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