, and construction. The presentation was chic and polished, thanks to both the Navarro brothers’ production and the gorgeous space provided by the American Swedish Institute. And coinciding with Valentine’s Day, it provided a great excuse for couples and gal pals alike to dress up and take in a night of local fashion.

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