Why the Creative Crew Loves MN

Though March is technically the first month of spring, May is when fashion really begins to flourish in Minnesota. The month boasts a handful of fashion events highlighting work by local designers, including the semi-annual runway show Envision, which offer stylish Twin Citians an opportunity to dress up in the spring looks they’ve been waiting months to step out in.

But just last year it snowed in May—dissuading fashionistas from walking out of the house in a new pair of fuchsia suede platform sandals. Which begs the question: What is it about Minneapolis and St. Paul that attracts designers and other creatives and gets them to stay—despite the long winters and bipolar weather?

That was one of the questions explored in a recent article in The Atlantic, “The Miracle of Minneapolis,” which attributed the city’s success to the sheer number of corporations headquartered here (more than any other metro its size) and high marks in college-graduation rates and median earnings.  

In a recent study, Minneapolis ranked the fifth most creatively vital city in the country, thanks to its wealth of creative jobs and organizations.

Fact and figures aside, I was curious to find out what drives style-oriented creatives to the Twin Cities on a more personal level. Fashion designer Maritza Ramirez recently returned to the Twin Cities after spending three years in Seattle working at Nordstrom corporate. She says the Twin Cities are an attractive place to live thanks to its healthy job market, focus on education, support for the arts, and affordable cost of living—but its creative attitude is also vital.

“It really lends itself to a feeling of pride and a sense of community that is really rare outside Minnesota,” she says. “I see a lot of artists who are partnering and collaborating, which makes art feel like more of an inclusive, communal effort.”

Gina Moorhead, a fashion designer who grew up in Minnesota and lived in Seattle and London for the past 10 years, also recently moved back and credits Minnesota’s “off-the-charts” work ethic. “We’re wealthy in entrepreneurial spirit, and we know how to be a good team member and get things done,” she says.

Moorhead debuts a collection this month at Envision with designer Jess Laakso Rodysill, another recent transplant from New York City. Rodysill says living in the Twin Cities gives her the chance to build her clothing label, Mien Kielo. “I felt in NYC that everyone was just interested in their own success,” she says, “whereas here, there’s more of a community to offer support because we’re all creative types trying to survive.”

Milliner Celina Kane, who returned to Minnesota last year to launch her label, Hat Make, echoes this sentiment. “There are opportunities for building a business here that are much harder to come by in other major style hubs,” she says, “and more chances to collaborate and take risks that would be costlier in a more competitive atmosphere.”

Whatever the precise combination of factors, for many creatives, the scales are tipping from the edges of the country to the center. “When I told people we were moving back, I heard time and time again, ‘Minneapolis just has a way of sucking you back in!’” Ramirez says. “It’s true.”