The spotlight

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April 11, 2011
By: Jeremy Zoss
Jeremy Zoss
// Local designers break loose during MNfashion Week //

First Avenue is often packed with stylish people, but for one night each year, fashion literally takes center stage. Now in its seventh year, “Voltage: Fashion Amplified” offers a mix of music and fashion that has made it one of spring’s premiere events. The brainchild of MNfashion founder Anna Lee, Voltage was conceived to build awareness of the local fashion industry and create exposure for up-and-coming designers.

It worked. As Voltage raised the visibility of the local fashion industry, more and more fashion-centered events were created. There was MNfashion Weekend, which expanded into MNfashion Week. Partnerships with retailers developed, and the MNfashion organization grew to more than 300 committee members, organizers and volunteers. Most importantly, many of the fashion designers have grown into established brands on their own.

This year, MNfashion Week will host two events called The MNfashion Shows. Evolving from a similar MNfashion event last fall called “Pale Rider,” The MNfashion Shows are smaller, more intimate runway events designed to highlight four local designers who have developed their brands, have a strong voice and product available for sale. On April 13, the first will center on the French-inspired elegance of George Moskal and the “upcycled” clothing of the CounterCouture brand. A day later, the second will feature the high-fashion designs of MPLSart founder, gallery curator and local fashion maven Emma Berg, as well as menswear designer Kevin Kramp, whose woven creations were spotted on the runway at the most recent edition of the Paris Fashion Week and earned him favorable coverage in Italian Vogue.

It is a year of great transition for MNfashion. Founder and Voltage producer Anna Lee is stepping down to concentrate on her own designs and pursue other opportunities within the fashion world. But MNfashion’s board feels confident that the organization is stronger than ever, and The Shows are a great example of the events the group will produce going forward. “Midwest designers have a unique perspective to offer the fashion world,” says The Shows producer Emily Blanche. “The Shows, in their clarity and succinct style, will be the platform for that perspective.”

Tickets for the individual MNfashion Shows are available for $20–$25, with passes for both events available for $30. All tickets include complimentary
drink tickets.

Q&A with Kevin Kramp

All four designers featured in The MNfashion shows are quite busy getting ready for the event, but we still managed to get some time with menswear design Kevin Kramp.

The Journal: Tell us a little bit about your upbringing in Minnesota and how you developed an interest in fashion.

Kramp: I grew up in a desolate, conformist, middle-of-nowhere suburb between a highway and a military arsenal. At all times everyone was aware of everyone else’s whereabouts and business, and commented on it. Minuscule changes in style or appearance would cause the greatest uproar of attention, so at a very young age I was aware of the social implications of style, calling attention to the body, and its effect on community hierarchy.

When I was in high school I happened to see a televised couture runway show by Gianni Versace, and it was then that I had full realization that I wanted to create clothing for other people.

Tell us a bit about your formal training.

I studied Fine Art at Brown University and during summers in New York I took fashion courses and interned with designers, showrooms and magazines, clawing at any opportunity that I could find. I studied abroad in Italy, which certainly stoked the fires of my fashion interest. I earned a second degree in Fashion Design with Knitwear from London’s Central St. Martins College of Art and Design, and while in London I also assisted with various designers and creatives.

How did you become interested in knitwear?

While at St. Martins I continually designed knitwear on paper, but never knew how to make it. I inquired about the knit program and eventually switched to it from the Menswear program that I had had originally enrolled in. I was the only one in the knit program designing knitwear for men, and the only one in the group of nine in my course who didn’t know how to knit — it was very intimidating!

The total creation of the fabric, manipulation of stitch, yarn, color, shape, etc, this is why I love knitwear. And the organic shapes are much more interesting and beautiful than those achieved with woven fabric.

What are your thoughts on the MN fashion scene and MNfashion Week?

There is a wonderfully enthusiastic fashion audience in the Twin Cities. It is fun and I am thankful for their support. Naturally, the conservatism and general lack of global fashion awareness amongst the average person on the street is frustrating and isolating, but that is par for the course with the choices I am making. There are actually few places in the world where an average person on the street has a high level of awareness and appreciation for intelligent fashion design.

How does it feel to be featured in The MNfashion Shows?

I am lucky. The MNfashion shows, are yet another specific manifestation of Anna Lee’s original vision of providing quality resources and support to designers based in the area. A runway presentation is a major undertaking as a production, and my abundant gratitude goes to the Shows producer Emily Blanche and all MNfashion committee members and volunteers for their hard and passionate work.

What question does everyone ask you during interviews?

Everyone always asks, ‘Why do you do fashion? What do you love about it?’ And my response is, ‘Isn’t it obvious?’