In Review: Minnesota Fashion Awards & Rumble on the Runway

Saturday night marked the first-ever Minnesota Fashion Awards and Rumble on the Runway, two distinct events presented over the course of a single evening at downtown Minneapolis event space the Depot. The night was the brainchild of longtime Twin Cities producer Dan Vargas, who’s also behind the popular annual Crystal Ball New Year’s Eve party at International Market Square. He’s certainly well-versed in throwing a large-scale, staged event–and selling tickets.

With the two-part event, Vargas switched gears to spotlight the local fashion community. And unsurprisingly, he put on a show with high production value, staging, and ambiance in an appropriately grand venue. He also managed to pack the house–no small feat for a brand-new event that hasn’t yet had the benefit of brand-name recognition.

The show was modeled loosely after a typical awards show, with a pair of affable, well-known hosts–in this case, the CW Twin Cities’ Carly Aplin and former The Voice contestant Tim Mahoney–and guest presenters from the local fashion community announcing winners in ten categories spanning the local fashion and retail industry. Honors were given to Emma Berg for best designer, Len Druskin (the retailer’s namesake) for lifetime achievement, Grethen House for best women’s store, and MartinPatrick3 for best men’s store.

The pre-show red carpet

An introductory fashion segment

Minnesota Fashion Award winner for best stylist Hollie Mae Schultz

In between the presentation of awards was the Rumble on the Runway portion of the evening. While the combination of both events served to break up the award-giving and entertain the crowd, it didn’t come without its challenges. Rumble consisted of four “teams” competing in highly-stage runway segments according to a theme (which was, somewhat inexplicably, James Bond). Following each segment, a panel of judges gave their critiques before moving onto the next Minnesota Fashion award.

Segments from MINQ and WarPaint International were amateurishly (and scantly) styled in outfits that looked either dated or just plain tacky. Many of the looks were clearly intended to titillate the audience rather than to present a stylish, inspired point of view. Uptown boutiques Showroom and Atmosfere fared slightly better, probably in part because they made the smart decision to very loosely (or largely ignore) the proposed theme. But when the event is clearly high-end in every other regard, why is it the fashion that is worst in show? It’s hardly a precedent to set for an event that in meant to honor the best in the business.

For next year’s show, I would suggest that Rumble on the Runway would be spun off as its own event, and the Minnesota Fashion Awards take a cue from the Oscars, the Tonys, or the Twin Cities’ own Ivey Awards and showcase the best local style moments of the year. Some possibilities: A runway show featuring looks from that year’s nominees, a presentation from best store nominees, and a hair and makeup show demonstrating the skills of the stylists nominated in those categories. Another option would be to size down the Rumble portion of the night to a mid-show intermission, as to not take too much attention from the main event.

Which brings me to another quibble I had with the event: While it was fun to see many well-deserving Minnesota Fashion awards given, it must have been difficult for an audience member less familiar with the local fashion community to feel engaged. One idea for next year: Utilize the two huge LED screens behind the runway to showcase images from the nominees’ and winners’ portfolios to give the audience an idea of why these members of the community were so deserving.

But after devoting months of time, energy, resources, and sleep into an event, it all comes down to one evening of everything going off without a hitch and get people to show up. On that end, the event was a success.

Looks from WarPaint International

Looks from WarPaint International

Looks from WarPaint International

On point:

  • The production was seamless, spotless, and high-end.
  • Award presenters, including stylist Grant Whittaker and fashion designer Samantha Rei, were well-selected and engaging.
  • People stuck around for the after party, which was still going strong by midnight.
  • The nominees and winners were legitimate choices, for the most part.
  • Most people got the black tie memo and dressed accordingly.

Room for improvement:

  • Tighten the show, possibly by separating the events; by the end of the show, many members of the audience were yawning and taking selfies.
  • Heighten the quality of styling in runway segments.
  • Eliminate seating inside the runways; guests taking selfies during runway segments and an “in memoriam” segment was distracting.
  • A major oversight from the “in memoriam” segment, which was devoted solely to hair and makeup artist Cindy Rae Betting, was the exclusion of others from the Minnesota style community who also died throughout the year, most obviously iconic Aveda founder Horst Rechelbacher, who passed away last February.
  • Utilize the screens to demonstrate why nominees were honored.
  • Expand and diversify the nomination panel; I have a nagging feeling that many relevant voices in our rapidly expanding fashion community were left out.

Full list of 2014 Minnesota Fashion Award winners:

Best Designer: Emma Berg

Best Photographer: Miles Schuster

Best Makeup Artist: Fatima Olive

Best Hair Stylist: Andrea Holton

Lifetime Achievement Award: Len Druskin

Best Female Model: Valerie Carpender (Wehmann Models & Talent)

Best Male Model: Will Defiel (Vision Management Group)

Best Women’s Store: Grethen House

Best Men’s Store: MartinPatrick3

Best Blogger: Allison Kaplan

Best Stylist: Hollie Mae Schultz

Best Dressed: Richard Anderson

Hastings 3000

Presenters Brandon McCray and Sarah Edwards with best male model winner Will Defiel

Looks from Showroom

Looks from MINQ

Looks from MINQ

Looks from Atmosfere

Minnesota Fashion Award best designer winner Emma Berg flanked by Jahna Peloquin & Allison Kaplan

The after party

The after party

[All photos by Bruce Silcox]