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

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