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Review: MN4MN Makes a Solid First Impression


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Designer Lisa Hackwith doing her finale walk with her collection

A.J. Olmscheid

By most indications, Minnesota fashion is alive and well. Decades- and century-old manufacturers such as Duluth Pack, Faribault Woolen Mill, J.W. Hulme, Minnetonka Moccasins, Sven's Clogs, and Red Wing are thriving, as are neo-heritage companies including Mill City Fineries, Marked Leather, Sanborn Canoe, and Leather Works Minnesota. And increasingly, local fashion designers are building their businesses without having to move to larger markets, thanks in large part to the advent of e-commerce and increased access to manufacturing.

[Read more: Q&A with MN4MN’s Ini Iyamba]

But there is still work to be done. Despite the popularization of the food-to-table movement in the foodie world, most Minnesotans aren’t aware of many of the fashion designers and makers that exist in their own backyard. That’s where MN4MN hopes to come in, raising visibility for those Minnesota companies, designers, and independently-owned boutiques. Judging by its ambitious first event this past weekend—a tented, two-night runway show and afternoon marketplace held at the Tents at West End in St. Louis Park—it has piqued the interest of the local fashion set. From the well-lit runway, sexy mood lighting, audio-visual components, and top-notch model talent, the show was by all appearances a professional, well-put-together presentation, particularly for a first-year event.

The show also got the attention of Target, which showed their own in-house brands on Friday evening and a selection of one-of-a-kind creations by its own roster of talented designers, including Lindsey Hopkins and Amanda Christine Natzel, on Saturday night. MN4MN producer and founder Ini Iyamba said it was their first open-to-the-public Minnesota fashion show, despite being a Minnesota-based company—quite the get for a first-year show.

Look from Target (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look from Target (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look from Target (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look by Target designer Nicola Watson and jewelry by Carrier Pigeon (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look by Target designer Lauren Mayhew (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Target designer Amanda Christine Natzel with her look and jewelry by Carrier Pigeon (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Another Target corporate employee, Emma Berg, debuted her full spring/summer 2015 line on Friday evening. Exploring themes of feminism, the collection was delicately rendered in a palette of peach and mint sheer cotton plaid, beaded silk, exuberant red layers of organza, and silks screen-printed with a painting by Minneapolis artist Melissa Loop, paired with jewelry by Stephanie Lake Design and footwear by John Fluevog Shoes. Throughout, Berg playfully mixed masculine and feminine silhouettes for what would be the brightest, most optimistic collection to come from the designer in some time. Berg says, "The collection is around the lexicon both in support and against feminism. In addition, the purity of the landscape used in the main print is meant to represent that at the core—or simplified, back to the basics—definition of feminism, we are talking about equality for all people, regardless of gender." Unfortunately, Berg’s line was sandwiched between boutique segments from Arrow, BlackBlue, and Atmosfere without a break in between, resulting in an overall presentation that felt rushed. Berg’s designs deserve to be taken in and considered thoughtfully by its audience, and the fast-and-furious presentation robbed her of that moment.

Look by Emma Berg, jewelry by Stephanie Lake Design, sandals by John Fluevog Shoes (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look by Emma Berg, sandals by John Fluevog Shoes (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look by Emma Berg, jewelry by Stephanie Lake Design, sandals by John Fluevog Shoes (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look by Emma Berg (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Other Minnesota designers showing full collections included Christopher Straub, who premiered his spring/summer 2015 collection—a sporty, colorful line of men’s and women’s wear that incorporated Straub’s whimsical charm. I wasn’t a hundred percent sold on the hot pink and candy apple green harlequin print, which came off looking a bit clownish when used on a pair of drop-crotch men’s leggings. But the simpler looks, as in a kicky, purple neoprene dress and white tank dress sporting an embroidered triceratops (featured in our September fall fashion editorial), and a pair of quilted black leather men’s shorts, were great examples of sporty chic.

Look & plush bear by Christopher Straub (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look & bag by Christopher Straub (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look & bag by Christopher Straub (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look & bag by Christopher Straub, boots by Doc Martens (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Hackwith Design House by Minneapolis designer Lisa Hackwith closed out Friday night’s show with a 20-look collection of her chic, minimalist separates that just about any woman would love to have in her closet. Though at times feeling a bit redundant, due to the simplicity of the garments, the showing included a couple of exciting pieces, including a must-have black coverall and a show-closing, gorgeously-draped cream gown. (The designer should seriously consider making a foray into evening wear.)

Look by Hackwith Design House, clogs by Svens Clogs (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look by Hackwith Design House (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look by Hackwith Design House, clogs by Svens Clogs (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Caroline Hayden, a designer known for her show-stopping evening wear, instead showed a collection of wraps and capes designed exclusively for MN4MN using Faribault-manufactured wool. Despite the promising premise of Hayden adding her chic elegance to a Minnesota classic, the runway presentation left something to be desired. The styling of the (admittedly lovely) shawls and capes with basic black turtlenecks, black pants and leggings, black clogs, and the occasional beret felt like an afterthought, lacking Hayden’s typical sophistication.

Cape by Caroline Hayden x MN4MN x Faribault Woolen Mill (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Cape by Caroline Hayden x MN4MN x Faribault Woolen Mill (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Boutique segments from Arrow, BlackBlue, and Atmosfere on Friday night and Stephanie’s and Heimie’s Haberdashery on Saturday night demonstrated some chic fall looks for men and women. Paired with shearling-trimmed clog boots by Sven’s and Western-style hats from Goorin Bros., and one very fabulous cow-print fur jacket, Arrow’s segment had the feel of Donna Karan-goes-West. BlackBlue, Atmosfere, and Heimie’s showcased some great men’s fall outerwear and layering.

One major area for improvement: the sparsely attended daytime marketplace. Perhaps it would have worked better in a city environment than in a suburban one, or maybe everyone was just saving their energy for the show later that night. Either way, it seemed like a bust this time around.

Thanks to the glitzy, chic production, MN4MN no doubt made a solid first impression and proved itself a force to be reckoned with. And with some of the kinks worked out and a closer attention to detail in future events, the show could truly be top-notch.

Look & bag from Arrow, hat from Goorin Bros., boots by Svens Clogs (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look from Arrow, hat from Goorin Bros. (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look from Arrow, necklace from Rewind Vintage, hat from Goorin Bros., boots by Svens Clogs (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look from Atmosfere (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look from Atmosfere (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look & shoes from BlackBlue, bag by Marked Leather (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look & Red Wing boots from BlackBlue, bag by Marked Leather (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look from Stephanie's (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look from Stephanie's (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look from Heimie's Haberdashery (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look from Heimie's Haberdashery (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

Look from Heimie's Haberdashery (Photo: A.J. Olmscheid)

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