Friday, July 16, 2010

all is right with the world

Yeah! MAC and Rodarte have completely redeemed themselves in my eyes. I'm looking forward to hearing more about what organization they will work with to donate funds to help women in Juarez.

MAC's statement:
We understand that product names in the M·A·C Rodarte collection have offended some of our consumers and fans. This was never our intent and we are very sorry. We are listening carefully to the comments posted and are grateful to those of You who have brought your concerns to the forefront of our attention. M·A·C will give a portion of the proceeds from the M·A·C Rodarte collection to help those in need in Juarez. We are diligently investigating the best way to do this. Please be assured that we will keep you posted on the details regarding our efforts.

Rodarte's statement:
Our makeup collaboration with M·A·C developed from inspirations on a road trip that we took in Texas last year, from El Paso to Marfa. The ethereal nature of this landscape influenced the creative development and desert palette of the collection. We are truly saddened about injustice in Juarez and it is a very important issue to us. The M·A·C collaboration was intended as a celebration of the beauty of the landscape and people in the areas that we traveled.

day of the dead

The first image from Rodarte's collaboration with MAC has been released, and though I'm excited for the collection, I've got a major complaint as well.

The palette and theme were inspired by Mexico, and as is Rodarte's style, there's a dark gothic femininity to the names and colors. A sheer white-washed lipstick named Ghost Town and a delicate pink blush named Quinceanera already sound like stand-out items. But as multiple bloggers have pointed out (I believe that The Frisky was the first to notice), there are two nail polishes named "Juarez" and "Factory."

Uh, really? As in Juarez, the factory town which has gained infamy due to the horrifying number of young women who have been raped, disappeared and/or found murdered in recent years? The town notorious for a police force that still refuses to take these matters seriously?

I'm all for being dark and creepy, but naming a pink nail polish "Juarez" isn't gothic or moody, it's fucked up. I'm especially surprised since MAC is usually such a socially conscious brand. I'm hoping that MAC releases an apology, or at the very least, clarification as to why the names were chosen.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

my summer of love

more gorgeous shots of Lindsay Lohan by Ellen von Unwerth for German GQ

Speaking of the freakishly talented Ms. von Unwerth, I also loved these photos she took of Mila Kunis for German GQ.

va va voom

Linday Lohan by Ellen von Unwerth for German GQ


My first encounter with A Streetcar Named Desire was a 1992 episode of The Simpsons. In “A Streetcar Named Marge,” Maggie Great Escape'd her way out of The Ayn Rand School for Tots, (which I found especially funny since by sixth grade I already had a bizarre love/hate relationship with The Fountainhead), but more importantly, Marge Simpson tackled the role of Blanche DuBois in the local community theater’s musical version of the iconic play. Perhaps the most notable scene from their production included Marge swinging from the rafters while fluorescent lights flashed and a foggy mist rolled across the stage. It was the director's subtle dramatization of Blanche's descent into madness.

I may have been 11, but I was not an idiot, and I got the joke. The Simpsons had taken a masterpiece of American dramatic literature and turned it into an over-the-top soap opera with special effects. It wasn’t until I went to college and majored in theater that I realized the only reason Williams himself didn’t include similar pseudo-rave stage directions is that fluorescent lights and smoke machines had not yet been invented.

Please understand that these playful jabs at the late Williams come from a place of deep admiration and affection. He was a marvelous playwright and a beautiful wordsmith. With the turn of a phrase, he could break your heart into a million pieces and then put it back together again. But he was also a man with a passion for the melodramatic, and I suspect that if he were alive today, his favorite show would be True Blood. "Stellaaa!...I mean, Soooookie! You are miiine!" Yep, Williams would have most certainly ponied up for HBO if he knew all the delicious gothic camp that was in store for him. So when my friend Jay Gabler posted his polarizing review and his follow-up blog entry of the Guthrie’s production of Streetcar on The Twin Cities Daily Planet, I could see where he was coming from. A Streetcar Named Desire is a legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning play, but that doesn’t mean it's not an exercise in extreme melodrama.

Imagined gunshots and ghostly polka music can feel a bit ridiculous when one is trying to watch a serious play. And the constant use of streetcar sound effects to highlight Blanche's mental decline isn't exactly subtle. Perhaps the stage direction didn't feel quite as campy when the play made its Broadway debut. But whether you were watching Streetcar in 1947 or are planning to catch it for the first time during the current production's run, one must remember that Blanche has created a fantasy world for herself, and it is only through that magical lens that we can truly understand and empathize with her story.

It is oft speculated that Williams found inspiration for Blanche in his sister Rose. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia at a young age and eventually lobotomized, leaving her non-verbal for the remainder of her life. But in addition to this horrible loss, Williams himself struggled intensely with addiction and depression. He constantly feared for losing his mind, and Blanche symbolized that fear for his own sanity as much as she emulated his beloved sister. Beneath the histrionics, A Streetcar Named Desire is a devastatingly personal work. And when the marvelous Gretchen Egolf delivered her delicate ramblings in that slightly quivering Southern drawl, my heart broke not only for Blanche, but also for Tennessee.

Though director John Miller-Stephany's production was not groundbreaking, it was certainly a capable and faithful execution of a master writer's work. The production design was confident, and the cast seemed to relish their meaty roles. Egolf's Blanche was both pathetic and intoxicating, pitiful and fascinating. She was the soft romantic light from a cheap paper lantern over a bare light bulb, while Stacia Rice's Stella was the slow burn of a lit cigarette. Rice's performance was solid and steady, and throughout she managed to imbue Stella with an unmistakable sensuality and passion. With one sister so rooted in reality and the other in fantasy, it was rewarding to see the two actresses sharing moments that felt so genuine and affectionate.

As for Stanley Kowalski, I both admire and pity any actor brave enough to devote himself to the role. Perhaps more than any other character in 20th century theater, Stanley is haunted by one particular performance. No, not Ned Flanders. I'm talking about the one and only Marlon Brando. Ricardo Antonio Chavira's portrayal of the Stella's brutish husband was impressively ambitious but occasionally fell short. He easily captured the frustrated emotional outbursts of a volatile man-child, but never quite nailed the the smoldering allure that makes Stella and Stanley's ardor for one another so believable.

Though I would be curious to see a more stripped-down version of Streetcar at some point, I can't help but fear that such a production would require stripping down Blanche of who she is. And it seems almost cruel to steal that fantasy away from her, when it's all she has left. It’s like Ms. DuBois says, “I don’t want realism, I want magic.”

For more info on the play and to purchase tickets visit
Originally posted at

Monday, July 5, 2010

"moonshine whiskey"

Dead and Breakfast is finally available on Netflix Watch Instantly. Let's celebrate with a zombie linedance!!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Saturday, May 22, 2010

an important read for comic book fans

Click here to read a fantastic essay about the representation of women in comic books. I love comics, but as a woman it can be a very frustrating medium to enjoy. This essay explains why.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

i want a pony

Or at least this Equestrian Romance Ring that my friend Emma found online. (Insert cute little whinny.)

the stockholm chronicles: chapter two

tambourines and harmonies (in which your narrator attempts to become best friends with american folk singers)

Because nothing cures jet lag like loud music in a small venue, Elen and I went to a concert on my first night in Stockholm. We've both been big She & Him fans for quite some time, so it was just a bonus that we got to see the show together while I was visiting her in Sweden. The Chapin Sisters opened the show with a charming collection of sweet country melodies. We spoke to two of the sisters after the show and found them to be as lovely in person as they were onstage. Sadly, they had to turn down our offer to wreak havoc on Stockholm as they had to immediately board their tour bus to depart for Oslo. Better luck next time I suppose. We'd also hoped to use the night as an opportunity to become best friends with Zooey Deschanel (I've known we were destined to for friendship ever since I learned that her parents took her name from Franny & Zooey by JD Salinger), but she retired straight to the tour bus after the show. Our scheme had been foiled. Failure.

But we still got a great concert out of it. The band was fantastic. M. Ward was a joy to watch and Zooey Deschanel's voice sounded just as great live as it does on their albums. When she walked out onto the stage and settled behind the microphone, I whispered to Elen, "Wow, she's really tiny." "Um, Beth, she's sitting on a stool." Except Elen was wrong! There was no stool! Zooey Deschanel is that little! For someone that small, she still had quite a lot of energy to share. She spent almost the entirety of their set bouncing up and down, clapping and shaking her tambourine. It was kind of like watching a five year-old.

When she asked the crowd how many Swedes were at the show, the audience (almost entirely Swedish) gently clapped and I think someone may have whistled. Of course, she followed that up by asking whether there were any Americans in the audience. I think there were perhaps five or six of us in attendance, but we all screamed at the tops of our lungs to create a din that dwarfed the Swedes. Because Americans? We are very very loud.

a nashville girl in stockholm (in which a swede sings country music with a cute american accent)

Interestingly enough, my most intimate musical experience in Sweden took place in a raucous British pub. Once Elen and I pushed through the throng of drunken rugby fans and teetered down a precarious staircase, we found ourselves in a relatively quiet basement venue with an indie folk atmosphere. Several bands played songs (all in English) inspired by American country music (the Dolly Parton kind, not the Taylor Swift kind). My favorite performer was the evenings emcee, Charlee Porter. No, that's not her real name, but she wanted a stage name that matched her music. Her songs reminded me of Jenny Lewis and a bit of She & Him, but Charlee's voice and earnest songwriting were very much her own. She had almost completely mastered that slight American twang, except for when she sang about her little country house and pronounced "country" as "cown-try." It was painfully endearing.

We chatted after the show and I was surprised that although she sings with such a strong American accent, she still speaks English with a heavy Swedish accent. It was just another one of her characteristics that I found completely adorable. When I asked her if it was difficult to write lyrics in a language other than her native tongue, she surprised me by revealing it's much easier for her to write lyrics in English. Not only do many Swedes sing in English to reach a larger audience, it is often a more natural writing process since such a majority of the music they listen to growing up is American or British.

After the show, Elen and I shared some Jameson with a fellow ex-pat until the bar closed. It was time to take Elen home and put her to bed. (She has had maybe two drinks since she's been abroad, so any tolerance she once had has completely evaporated. Give the girl two beers and it's time to put her down for a nap.) Once she passed out in her bed and was softly snoring, I read for about three hours. Because apparently I don't sleep in Sweden.

"so happy i could die" (in which your narrator dies and goes to heaven...disco heaven)

Lady Gaga's Monster Ball stopped in Stockholm the day before my birthday, so Elen and I decided that we were fated to attend. Despite the chilly rain, hundreds of fans huddled outside The Globe Arena, creating an ocean of umbrellas. Unfortunately, umbrellas were the one item not allowed inside the venue, so as the crowds filed into the arena, enormous umbrella graveyards accumulated to the side of every entrance. Since Elen and I had assigned seats, we eschewed waiting in line and instead spent the hour before the show having a quick bite at McDonald's (for strength!) and pounding a Red Bull and vodka at a local bar (for energy!). Once we were suitability buzzed and caffeinated, we jittered to our seats just in time for the lights to drop.

As was expected, the production featured elaborate costume and set design. The show followed Gaga on her harrowing journey for fame. It was kind of like The Wizard of Oz, but with more profanity. We followed her through gritty urban jungles and dark haunted forests. She transformed from vixen to nun to fairy, then back again. There were times when I felt like I was watching a movie; it seemed impossible that the show was happening right in front of me.

The lady herself pleaded like a demented Tinkerbell as she collapsed onstage and begged for the audience to clap for her to save her life. "Are you really going to let me fucking die!?!" she screamed as the crowd roared. The dancing spectacles were predictably fantastic, but where the star really shined was at the piano. As she sat at her pyrotechnic baby grand, her cries rang out lovely and clear, enthralling the audience. When she pounded the keys and raised her voice, her simple pop ballads became anthems. So yeah, that was pretty cool.

Elen's four year-old niece has since learned to sing "Gaga oh la la!" This pleases me.

If you missed chapter one, here you go!
more adventures from Sweden to follow...

sponsored by roy g. biv

Cameron Diaz in Oscar de la Renta at the L.A. premiere of Shrek Forever After

Zoe Saldana in Lanvin at the L.A. premiere of Death at a Funeral

Whitney Port in Rachel Roy at Nylon's Young Hollywood Party

Chloe Sevigny in Proenza Schouler at the Costume Institute Gala (with the designers: Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez)

Amanda Seyfried at the L.A. premiere of Letters to Juliet

Michelle Monaghan in Andrew Gn at the L.A. premiere of Prince of Persia

Carey Mulligan in RM by Roland Mouret at the Wall Street 2 photo call in Cannes

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

the call of the north

Since I follow Ron Perlman's career with harmless obsession, I saw The Last Winter on his CV when it was still in pre-production. I was delighted to learn that Connie Britton (Tami Taylor!) and Zach Gilford (Matthew Saracen!) were also in the cast. If you don't watch Friday Night Lights, that will mean nothing to you, but it means a whole lot to me. Though the movie was never released in Minneapolis, I read through every review I could find. Though I was intrigued, the reviews were frustratingly vague. Despite everything I'd read, I still couldn't figure out what the movie was actually about.

Here's what I knew: A crew is sent to Northern Alaska to prepare a site for oil drilling. Environmental scientists are also appointed to the team. Conflict appropriately ensues. That much was basic enough. Then members of the team begin to die due to mysterious circumstances. Mysterious circumstances? Like ghosts? Do they go cabin fever and murder each other? Did they unearth some rare zombie infection from beneath the frozen tundra? Is Mother Nature getting pissed off like she did in The Happening? IS IT A WENDIGO?! (I kind of think everything is a wendigo.)

Cut to A Tiny Machine a few years later as she discovers that The Last Winter is available to watch instantly on Netflix. Holla! Even on my little laptop, the cinematography immediately created an atmosphere of urgent loneliness as it swept across the Alaskan tundra. The miles of eerie white blankness were both quietly beautiful and vaguely unsettling. With the ice stretching on forever, the crew's housing was a tiny speck on the landscape. The cramped quarters and the infinite whiteness worked together to build a disturbing sense of claustrophobia. As the team members began to die, the sense of isolation increased to a deafening level.

Throughout the movie, I couldn't help shivering under my blanket. The dialogue was sparse, and director/co-writer/producer Larry Fessenden relied on graceful camerawork to maintain the moody atmosphere. After it ended I felt cold and vaguely unsettled. The story was so quiet and gradual that I didn't notice how completely tense I was until the closing credits drifted onto the screen. Unfortunately, it would be cheap of me to spoil it for you and reveal the crew's antagonist. (Besides, if you really want to know you can look up the summary on wikipedia all on your own.) But I can tell you that The Last Winter is an incredibly well-acted low-budget indie with believable conflict and plenty of moments that will send chills down your spine. It's the thinking woman's horror movie.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

hungry like the wolf

As an avid fan of The Descent, I'd been meaning to watch Neil Marshall's cult film Dog Soldiers for quite a while. So when I stumbled upon it on television in Sweden, I knew it was time. And that is how my best friend Elen and I ended up spending an evening doing the exact same thing in Stockholm that we do in Minneapolis: watching horror movies and drinking red wine.

Dog S0ldiers takes place in the Scottish Highlands, where a group of British soldiers is slated to compete against a special forces unit in a routine training exercise. While scouting through the forest, the soldiers locate the shredded remains of the special forces team. The only survivor is the injured Captain Ryan, who appears to be in shock. Shortly after, the men are attacked by vicious carnivores that, due to the heavy brush and some frenetic Evil Dead-style camera work, remain a mystery to the audience. Sergeant Wells is disemboweled by one of the beasts, but the surviving soldiers carry him and Ryan to a nearby road. They are rescued by Megan, a zoologist who is living in the remote area to study the local werewolf legend. She drives them to a deserted farmhouse where the soldiers tend to their wounded and prepare to defend themselves against the vicious werewolves that have surrounded them.

Part of what makes Dog Soldiers work is that it's perfectly content to fit into the typical horror movie formula. Marshall doesn't waste time trying to subvert the genre or show off his cleverness. And since he's situated comfortably in an established plot arc, he can focus his energy elsewhere. The movie has plenty of fun with war movie cliches, but shifts effortlessly from engaging humor to quiet suspense to graphic violence. The fight scenes are kinetic, particularly when a soldier faces off with one of the canines in hand to hand combat.

Would you look that badass if you were about to get into a fistfight with a werewolf? I'm guessing not. This guy is my hero. Maybe Dog Soldiers won't change your life, but its cult status is well-deserved. Besides, decent werewolf flicks are hard to come by. I take what I can get.

death at a funeral

Art-A-Whirl weekend kicked off with a fashion show in the Thorp Building with a retrospective of local fashion veteran Kerry Riley's work. "The Death of Red Shoe" commemorated her successful clothing line Red Shoe Clothing Co., and also gave the designer a chance to publicly announce that she is relaunching her designs under the new label Needle & Black.

As is an issue with many retrospective-style shows, the presentation felt slightly disjointed as it veered between the dramatic and the casual, the wearable and the couture. However, the looks provided an engaging summary of the designer's history in The Twin Cities. Riley's unique leather harnesses punctuated the collection, while her infinitely wearable jersey dresses in stripes and solids highlighted the chic accessibility that the designer has made her signature.

Riley's breezy summer dresses can be easily dressed up or down, and as the models sauntered through the open-air venue, I couldn't help but imagine spending the summer biking around the lakes in a Kerry Riley dress, wedge-heeled sandals and a straw fedora.

Red Shoe's swan song culminated with an ethereal dress that fluttered in the breeze as the model floated down the aisle on a summery swing. The finale gown's cathedral-length train danced as it caught the air, a suitability dramatic closing for such a successful local line.

Ever the gracious host, Riley closed the show with a few words about the line and many thanks to her family and friends. I was reminded of something that I often take for granted in the cities: Though plenty of our talented local designers continue to have great success, through and through, they are a humble and kind-hearted bunch. It's our very own version of "Minnesota nice."

[All photos by Stacy Schwartz]

Originally published at

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

the stockholm chronicles: chapter one

disaster strikes (in which your narrator is embarrassingly irresponsible)

My flights to Amsterdam and Stockholm were pretty uneventful. The volcanic ash was light. The wine was free. The in-flight movie screens were teeny tiny. I did sit next to a lovely Norwegian named Mari, who is afraid of flying and spent our take-off and landing clutching my hand in a vice-like grip. Apparently, fear of flight knows no language barrier. Upon my arrival my best friend Elen was there to greet me and take me home to her apartment where I promptly fell asleep on her bed. All was well for the first couple of days, until I made an alarming discovery. My passport was gone. Yes my friends, I lost my passport. The traveller's worst nightmare. I didn't tell anyone other than Elen right away as 1) I didn't want anyone to worry about me (especially my mother), and 2) I was horribly embarrassed. It's one thing to have your passport stolen, but in Sweden, robberies occur about as often as I clean my apartment. Very rarely. When anything embarrassing happens, my first instinct is complete denial. But over the years I've learned that the best way to get over a mortifying experience is to have a laugh at your own expense and then tell your tale, both so that your friends and family can get in on laugh and also so that they can learn from your mistakes.

The last time I'd had my passport out of my bag was when I boarded my flight in Amsterdam. Since I didn't need to take it out again, it was a few days before I noticed that it was missing. Upon that discovery, I uttered some un-ladylike curse words, then gulped down the panic and went to the Stockholm U.S. Embassy website. I'd hoped to give them a call, just to hear a reassuring voice and have someone walk me through the process, but the American Embassy in Stockholm only takes phone calls from 1:00 to 2:00 pm on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. I know, right? Their offices are only open from 9:00 to 11:00 am, and so it was here that I learned my first lesson: American Embassies have bizarre hours. I learned on their website that I would need to come in with new passport photos, a police report for the lost passport, as well as all identification that I had brought with me to Sweden. The police report was easy enough. Again, Swedes seem to be missing the crime gene that's so prevalent in America, so the station was quiet and I think the woman who assisted me was just excited to have something to do. The process was quick and painless. What was not as easy was getting my passport photo.

You see, for some reason, American passports use a different size photograph than, um, pretty much every other country. So not only do you need to find an establishment that can take your picture, you've got to find one that offers American sizing. If you check a U.S. Embassy website and it mentions that there is a passport photo machine in their building: DO NOT BELIEVE THEM! They will have one, but it will be broken. By the time Elen and I located an establishment that could accommodate my needs, it was eight minutes til close. We broke into a powerful sprint-walk, and though the doors were closing just as we arrived, a friendly employee took pity on us and let us inside. This is why my temporary passport features a photograph of me in which my bangs are wind-blown and my face is a bright cherry red. I look forward to taking a new picture shortly.

Once I had the necessary documents, it was time to give my friendly American Embassy a visit. Losing your passport is a stressful experience, but I knew that when I crossed over that threshold to American soil, I'd feel safe and reassured. I took the bus over to the Stockholm street that may as well be known as "Embassy Row." It was bordered by a lush green park, and the embassies themselves were beautiful dark brick buildings. The air was brisk and the sidewalk was wet from rain the night before. As I walked past Italy, South Korea, and Germany, I knew everything was going to be okay. Then I saw the American Embassy. You'll know the United States Embassy becuase in this sea of friendly architecture and foliage, it is the giant gray rectangular building that looks straight out of the Eastern Bloc. It is an oasis of depressing bureaucracy. My favorite feature was that, unlike the other embassies, visitors have to line up outside a guard station on the sidewalk. You can't go in and wait. I queued up with other Americans and the Swedes applying for visas and waited. For a while. The brisk chill that I'd been enjoying earlier settled into an unfriendly cold as the rain resumed. As we all hopped in place, trying to stay warm, the guards finally began to call us one by one to go through security. Inside was a waiting room full of cranky people, both American and Swedish, and I can tell you that I will never complain about the DMV again. It was hot, crowded, and there were crying babies everywhere. Fortunately I'd brought a book with me, so I did my best to tune out my surroundings and catch up on my reading. Eventually someone took down my information, and told me that my passport would be ready by 2:00 pm. Finally, I was approaching the homestretch.

the American Embassy in Stockholm, looking as chipper as it gets

Since I had a couple of hours to kill, I settled in at a Japanese restaurant and consumed copious amounts of sushi. I continued to devour my novel as well, but I decided that I should head back so that I could be back at the embassy early. I arrived about half til 2:00 and approached the guard booth. "We don't let anyone in until 2:00." "Not even to wait inside for a passport?" "No. 2.00. Exactly." I was stuck outside in the cold. Again. I should have stayed at the restaurant. At least this time I was first in line. When the guards finally let me go through security at five past the hour, I made my approach to the dreaded waiting room of waiting. It was completely deserted. I was alone and it was disconcerting. Free of the previous throng, the room had actually become quite cold, so I snuggled up in a corner chair and waited for my name to be called. I thought about getting a snack or a soda, but all of the vending machines were empty. There also did not appear to be a restroom. An employee finally came over to let me know that they were having computer issues and that I would have to wait another hour, so I continued to wait and shiver.

When my passport was ready, a wave of relief washed over me. Sure, I looked like crap in my new photograph, but it was only temporary. Now that I've shared my story, I hope that you, dear reader, can learn from my experience and know what to do if you ever lose your passport in a foreign country. But I will remind you, the best strategy is to never lose it at all. I know I'll never lose mine again, since as soon as I receive my new permanent passport I am having it surgically implanted in my forearm. Getting it renewed might be a little painful, but at least I'll have peace of mind.

more adventures from Sweden to follow...

Friday, April 30, 2010

pour one out for me

Though I'll be in Stockholm next week, I want to let Minneapolitans know that létoile is sponsoring a night at The Guthrie Theater on May 5th. The discounted tickets for David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly are a mere $15, and guests are welcome to attend an after party catered by Sea Change on the patio. Complimentary hors d'oeuvres will be served while the lovely DJ Matt Perkins will provide the evening's soundtrack. To take advantage of this fantastic deal, call the Guthrie Box Office at 612-377-2224 and request the l'etoile special discount.

Photo by Michal Daniel courtesy of The Guthrie Theater

In the meantime, don't forget to vote for my handsome fiancé for One Man Minneapolis. If Brian wins, in addition to making a donation to the YMCA, he will also be donating all of his personal winnings to MNfashion, Dress for Success via l'étoile, and The Humane Society. That's right, the personal winnings that we could spend on a honeymoon? He's giving them all away. He is a better person than I am, but I suppose that's why I love him so much.

zombies and zeppelins

This post is dedicated to l'étoilette, birthday girl and all-around superstar Juleana Enright, who looks right at home in a pair of steampunk-style goggles. She is also the worst vegan I've ever met.

Author Cherie Priest has recently made quite a name for herself in the steampunk universe, and for anyone looking for an introduction to this strange and fascinating genre, her novel Boneshaker is an excellent place to start. I mentioned this book before in my Best Nerdery of 2009, but I thought it deserved a bit more attention.

Set during the Civil War in an alternate Seattle, Boneshaker combines Priest's two most revered genres: steampunk and horror. After a devastating drilling accident in the heart of downtown Seattle, a mysterious underground gas is released, infecting the city's residents and transforming them into flesh-craving zombies. A great wall is built to contain the heavy gas and the gut-churning undead, and the survivors residing outside of the city live in relative peace. Protagonist Briar Wilkes is forced to enter the city (via zeppelin, naturally) after her teenage son Zeke sneaks into the quarantine zone in an attempt to exonerate his father, the inventor responsible for the tragic drilling disaster.

An uncommon feature of the novel is that the main character is a single woman who we can assume is in her late 30s or 40s since she has a teenage child. It's still quite rare for novels and films to have a middle-aged action heroine, and it's commendable that Priest took this route without any self-congratulation or fanfare. While reading the compellingly visual book, I couldn't help but wish for a television mini-series of the story. I immediately imagined Paula Malcomson (Caprica, Deadwood) as Briar Wilkes, with her hair dyed dark. Are you listening Syfy? I'm giving you gold here!

In addition to being selected by Amazon as one of the essential science fiction novels of 2009, Boneshaker made it to the final ballot for the 2009 Nebula Award for Best Novel and has been nominated for a 2010 Hugo Award. Priest will be following Boneshaker with Dreadnought, which will be set in the same universe.

yum yum!

Ta da! We've released our spring fashion editorial "Kiss Me Cake!" When I concepted this shoot, my thought process was this: Dresses are pretty. Cakes are pretty. Hats are pretty. Let's shoot dresses with hats made of cake! I didn't really think through the logistics of this idea. So kids, want to know the inside scoop? Cake hats are heavy. Our models were fantastic champs all day and I think we owe them some massage certificates for those neck cramps. Additionally, all of the fashion and accessories were made by local designers, as well as the cake hats themselves. Enjoy this tasty treat with a lovely introduction by our own staff writer and science fiction legend Rob Callahan...

l'étoile magazine's spring fashion editorial, "Kiss Me, Cake" is a sweet mashup of high style and delectable pastry! Basing their designs off of sumptuous gowns and fresh springtime garments, three Twin Cities cake decorators created sugary "hats" that matched the decadence of each dress. Shot by l'étoile editor Kate Iverson, with creative direction by Beth Hammarlund, art direction by Chris Larson, fashion styling by Jahna Peloquin, and hair/makeup by Kate Erickson.

Layered beneath the intoxication of tiramisu rum, the sticky-sweet sapor of icing and devil's food richness, venerable vixens and dazzling dolls adorned with delicate ribbons, bows and sugar flowers beckon like sirens to the sweet of tooth. The promise of love and confection awaits, so look ahead to Kiss Me, Cake. -Rob Callahan

Click to enlarge the spread and page through the photos

Thursday, April 29, 2010

happy feet

There just isn't any way that I can justify spending $88 on a pair of there? They sparkle! They're by Alice + Olivia! They're at Neiman Marcus! And they sparkle! I need sensible walking shoes to take with my to Stockholm next week! Does that reasoning work? Bueller?

a willowy glittery fantasy forest

I just realized that I'd forgotten to share l'étoile's end of winter fashion editorial here on my personal blog. The white glitter antlers and the frozen crown of twigs were kind of pain to make, but they were worth it in the end.

Click to enlarge the spread and page through the photos

deus ex imagination

Last Friday for l'étoile's MNfashion event "Imagination Mechanism," our staff took on a unique challenge. The party was a celebration of the creative process, so guests were invited to watch a photo shoot as it took place in one of the Eitel Building's gorgeous apartments, then the entire post-production process (re-touching, layout design, etc.) was projected to give attendants an insider's view of how a fashion editorial is created. So yes, we styled and produced a photo shoot, re-touched the images, and designed a layout all in one evening. If there is ever a Project Runway-style fashion editorial competition, I'm pretty sure the l'étoile staff could easy handle whatever challenges they threw our way.

Click to enlarge the spread and page through the photos

Special thanks to our sponsors Eitel Building City Apartments, Vision Management Group, Secrets of the City, and Ginger Hop Restaurant. A big thanks also to Clement Shimizu, Cole Griswold, Anna Lee, The Guthrie Theater, MNFashion, all the l'etoile staffers, all our awesome volunteers and the huge (and stylish) crowd who came out to check out the event -- we were blown away!

Monday, April 26, 2010

american psycho

Laura Fulk has made a name for herself in the Twin Cities and beyond by taking traditionally feminine sartorial elements and subverting them, creating modern looks that are both aesthetically pleasing and intellectually challenging. She toys with images of 1950s housewives, suffragettes, and pioneer women, while remaining effortlessly true to her contemporary design sensibility.

In "To the Ends of the Universe," her second solo runway show since last spring's "Suffocate," Fulk presented her Autumn/Winter 2010 collection amidst the modern architecture of the McNamara Alumni Center. As was to be expected, the presentation was one of the most polished and professional of MNFashion Week, thanks to Fulk's business partner and the show's producer Ray Shan.

The collection itself contained a healthy balance of dresses and separates that ranged from office appropriate to cocktail ready. Plenty of the dresses featured conservative cuts with high collars and knee-length skirts, though many included daring slits that allowed peeks of the contrast lining within. Very little skin was shown, but the strong shoulders and chain details gave the collection a hard edge.

One of Fulk's unique abilities is to create pieces that are conservative in cut, but tweak the design in such a way that something about the overall look feels slightly wrong and unsettling. The coats and dresses were surprisingly conservative, but by incorporating a moody palette, consistent asymmetry, and deconstructed details, Fulk conceptualized a collection that was half Park Avenue princess and half American Psycho.

During a model's first pass, a simple black number appeared to be a slightly updated version of a basic kimono dress. But as the model marched back down the aisle that served as the runway, a beautifully constructed row of pleats was revealed across the back. The delicate pleating was seen throughout the collection, a hallmark of how far Fulk has come with her tailoring.

Fulk also played with separates and knits in this collection far more than her previous show. Sweaters with bulbous over-sized sleeves were unconventional, but wearable. Blouses and trousers were true to the designer's vision, while being perfectly appropriate for both the office and happy hour. Though Fulk's major strength still lies in her dresses and coats, it will be exciting for consumers to have more Fulk pieces that they can mix and match into their own wardrobes this fall.

Considering that she has such a singular vision, Fulk is a designer who regularly reaches out to others artists to collaborate. This collection featured prints created by MCAD alumnae Melissa Breitenfelt and Laura Weber. The prints referenced delicate nebulas as well as colors that reached dark oceanic depths., The greens and blues were a pleasing compliment to the science fiction-inspired elements that Fulk often touches upon in her work.

The closing looks echoed a theatrical element used at Fulk's last show at The Lab Theater. Two models walked the runway dressed as mirror images of one another, a rare point of symmetry in a show overflowing with imbalance. Though one model's look echoed the cool shades of the previous looks, the other model wore a dress accented with fiery touches of yellow and red, keeping the collection connected to the designer's outer space inspiration. Both dresses featured scattered LED lights, a favorite of technologically-savvy designers such as Hussein Chalayan. The blue pricks of light also adorned the train of the finale gown, along with a thread painting of hand-dyed raw wools and organic silks. According to the designer, the thread painting was a technique she experimented with in her earlier work. Its use in this collection was a glorious re-birth.

Many of Fulk's signature design elements such as funnel collars, contrast lining, asymmetry, and elegant deconstruction punctuated the collection. Though the designer has developed one of the most recognizable design aesthetics in the Twin Cities, it would be compelling to see her operate further outside of her comfort zone. When establishing one's voice as a designer, it's dangerously easy for signatures to become crutches. But if there's one local designer who constantly pushes herself forward, it's Laura Fulk.

Photos by Lauren Gantner

Originally published at

Sunday, April 25, 2010

danger, danger! high voltage!

An annual staple of the local fashion and music scenes, Voltage: Fashion Amplified has become one of those rare events that manages to outdo itself every year. This year, MNFashion's pièce de résistance was as big as ever in the First Avenue Mainroom, bringing together five bands and over 15 local designers with seamless execution.

[A look by Raul Osorio. Photo by Digital Crush]

The runway show opened with designs by Raul Osorio, a new designer quickly becoming known for well-cut and beautifully draped menswear. The military-inspired jackets with over-sized buttons and epaulets would have been elegant additions to the costume wardrobe of the Guthrie Theatre's recent production of Macbeth. Impeccable trousers with trim and pocket details in complimentary colors were juxtaposed with gently draped hoods and scarves. Osorio and stylist Danica Andler worked with jewelry designer Carrier Pigeon to craft a custom line of chains, brooches and necklaces for the collection, and the exaggerated pompadours and chiseled makeup perfectly complimented the line's aesthetic.

[A look by Frances Zerr. Photo by Digital Crush]

Frances Zerr's collection took to the stage next. The designer's series of wearable garments offered relaxed features such as elastic waistbands, drawstrings and flat pockets, but the pieces were hardly loungewear. The line offered elegant racerback tanks, sundresses with edgy cut-outs, and a fresh take on the shirtdress. Stylist Angie Hanson accessorized the collection with flirty bits and baubles by local upcyclers Vintage City Classics and fresh-from-the-market props and laidback fedoras. The line was perfectly suited for leisurely bike rides and summer afternoons spent drinking chilled wine outside Barbette. Speaking of which, any of these looks would be perfect for the restaurant's annual Bastille Day block party this summer.

[Blue Sky Blackout in Blackblue. Photo by Digital Crush]

Osorio's and Zerr's collections went out to a soundtrack courtesy of new supergroup Blue Sky Blackout in dapper looks styled by Steve Kang, owner of St. Paul boutique BlackBlue. Kang managed to get the boys out of their usual black uniforms and into seersucker suits fit for gin and tonic-swilling Nantucketers. The looks were dressed down with pastel polos in varying shades, and it's a testament to guitarist Jon Hunt's swagger that he was able to make aquamarine look so very rock and roll.

[A look by Kelson by Brianne Jones. Photo by Digital Crush]

Red Pens kicked off the next set outfitted in looks by local design rock star Kerry Riley of Red Shoe Clothing Co. Riley suited guitarist Howard Hamilton in casual menswear, while drummer Laura Bennett was glammed up in a show-stopping gown with a cathedral-length train and a deconstructed bleach treatment. Brianne Jones' line Kelson took to the runway next with a series of contemporary looks, which were quite a departure from Jones' collection for Voltage 2008 under the line Belle. Though it didn't have as strong of a point of view as Belle, at times seeming disjointed, there were plenty of items in the mix that were both interesting and completely wearable. Accessory designer Karin Jacobson's recent foray into lower-priced laser-cut pieces was the perfect compliment, and stylist Alice Sydow of I've Got Your Style created a presentation that would appeal to just about any city girl.

[A look by Elena Mercurio. Photo by Digital Crush]

Local fashion rookie Elena Mercurio made her Voltage debut with a collection that included the most innovative piece of the entire show: a white evening coat with artfully placed openings in lieu of traditional sleeves. Felt accessories by silvercocoon and bags by Post- helped give the collection a modern feel, and the scrunched socks worn with open-toed wedges were a nice touch added by stylist Mike Head. Mercurio's aesthetic is brimming with potential. In this collection, she seemed to struggle with her confidence and consistency, but she approached the task with such ambition that it's impossible not to be excited about what she'll do next.

Caroline Smith must be sick of Jenny Lewis and Kate Nash comparisons, but when the stunning redhead and her dapper band The Good Night Sleeps took the stage in looks by design duo Calpurnia Peach, the comparisons were certainly apt. Smith's dress, featuring a wallpaper print that has become a signature of the designers, had a delightful retro feel. It was the perfect kick start for the next two designers to hit the runway.

[A look by Danielle Everine. Photo by Digital Crush]

Fashion stylist Trevor Small clearly enjoyed working with Danielle Everine's collection. The designer's windowpane plaid women's suiting and soft blouses were beautifully complimented with wide-brimmed millinery by Angie's Hats, dainty gloves, grosgrain hair bows and men's ties. Everine's leather accents and clever cuts kept the collection from feeling dated, and the result was a presentation that was truly entertaining to witness. The hair and makeup were on trend with kicky side braids and exaggerated brows, thanks to a strong vision by Voltage lead stylists Catlin Weston (hair) and Ashley Kilcher (makeup), but it was the voluminous upsweeps that would have made Katharine Hepburn green with envy.

[A look by Carmichael Claith. Photo by Digital Crush]

Carmichael Claith by Christine Carmichael followed with a series of looks begging to be worn by British model Karen Elson on a Brighton Beach holiday. The collection opened with several boardwalk-appropriate nautical pieces and gently evolved into the girlish femininity that the line has become known for. The ladylike prints and ruffles were accessorized with exaggerated bowties, over-sized bows, and tiny accent bowler hats (which I'm sure METRO Magazine Fashion Editor Mary O'Regan had her eye on). Accessory designers Pea's & Bean's must have been head-over-heels for how well the pieces all worked together. Heeled oxfords, delicate ankle socks and fishtail braids completed the looks. It was a great showing by fashion stylist Zach Pearl.

[Mayda in Laura Fulk and model in George Moskal. Photo by Digital Crush]

Local rock icon in-the-making Mayda took over the stage wearing a look by Laura Fulk that included a violet scarf-vest accented with LED lights. Fashion fixture George Moskal presented as the pint-sized singer performed, offering an extremely wearable collection of sophisticated separates and cocktail dresses. A dramatically-shaped teal frock practically cried out for a turban; it was so deliciously Dynasty. But where his designs really excel is in separates, where he blends casual elements such as t-shirt cuts and chest pockets with elegant draping and timeless fabrics. With accessories by Liebling Designs jewelry, Nelle handbags, and fingerless black gloves adding a tough edge, stylist Trevor Small's presentation gave audience members plenty of new additions for their mental shopping lists.

[A look by Kevin Kramp. Photo by Digital Crush]

The show shifted from the sophisticated to the unconventional with Kevin Kramp's avant-garde collection of men's knits. Gaping cowl necks and wild patterns were teamed with edgy accessories by Ferociter and OGI Eyewear. A scarf so heavily looped and layered around a model's neck and shoulders created a silhouette both attractive and unsettling, faintly recalling the hunched Skeksis in The Dark Crystal. The daring collection was styled by Zach Pearl, whose handmade, colorful sport sandals worn with socks was a deft contribution to the overall look and feel of the collection. With bold makeup and cornrows conceived of by lead stylists Ashley Kilcher and Catlin Weston, respectively, it was the most aggressive and forward-thinking presentation of the evening.

[A look by PFT Couture. Photo by Digital Crush]

Anthem Heart (with design help from Monica Ulrich) supplied closing band Ruby Isle with the appropriate party gear for a crowd-pleasing finale. PFT Couture's Pafoua Thao brought the show right into summer with flowing mini-dresses in tropical prints. With bold white and gold earrings by Two Bit Bling, bird-of-paradise fascinators by Ruby3 (designed by Voltage producer Anna Lee), and adorable clutches by Christopher Straub of Project Runway fame, the collection practically begged for poolside cabanas and Mai Tais. A plunging white gown with black calligraphy strokes brought to mind both Dolce & Gabbana's recent Marilyn Monroe-printed frocks and Christian Dior's iconic newspaper print dress. Thao hit her high note with an Asian-inspired finale gown, a dramatic number that showcased her skill for fabric manipulation.

[A look by Emma Berg. Photo by Digital Crush]

For the finale, director Emma Berg further established herself in the fashion community with an array of mouthwatering finale confections. Blouses, harem pants and layered skirts showcased Berg's ability to craft separates that range from avant-garde to conservative (relatively speaking). A kaleidoscopic firecracker print created by local artist Ruben Nusz served as a throughline for the collection in both style and color. The sweetness of the designs and the edible Rox Jewelry by Robyne Robinson were tempered with edgy bags by Christopher Straub and styling inspired by the designer herself. Models in cropped black wigs, dark netted veils and goth lipstick complimented the dessert-like quality of the designs, creating a ladylike juxtaposition often seen at major couture houses such as Christian Dior and the now defunct Christian Lacroix. Like good perfume, the overall effect was sweet, but never cloying.

[PFT Couture's collection. Photo by Digital Crush]

It is truly inspiring to watch so many people come together and, through talent and hard work, actualize such a fantastic sartorial spectacle. Over the past few years, Voltage has become the prime springboard for aspiring fashion designers, stylists and models, as well as the ultimate marketing opportunity for more established lines. Lead Stylist Jahna Peloquin, a veteran of the Voltage crew (and l'étoile Fashion Editor), approaches the collections with just as much wit and sophistication as the stylists working New York Fashion Week, and founder Anna Lee has taken her creation to greater heights every year. This year's Voltage show truly showcased just how established the Twin Cities fashion scene has become in recent years.

Visit for more Voltage 2010 photos by Digital Crush.

Originally published at