When she founded the annual event I Am Mpls! in 2009, Sarah Edwards had set out to create a fashion show less about the fashion than about its wearer. With local notables—from entrepreneurs and chefs, to stylists and designers, to yoga instructors and baristas—standing in as models, the show would become a celebration of the people who make Minneapolis what it is.
Five years in, I Am Mpls! has become something of an institution. And over the years, it’s grown and become more polished as Edwards has matured as a producer and stylist. That’s evidenced in the change in this year’s venue, downtown nightclub First Avenue, a substantial jump from 2013’s venue, Aria. It’s also apparent by the involvement of multi-media creative company Playatta, which offered slick, projected visuals on custom screens along with their signature interactive video booth, and creative agency Von91, which contributed a flashy new website to the project.
Not only were the projections great-looking, they also added helpful context to the runway show–namely, the names of the citizen models as well as their professions, hobbies, and outfits (sourced from local stores B. Resale, Cliché, Roe Wolfe, Proper & Prim, and Atmosfere). Thoughtful props—such as a mini bike rode onstage by One on One Bike owner Gene Oberpriller and a beer growler toted by Bauhaus Brew Labs‘ Mark Schwandt—were fun additions. Bedlam Theatre’s John Francis Bueche, who took the opportunity to make a political statement and went down the runway with an umbrella bearing the words “Black Lives Matter.” Edwards did a solid job of selecting people who had the charisma to work the runway as well as incorporating diversity throughout, and the show managed to be both unpretentious and accessible: two words not typically associated with fashion shows.
The selection of electro-pop act Tickle Torture as headlining music act was a savvy move. Accordingly, the provocative performer planned an over-the-top stage show, with male and female dancers wearing little more than gold body paint, a full six-piece band, confetti cannons, fully choreographed dance performances (courtesy of local dancer John Mark), and a post-apocalyptic mini fashion show that made good use of the runway.
It’s too bad that more than half the crowd had left by this point of the night and missed the spectacle. Tickle Torture’s set was preceded by the polished but ultimately low-energy sounds of Minneapolis indie-rock band Greycoats, which had a lot of showgoers heading for the door. A similar disconnect was the stand-up comedy acts that opened the show, which were difficult to take in over the din of the crowd.
But what did work—the runway show, the dance segments, the projected visuals, and Tickle Torture—worked extremely well, overshadowing the pacing hiccups for the most part and capitalizing on the show’s mission: to showcase the bright and brilliant talents and personalities that make Minneapolis a vibrant city.
This weekend, I Am St. Paul!—the St. Paul spin-off of I Am Mpls!—makes its debut at the Amsterdam Bar & Hall in Lowertown. For more details and tickets, visit iamstpaul.com.
Colleen Eversman of 2nd Truth Photography in a look from Proper & Prim
Grant Spanier, founder of creative studio LESS, in a look from Atmosfere
Brandon McCray of Lav.Fash in a look from Atmosfere
Connie Mrotek, in a look from Cliché, and Keith Mrotek in a look from Atmosfere
Laura Fitzpatrick, Brand Strategist for Carmichael Lynch, in a look from Cliché
Sondra Samuels, President & CEO of Northside Achievement Zone, in a look from B. Resale
Stylist and designer Parker Parker wearing a look from B. Resale (with a model)
Bedlam Theatre’s John Francis Bueche in a look from B. Resale
Playatta’s video booth
[All photos by Jahna Peloquin]