Envision Artopia Spring 2011 at Graves 601 4/10/11

Now in its second year paired with City Pages' Artopia concept, Ignite Models and V2 Productions' Envision: Artopia Spring 2011 kicked off MNFashion Week at the Graves 601 in high style. For the first time featuring an all-white runway and stage setup, the overall production itself was a gleaming success (aside from a few sound glitches), and high turnout and designer/boutique participation pointed to a blossoming local fashion community.

On the fifth floor of the decadent Graves hotel, patrons dressed in their weekend-best mingled  among cash bars and vendor booths before the show. The vibe was one of excitement, partially because this was the first event in a week of fashion-filled soirees and also the first time most of us got to wear lighter clothes thanks to the weather warm-up (Bonus: A

City Pages photobooth

in the corner allowed attendees to memorialize their outfits for the night).

Envision Artopia Spring 2011 at Graves 601 4/10/11
Photo by Stacy Schwartz

Around 10 p.m., Ignite co-founder Allison Hamzehpour welcomed the crowd, some seated on both sides of the runway and others packed together on the sides and back of the room to get a glimpse. Quintessential fashion-show beats selected by DJ Sheik rang out as the first looks by Amanda Christine were sent down the catwalk, wedges and stillettos meeting the runway with purpose and sass as the electro-dance hits thumped on. At one point in the evening, the sound cut out and the audience clapped and cheered to fill the silence as stone-faced (and probably terrified) models finished their walks -- turning what could have been a low point into a highlight and further illustrating this scene's supportive nature.

Envision Artopia Spring 2011 at Graves 601 4/10/11
Look: Arwyn Birch. Photo by Stacy Schwartz

Now, getting to the fashion: As expected, there were no real surprises here, as the Minneapolis fashion community rarely seems to aim for entertainment and rather sides with practicality, a move that coincides with the commercial focus of Midwestern attire. But, in what appeared to be a huge improvement from past Envision shows, the looks were clean (no unfinished seams, threads, etc.), complete from hair to heel, and overall very wearable and stylish.

Envision Artopia Spring 2011 at Graves 601 4/10/11
Look: Niki English. Photo by Stacy Schwartz

One of our favorites was Niki English with her full black jumpsuit, monochrome outfits, and romantic tops with flowing sleeves. Sydney Ilten opted for a nautical-inspired vintage theme with navy stripes that was received very well by the audience. Kelly Ver Duin, the only menswear designer in the show, delivered a line that was a real pleasure to behold with its futuristic but low-key tailored jackets and vests, the first model enjoying applause from obvious lady fans in the audience.

Envision Artopia Spring 2011 at Graves 601 4/10/11
Photo by Stacy Schwartz

Meanwhile, Arwyn Birch played on a more demure style featuring knit dresses that looked like they could be worn by a mid-century modern doll, models complete with thick-framed glasses. But some of the best looks that came down the runway during Envision were those that didn't accessorize. Several lines featured oversized straw beach hats -- including Cliche's, which would have been so much better without, considering the focus on each outfit seemed to be huge feathered chokers. This Lyndale Avenue boutique is usually a high point at local shows as they're very pointed with their perspective, but not this time. There was just far too much going on. It was, however, nice to see some bright colors signifying spring's return.

Envision Artopia Spring 2011 at Graves 601 4/10/11
Look: Cliche. Photo by Stacy Schwartz

In the end, Envision Artopia wrapped yet another great season, marking a noticeable step forward for local designers and whetting the community's palate for the fashion events to come this week. Check back in with the Dressing Room for photos and highlights from those as well. 

Personal bias: A major fashion fan, I'm usually into more dramatic looks, but alas this is often a challenge in Spring/Summer when you're wearing less.   
The crowd: Out on date night. Happy with their outfits. Feeling sophisticated. 
Overhead in the crowd: "What's with the Asian gardener hats?"
Random notebook dump: "OPM Boutique's looks are amazing - very put together, seems expensive."
For more photos: See our full slideshow by Stacy Schwartz.
Setlist: Driving nu-electro circa 2003, typical "fashion dance music". Sheik definitely did the job well, especially considering the sound snafu - but this is a stylish DJ's dream gig; would have liked to hear more current, forward-thinking beats.

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