Six Twin Cities designers make Minnesota summer stylish

Emily Utne

L.A. style is obnoxious and loud. New York is black and sophisticated. Geographically, Minneapolis is in the middle, but where do we fall in the fashion spectrum? The answer depends entirely on whom you ask. An uptown hipster will say our city is stocked with cool vintage hubs, while most suburbanites will probably gush about the Mall of America, and rural inhabitants will scoff at the question.

But the truth is that, in the Twin Cities at least, Minnesotans have begun sewing together a genuine fashion scene with loads of invigorating ideas. In only a few years, fashion in Minneapolis has gone from an overly artsy, DIY scene to a fully dressed community of glam boutiques, motivated designers, and fashion-forward events for people of all ages and tastes.

In 2004, a fashion-hungry husband and wife opened Cliché, a boutique with high hopes and a soft spot for local designs. Today Cliché is at the heart of Minneapolis fashion, promoting favorite local designers not only by filling its shelves with the right stuff, but by bringing together a style community in the land of 10,000 lakes and fashion mistakes. Owner Josh Sundberg says that ideas for the shop were quite open-ended in the beginning, but now the concepts are working beautifully. When asked if they buy items specifically to fit a certain "Minneapolis style," the answer was a bold "No."

"We think of Minneapolis in a sense, but we also think, fuck you," Sundberg says. "The people we want to sell to are independent and open-minded, people who pay attention to trends but don't necessarily follow them. Fashion is a revolving door, and we appeal to people who experiment with their style."

The other big push for Minneapolis fashion hit when Voltage: Fashion Amplified married the city's stellar music scene with the runway. Soon to follow were events like Retrorama at the Minnesota History Center, Fashion Fight Night, and the long list of activities during MNFashion Week, both spring and fall. Small, quality-driven boutiques like Karma, Ivy, Design Collective, and VS Social Standard, among many others, are attracting customers who want to shop outside of the mall walls.

So why is this fashion renaissance happening in our city now, recession and all? It's an aligning of several crucial elements: a batch of motivated designers and photographers, diverse and highly publicized local boutiques, fashion schools with updated curriculums (who won't advise their students to move to the coasts), and most important, the public's desire.

"The key to making local fashion sustainable isn't the fact that it's local. It has to be something people want," Sundberg says. "They just need to want it."

The mixing of this fresh community with public demand presents opportunities that simply weren't here five years ago, says Voltage creator Anna Lee. "It takes an entire spectrum of people coming together to make an industry," she says. "The stars have aligned now, yes, but it was very strategic. People have been working their tails off."

As a result, Minneapolis is developing a competitive edge on the national scene. With lots of local support, the future lies in convincing the rest of the country.

"A lot of local designers want to work in Minneapolis and design for Minneapolis, but we need to be able to market our people outside [the city]. It's not a big enough community to support everyone...yet," Sundberg says.

So in this issue, City Pages decided to give this budding group a little nudge. It's summer, after all, and what better time to show off your style? This year's Summer Guide becomes the Summer Style Issue, spotlighting five local designers and one stylist on the rise: Laura Fulk, Mackenzie Labine for Oiishimomo, Kimberly Jurek for Kjurek Couture, Amanda Christine from Amanda Christine Designs, Ivan Idland, and stylist Sheila Anderson. Each took our Project Runway-type challenge and within a week designed an outfit inspired by one section of our Summer Guide (Events, Outdoors, Film, etc.) and by the season in general. One look at the results and you'll be rest assured: We're in for one haute Minnesota summer.

Photoshoot produced by Jen Boyles
Photography by Nick Vlcek with assistance from Emily Utne

Find out more about many of these designers and shop their products at

Catering by Azia, on the web at

Summer Guide: Summer in the City
Mackenzie LaBine, designer/cover model

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Modeled by Angie Hanson
Hair by Hairpolice
Makeup by Luiny Rivera Gelpi
Accessories by Fililí Available through

"My line is called Oishiimomo, which means 'delicious peach' in Japanese. I'm really inspired by Japan and their culture. I normally design much darker pieces, and I think you can see a bit of that in my peachy dress for Angie here: It's kind of cute and kind of naughty at the same time. I wanted to make the fabric breathable so I used a lighter canvas; it has a racer/open back so you won't die of heat exhaustion in typical Minnesota humidity. Angie could wear this outfit on a date, strolling around Loring Park, or maybe having a mimosa at a spot on Lake Minnetonka. There's a lot of good fashion here—you just have to look for it. I work in New York every few months, and I see a lot of fashion in Minneapolis that could hold a candle to that style. You see it Uptown, you see it downtown, you see it in the clubs, at afterparties, at pool parties—everywhere. And when summer comes, people just bring it—they're so sick of wearing 12 layers; they are finally free. They can wear things that are more colorful and fitting and jazzy and fresh. Come to the Varsity Theater on September 23 for my fashion show Couture Noir, featuring myself and eight other designers—it will give you some inspiration for next season."


Summer Guide: Events
Amanda Christine, designer

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Styled by Amanda Chaffin
Modeled by Nikki Morris
Accessories by Erika Backberg for Tea Tree Designs
Makeup by Luiny Rivera Gelpi Available through

"I designed a jumpsuit with a great loose fit that's flattering on most body types. It's the perfect garment for a festival because it's trendy and modern but functional, and it's made from an eco-friendly silk that is breathable and very wearable. Side pockets and a drawstring waist are a couple of elements that make my jumpsuit really comfortable and perfect for storing small items that you'd bring to a music festival (cell phone, ID, credit card, cash, etc.). Topping the outfit off with a bowler hat not only protects you from the hot sun, but it's also stylish and makes a perfect fashion-forward piece with the jumpsuit. Comfortable shoes are always a necessity at a music festival—my personal choice is a flat gladiator sandal of some sort. With a few stylish accessories such as bangles, oversized rings, and a functional belt, this outfit is exactly what you'll need to be the most stylish New York-inspired hipster on the block."

Summer Guide: Outdoors
Ivan Idland, designer

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Modeled by Leah Nothnagel and Chad Gray
Makeup by Paul Brekke
Available through

"I've always loved cheerleaders, so that was my inspiration for these looks. I thought about the typical cheerleader and football jock, but wanted to add a punky, bad-kid twist to it. Pondering Twin Cities fashion, I kept remembering that line from Drop Dead Gorgeous where that woman says, 'Minneapolis-St. Paul, the Sin Cities, ya heard of 'em?' So these two are part of the Sin Cities Sinners, and you can see the jock representing with his MSP letter jacket. Drawing from this idea of sin, I thought of Adam and Eve and having Eve be the cheerleader, corrupting the young man, and have the sucker be the forbidden fruit. Chad and Leah are not models by trade, they live right across the hall from me and are fresh out of high school themselves. They're young and gorgeous and they're a couple, so I thought it would be a special thing for them to experience. People always say my style is contemporary, and you can see that here, I think. I design around sewing techniques, and I like to explore lost and older techniques and bring them back."

Summer Guide: Culture
Kimberly Jurek, designer

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Modeled by Cana Potter-Ignite
Handbag and belt by Adrienne Grahn
Earrings by Zoby
Makeup by Luiny Rivera Gelpi
Available through

"Culture helps to shape what we think is trendy, fashionable, or beautiful. When you look around, it's hard not to be influenced by people's fashion from all over the world. I think it's because deep down we all have our individuality and also a desire to belong within our world community. It feels good to be a part of something different, or to wear something that is from somewhere else, or to travel to another country. With this in mind, I chose to create a golden swing dress based on a simple scarf pattern. This isn't a new idea; I am not re-inventing the wheel, just putting a new twist on something old. We like to feel good about ourselves when we go out for a night on the town in Minneapolis, so this dress is a simple, sophisticated, sexy solution. This type of dress can be worn with or without a belt, with or without jeans and leggings, and it works for so many women, and that is part of Minneapolis fashion culture: having items in your closet that just simply work."


Summer Guide: Food
Laura Fulk, designer

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Modeled by Greta Sundquist
Makeup by Luiny Rivera Gelpi
Available through

"I went with an old tablecloth to create the whole thing, lining it with a light cotton and sewing on a black-and-white check trim. It's 100 percent cotton so it's really comfortable, and although it's a little bit on the heavy side, it's still breathable, which is important for summer. Greta could wear this on any of the Twin Cities' fine patios for a lunch or dinner out. I like designing for a concept—my last show was called Suffocate and was based on that feeling—but with this piece I wanted to go a little more functional and style it up with some great accessories. It's interesting to note that when I first started designing in Minneapolis five or six years ago, I was friends with every single designer. Over these last few years, though, it's just boomed. I can't even keep track of all these new designers. I even feel a little bit old school. There's literally hundreds of designers in the Twin Cities, and we're all different and evolving and have come a long way."

Summer Guide: Film
Sheila Anderson, model/stylist

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Makeup by Luiny Rivera Gelpi
Earrings by Fililí
Necklace by (Dinkytown)

"My outfit was inspired by Hollywood actresses and pinups of the '50s, as well as movies like Airplane and Jackie Brown. The top and hat are from Everyday People, just one of the many vintage spots around town to get really great pieces from all eras (had to get something new, though, so the shoes are from Heartbreaker in Uptown!). Retro is back in full effect, and we can see that in fashion, furniture, architecture, makeup looks—everywhere. This summer, blazers and straw hats are hot, as well as anything monochromatic (that mod thing again). Fashion is fun here in the Twin Cities because there are so many places for designers and artists to show their work and expose it to the buzz it deserves, and that makes for a fun shopping experience. Individuality is always key to personal style: Shop at stores you'd normally pass by or haven't been to before—surprise yourself."

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