Fashion Week MN in Review: Black Hearts Ball 2016

Fashion is inherently theatrical, especially when on the runway. Three years ago, fashion-designer brothers and independent event producers Tim and Thom Navarro picked up on the connection, and Black Hearts Ball was born. The annual show uses a unique formula, pairing three-piece collections by several Twin Cities fashion designers—usually ones who are known for bringing a sense of drama to their designs—with accompaniment from live opera singers from the Minnesota Opera. This year’s show took place on the final weekend of Spring Fashion Week MN at Muse Event Center, and the Navarros made fine use of the space, eschewing a lifted runway in favor of a slightly more informal presentation—though moody lighting gave it gravitas.

Of the seven designers featured in this year’s show, Danielle Everine has the most name recognition, due to both her longtime involvement in the local fashion community, having shown collections since 2006, and a 2011 appearance on Project Runway. Her Black Hearts Ball showing was her third—and perhaps best, demonstrating her newly developed skill of loom-knitting and knack for pairing soft and heavy textures. Her three looks were inspired by Matryoshka nesting dolls and Japanese sailors—a nod to her ongoing fascination with seafaring and travel. Lovely little details were present throughout—a wool jacket featured a bit of fur tucked into a back pleat; a tropical-print silk pant offered a tailored take on harem pants; rabbit-fur trim gave thigh-high hand-knit wool socks a whimsical twist. The collection offered just a taste of what Everine is capable of, both with regards to skill and creativity, and ultimately made me want more from Everine—if I’m not mistaken, the last time we saw a full collection from the designer was at Voltage: Fashion Amplified in 2011.

all runway photos by jay larson

Form over Function designer Lauren Kacher followed up a strong showing at Envision the previous weekend with a new trio of looks that seemed to be offshoots of that collection—unisex, edgy, and in stark black and white. Kacher used origami folding techniques to convert garments from boxy and masculine to a more feminine, fitted silhouette—most notably in an off-white look that unsnapped to transform into an entirely new silhouette. Since showing her promising debut collection just a year ago, the young designer is already showing an increasing sense of sophistication and polish.

By day, Stacie Yokiel stitches together bags for Trashbag Bike Messenger company in the North Loop. She brings a similar functionality to her designs for her label, Kozol, which incorporated leather harnesses over structured dresses in nature-inspired fabrics. The combination of the feminine, natural prints and structured leather gave the looks A Midsummer Night’s Dream quality to them, though it was hard to say based off of the two women’s looks shown. The final look was a white menswear shirt paired black shorts—a fairly nondescript look for a fashion show, even though the shorts up-close did appear to feature some interesting detail work. While they were certainly well-made and wearable, the looks could have used a little more oomph.

Designer Emrys Mariel’s looks for her line, Lux et Voluptas, took inspiration from the White Rose political resistance movement of 1940s Germany in which students led an anonymous leaflet and graffiti campaign in opposition to Hitler’s regime. The heady material lended the looks a vaguely 1940s look to the otherwise thoroughly modern looks, with highlights including a gorgeous linen trench coat and a sheer organza top embroidered with, yep, white roses. My only quibbles came down to the way the looks were put together—I didn’t think it made much sense to pair a boxy top and loose-fitting trench with tight, pinstriped shorts, nor a boxy top with wide-legged palazzo pants. Mariel has a knack for storytelling and creating some great pieces—ith a little editing, this designer will truly be one to watch.

Lucie Biros’s collection for her line, Otherrealm, offer a darkly beautiful take on fairy tales, myths, and surrealism. She intricately pieced together layers of raw-edged, textured black fabrics for two outerwear pieces that made me lean in for a closer look. (I’m told the long jacket took something to the tune of 70 hours of work.) A slinky black dress featuring layers of dangling bits pieced together was similarly intricate and demonstrated Biros’s unique vision. I’ve since learned that she also does leatherworking and surface design—two elements I’m looking forward to seeing from this talented designer in the future.

Yessenya designer Bris Carbajal, another newcomer, took inspiration from her colorful line from Frida Kahlo, though I would have guessed ’40s-era French Riviera. While a look featuring a red top and white skirt was deceivingly simple, a nautical-blue, pinstriped, off-the-shoulder top with multi-colored ruffles paired with culottes in theory should have been too-too much, but in actuality was my favorite look of the evening and simply must find its way into my closet for my next yachting outing. (I kid, but seriously, this might need to happen.) And the closing look featuring red pants with a fun detail at the waist and structured white short-sleeve blouse was simply perfection.

It’s not at all surprising to learn that designer Sarah Furnaé once interned with one of her idols, Iris Van Hurpen, a Dutch fashion designer and couturier renowned for her futuristic, darkly fantastical aesthetic and sculptural silhouettes. Unusual shapes and a sense of fantasy permeated throughout the collection—which was previously shown at Envision last fall. The three looks shown included a dress made entirely of emerald-green feathers, a lovely gown in a dark-green floral print, and a white lace down. The abbreviated panniers (a kind of women’s undergarments worn in the 17th and 18th centuries to extend the width of skirts at the sides) featured in two of the looks was an inspired idea in concept but in practice, fell short for me. They sat up too high on the models waist, and could have used a stiffer, more substantial structure. But on the whole, I’d like to see what else Furnaé can bring to the table. It must be said as someone who attends her share of fashion shows in the Twin Cities: Designers, please don’t show garments more than once on the runway. Give us something new to see.