From Elsa Schiaparelli’s 1930s collaborations with Salvador Dalí, to Yves Saint Laurent’s a-line paper dresses featuring the artwork of Andy Warhol in the ‘60s, to Marc Jacobs’ frequent artist partnerships for Louis Vuitton, in which LV logo bags were covered in the graffiti-style designs of Stephen Sprouse and the pop art of Yayoi Kusama, the art and fashion worlds have long intermingled. Not only does that tradition continue today, it has grown exponentially in recent years thanks to the growing accessibility of digital printing technologies.
Northeast gallery Public Functionary last week set the scene for the debut of the latest art-meets-fashion concept, the Minneapolis-based fashion label Alice Riot. The launch party, which doubled as the Indiegogo fundraiser kickoff, gathered a mostly female group of supporters to view the brand’s first fashion collection—which features eye-popping, graphic patterns culled from original artworks by co-founder and Minneapolis contemporary artist Kate Iverson—and pledge their support for the startup. Three paintings by Iverson from which the prints were derived hung on the gallery walls.
A panel at the event gave attendees the opportunity to hear more about how the brand got its start. Moderated by Robyne Robinson—an apt choice, given her background as a gallerist and her job as the arts and culture director for the Airport Foundation MSP—co-founder Kelly Groehler explained where the idea for Alice Riot was born. “I was online shopping one morning in between jobs in 2015 as I was talking to recruiters about jobs,” she said, “and I was trying to find something unique to wear to an interview instead of just another pencil skirt. I stumbled across a painting by Kate on Instagram, and messaged her saying, ‘I want that as a skirt!’”
The brand launches with garments in four classic silhouettes—a pencil skirt, a midi-length skirt, a sleeveless sheath dress, and a three quarter–sleeve sheath dress—that were designed with the professional woman in mind, with a wrinkle-free fabric that lays smooth over the body and doesn’t pill after washing. The inaugural collection also features silk scarves in two sizes, and each piece will be available in all three prints. By keeping the focus on classic, flattering styles, the garments celebrate the artwork of female contemporary artists while helping the wearer to feel empowered, ideal for “the working woman who wants to add a piece or two to her collection that brings dimension to her style and speaks to her creative personality.”
Model: Nausheena Hussain, Executive Director, Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment (RISE) / Photo: Sarah White
Following the initial collection, the brand plans to partner with other female artists around the globe for each limited-edition collection and expects to issue at least two lines each year, available exclusively online through its website, aliceriot.com. While the artwork will change with each collection, the silhouettes that the brand has worked to perfect will remain consistent.
The brand also emphasizes body inclusivity, with a size range of XS to 3XL, as well as diversity by selecting brand ambassadors such as Nausheena Hussain, co-founder and executive director of Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment, to model the line in a social media campaign, which encourages women to #WearTheGallery.
As a former director at Best Buy with experience as a consultant for Cargill and Medtronic, Groehler gained contacts in the manufacturing industry about distribution, sourcing, and the supply chain, which were key in securing an overseas manufacturer for Alice Riot. (She now works as the brand, communications, and marketing strategist for RetailXelerator, an accelerator program for later-stage startups founded by a former Best Buy exec.) The brand worked with a rep to get connected with a small, family-owned factory in Hong Kong to print its fabric and make its garments. “He did a great job on helping us find the right fabric, and he understood our prints and helped us get the fabrics just right,” says Iverson. “They made sure everything was done to our specifications and at a high quality.”
Groehler and Iverson are hoping to eventually look into the possibility of working with sustainable fabrics, such as bamboo. “As crazy as I am about the fabric we’re using, we’d eventually love to explore something that is truly sustainable down the line,” says Groehler. “I’m very interested in doing all those things, but we’ve got to get through the next 60 days (of the Indiegogo campaign.) One step at a time!”
The brand’s initial collection is now available through pre-order via its Indiegogo campaign, accessible through aliceriot.com. Those who purchase the limited-edition pieces as part of the campaign receive a 20-percent discount off their original retail prices, which range from $75 for a scarf to $375 for a full sheath dress. The pre-order campaign ends April 19, with an estimated delivery of June 2018. Additional campaign perks include a mix-and-match six-piece set, a spot on the brand’s business advisory board, a #WearTheGallery advisory role, and Iverson’s original paintings featured in the collection.
Model: Vanessa McDuffie, educator, stylist, and blogger / Photo: Sarah White
Model: Amanda Brinkmnan, Chief Brand and Communications Officer at Deluxe Corporation & creator and host of Small Business Revolutioon / Photo: Sarah White
Model: Robyne Robinson, Consulting Director, MSP Airport Foundation/Alliance Architects, Designer of Rox Jewelry / Photo: Sarah White
Alice Riot co-founders, Kelly Groehler & Kate Iverson / Photo: Denny Park