While the Mall of America’s tagline “always new,” it may as well be, “go big or go home.” While in the midst of a $325 million expansion that will include a luxury hotel, a seven-floor office tower, and 163,000 square feet of new retail space, the mall launched its first-ever Fall Art + Style Series, ten days of programming and in-store events that kicked off with a traveling light-rail fashion show. It culminated last weekend with Curated Style, a runway show in the mall’s Rotunda that showcased fall collections from five Project Runway alums Peach Carr, Irina Shabayeva, Korto Momolu, Michael Costello, and Minnesota’s own Christopher Straub. But this wasn’t your typical mall fashion show: From the visuals displayed on a huge LED screen and the angled runway to the glam looks on the runway, it was a top-notch production that made it clear the megamall is alive and well.
During her time on Project Runway‘s fifth season, Liberian-born fashion designer Korto Momolu was known for her use of vibrant colors and patterns, print mixing, and modern take on her African heritage. Her singular style secured her a spot as the season’s fan favorite and second place in the competition. So it was somewhat surprising that she ended up showing a collection of metallic brocade separates, glittery gowns, and ivory bridal dresses. Despite the lack of color and pattern, th structured brocade looks that began her segment demonstrated the effusive personality and proportion play we’ve grown to love from the designer, and her flowing sky-blue trapeze gown straddled the sweet spot between St. Tropez glam and Calvin Klein minimalist. The latter half of the collection, though, looked as if it’d come from a different designer. A bronze lace sheath looked dull, while a couple of other gowns were hampered by fussy waist details. I realize bridal is the bread and butter for many independent designers, but I’m not so sure this is where Momolu’s strengths lie—namely, bold color and pattern.
all photos by Jahna Peloquin
Peach Carr is one of those designers I remember from Project Runway more for her irreverent personality than for her designs—in fact, I had to go back and look them up. (And indeed, they were fairly nondescript.) So having gone into Carr’s segment with no real expectations, I found it to be a fun and funky effort, full of unexpected pairings (a scale-patterned sequin crop top worn with a red and white mermaid skirt, for instance) and pop-art patterns that looked like they came out of a Deee-Lite music video in the early ’90s. (I’m not too far off—she counts ultimate 1960s “It” girl Edie Sedgwick as a major muse.) Upon second viewing, I’m not so much a fan of the split-skirt looks worn over hot pants and leggings—they came off looking a little cheap—but a black-and-white checkerboard sequin gown made my inner club kid swoon.
Since appearing on the sixth season of Project Runway in 2009, hometown darling Christopher Straub has leveraged his on-camera charm and mastery at unconventional design challenges to his advantage, serving as a trend expert for the Mall of America and as a regular guest on local TV talk shows, as well as creating paper dresses for local retailers, designing packaging for Yoplait yogurt, and even writing and illustrating a children’s book, Albert the Confused Manatee—which has a coordinating plush toy that he, of course, designed. The designer has also continued to create clothing and accessories, which he showed at Friday’s show. For the most part, it was a remixed presentation of what he showed a couple weeks prior at the Silhouette benefit fashion show at the Calhoun Beach Club (though one could hardly fault him, as the MOA brings is a much different and broader audience). Among his successful pieces were a structured turquoise jacket; a taupe crop top layered in breezy petals, paired with a silky maxi skirt; and a workaday tailored jacket thrown over a petaled navy dress. While I didn’t love all of it—such as a taupe gown decorated with his signature petal-work that looked more bottom-heavy than effortless—Straub is showing increasing polish with his work, particularly in a taupe taffeta gown featuring one of his original prints that closed the segment.
Irina Shabayeva was the winner of the sixth season, and rightfully so—she could be counted on for designs that were polished and luxe with a streetwise edge and textural quality. Those who loved her unusual, sculptural knits and the textures and patterns she created from leather strips may have been a little surprised to see the designer go into a much sportier direction. Her fall/winter 2015 line was dominated by stripe-banded leather hoodies and funky neoprene mini dresses with modular peek-a-boo grommets, set off by flat-brimmed caps and fringed booties. A pair of ultra-mini, off-the-shoulder leather dresses each had too many sexy elements rolled into one look, bringing them into tawdry territory. (I wrote “Rejected Robert Palmer Girl stagewear” in my notes.) But her segment smartly ended with a pair of glam strapless gowns that moved like liquid—proof that the designer hasn’t lost her luxe touch, attention to detail, and and craftsmanship.
The show was smart to end on Michael Costello’s collection, which elicited oohs, ahhs, and at least a couple of standing ovations in the audience. The collection of glittery gowns featured bold shoulder treatments, capes, and dramatically flared skirts (and even a pair of sequin palazzo pants) made it clear why the season-eight alumni has become a darling of the celebrity red carpet set—he knows how to do glamor. Styled in black turbans set off by dramatic, dangling earrings, his models stomped onto the runway like very-fabulous supervillains who take their styling tips from Norma Desmond and Liza Minnelli. I could hardly complain at all the fabulousity dripping onstage, though I would have liked to see at least a little bit more variation among the looks, and a little bit of color.