Voltage: Fashion Amplified founder Anna Lee talks local fashion

This Friday the crown jewel of local fashion events will rock and roll its way onto the runway at First Avenue. Yes, Voltage: Fashion Amplified is back once again. Since its initial incarnation

in ye olde 2004, the music/runway extravaganza has become the flagship fashion event in the Twin Cities, raising the bar and egging on the local design community to create, create, and create some more. The premise? 10 Minnesota designers showcase their latest collections set to the backdrop of five buzzworthy hometown bands, who also come decked out in local finery. This formula is the catalyst for one hell of a rockin', eye-poppin' artistically-driven blowout that we recommend no one miss. How did it all start, you ask? Well, the answers lie with Voltage: Fashion Amplified and MNFashion founder, Anna Lee.

Lee, a designer herself under the moniker Ruby3, relocated to Minneapolis from Fargo, North Dakota in the early 2000s and commenced in building a burgeoning empire and indispensable support system for the Twin Cities fashion community. A humble dame if there ever was one, Lee will bashfully scoff at such praise, but the fact of the matter is, Fargo is likely seething with jealousy.

The Dressing Room caught up with Anna Lee this week to get the score on what's in store this Friday the future of local design in the Twin Cities...

The Dressing Room: How has Voltage grown since it was founded it in 2004? How would you compare the first Voltage to this year's event?

Anna Lee: There is so much that has changed from the first year. I think the energy behind it was certainly similar, but we have a much louder, more refined voice as a community now. I could write a book of how much has changed over the last six years. Let's just say 2004 was the start of something pretty amazing that we can call the emergence of "industry" in 2010. The only element that has not developed by leaps and bounds is the fact that we have always had some pretty solid bands in Voltage.

The selection of designers is really top notch this year! What is the process for selecting the designers?

We have an advisory group that reviews the designer applications with us. It is a daunting task, narrowing down the designers for interviews. I think it helps the designers take the opportunity seriously, as Voltage is an incubator, not just a fashion show. So we select a group of designers who are ready to take their craft and business to the next level.

Voltage kicks off Spring MNFashion Week and this season's lineup is pretty huge! What are some of the events you are looking forward to the most?

Yes! I am daunted by the amount of things to do. But mostly inspired by all of the energy going in to making Spring MNfashion Week so inclusive. There are so many different areas of the fashion scene/community involved this spring. I don't know if many people realize how many different groups of designers and fashionistas there are in the Twin Cities, but we have more involved this spring than ever before. It's inspiring! I am looking forward to all of the events of course, and am facing the same problem everyone else is -- what am I going to wear to all of these events?

You are definitely a mentor-type, founding and evolving both Voltage and the MNFashion organization. How and why did you decide to make nurturing the local fashion scene such a huge part of your life?

It really started with wanting a sense of camaraderie and community within the scene. I have always been someone who connects with many different groups of friends, then introduces them to each other to make an even bigger group of friends. Voltage started as a fun project, but we realized that people were getting something out of it too. So MNfashion was developed, to give that energy a place to go. I quit my job at Target Corp. over two years ago to focus on MNfashion full-time, since it seemed like the thing to do. I used to never believe people who said that they "fell into" a job or career. That makes it sound so easy and nonchalant. But I have had the experience within the last couple of months where I have said to myself "wow, did all of this just happen?" Don't get me wrong, I have drawn diagrams, made lists upon lists, stayed up way too late working on projects, burned myself out a couple of times, been a total workaholic...but when people ask me how I got involved with MNfashion, I have to tell them that it was because I really had no other choice. The opportunities to build this organization kept presenting themselves. 

How do you see the local fashion scene growing over the next five years?

As we continue to develop our resources here in the Twin Cities, more and more designers will be able to make a living doing what they love. Perhaps they can build their online business because technology has made their workload lighter, or their collections are sold in boutiques across the country because they have the sewing resources to meet the demands for both quality and quantity.  This in turn will boost opportunities for stylists, models, photographers, pattern makers and sewers, while also giving our local boutiques great product to sell. I'd like to see the Twin Cities begin to get more recognition for being a hot spot for independent fashion. I could go on and on about this topic. Buy me a drink and we can chat more about this later -- gotta go do some last minute Voltage prep!

Voltage: Fashion Amplified happens on Friday, April 16th at First Avenue Nightclub. Doors open at 8pm and tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door. For more information and a complete list of designers and bands, visit

For more information on Spring MNFashion Week, including a full lineup of events visit

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