“What do you know about the washability of Sharpie?” asked a curious onlooker as she watched Eric Inkala, a Minneapolis-based painter and graffiti artist, decorate an American Apparel T-shirt with the long strokes of his black Sharpie pen. “It usually fades to dull blue,” Inkala offered.
“I’m suggesting spot-cleaning,” said Emma Berg, a thirty-something fashion iconoclast dressed in opaque, teal tights and a long white tee that just barely passed as a dress. As it turned out, Berg, who had organized this first-ever Love’s Labourers: Art as Fashion/Fashion as Art event, had instructed Inkala not to fret over care instructions for his wearable artwork. Instead, his charge was to be as imaginative as possible—which seemed only fitting, considering that the event was part of MNfashion Weekend, a four-day festival designed to ignite enthusiasm for Minnesota’s small but extremely creative rag trade. At the same time, the weekend’s festivities launched a new nonprofit that, with any luck, will help local clothes-makers achieve some semblance of solvency.
Joining Inkala at a long folding table (well-appointed with Sharpies, textile paints, and sewing machines) was another Twin Cities artist, Jennifer Davis, who also put a black Sharpie to use drawing a happy monkey onto a T-shirt. Yet another artist, Adam Garcia, used a Sharpie to bedeck a tee with the wide-eyed face of a doe. Together with three clothing designers—Annie Larson, Ra’mon-Lawrence Coleman, and Crystal Quinn—and in a matter of just four hours, the artists improvised twenty-four one-of-a-kind tops. In the case of an extra-long baby-blue T-shirt, the designers added an asymmetrical peplum while the artists lent it a little ghoul who cried (via speech balloon): “Here we go again.”
Berg’s most populist gesture was instructing the artists to be friendly with the guests, many of whom were lined up to ogle the works-in-progress. (Some betrayed their cluelessness by asking practical questions.) Aside from that, unfortunately, her announcement to the general public failed to specify that admittance to the venue, a tiny marketing firm in the Minneapolis warehouse district, could only be achieved via a rear-entry loading dock. In my case, I rattled at the front door for five minutes before I decided to follow a pair of women who marched past in their platforms. And as if that weren’t enough to make an interloper feel conspicuously uncool, I arrived at the party only to learn that the coveted T-shirts had already been pre-sold, for just fifty dollars, to various V.I.P.s of the local fashion scene. A cursory glance at the list of buyers (it was left out in the open, after all) included such names as Anna Lee, founder of the fledgling MNfashion nonprofit, and Ben Olson, a Minneapolis painter and, perchance, the boyfriend of Berg.
With fifty unspent dollars (plus two credit cards) in my handbag, I headed out the very next afternoon (Saturday) to hunt and gather other locally made clothes. How fortunate to have procured an invitation to MNfashion Weekend’s sole invite-only affair, the official Eclecticoiffeur Launch Exhibition and runway show. Who else had been so lucky? A handful of the creatively clad folks from the evening before, it seemed. Berg and Lee were there, of course, but so, too, was Matt Schmidt, a handsome fixture of the Minneapolis bar scene who founded the website mplshappyhour.com. There was also a tall, rail-thin blonde who, I noticed, made off with the most fabulous Love’s Labourers T-shirt. A trio of women in short dresses took their seats along the runway. They were killing time before the 5 p.m. runway show by flipping through an issue of L’étoile, a locally produced art and fashion magazine, when one of the women saw a familiar face amongst the spreads. “OMIGOD, that’s Heather!” she exclaimed.
As it happens, the ladies of Eclecticoiffeur—an ultra-hip trio of hair, makeup, and fashion stylists—are also friendly with many players from the local fashion scene. Accordingly, they were successful in persuading some of the area’s hottest designers, such as George Moskal and Kimberly Jurek, to present their freshest fall ’07 looks. When the lights dimmed and out came the clodhoppers, a pair of jersey dresses by Katherine Gerdes stole the show. These beauties had bands of satin stitched across their necklines and shoulder straps, creating a more formal effect than usually encountered in offerings from the snowboarder and reality-TV star-cum-couturier. Yet they maintained Gerdes’s trademark casualness thanks to pouch pockets and soft jersey fabrics.
An admirer’s impulse was to deficit-spend—anything to acquire these gems—but, sadly, there would be no cooperation from the operation’s supply-side. Gerdes couldn’t say how or when the dresses would become available at her online store or, for that matter, at the Design Collective, a local boutique dealing exclusively in local fashions. “I don’t know,” said Gerdes, smoothing the palm of her hand across a pale forehead. “I just finished these at three a.m.”