Fashionista is in: Holiday window fashion

Local fashion designer Christopher Straub collaborates with Papyrus to create paper dresses.

by Melanie Richtman

If you’ve visited the Mall of America recently, you’ve seen how stores transform into winter wonderlands with strings of lights, holiday decorations and festive window displays.

Like most other stores, Papyrus — known for its offerings of greeting cards, gift wrap and other paper products — has a holiday window display with a distinct twist. It features dresses made out of cards, ribbon and wrapping paper, all designed by Christopher Straub.

The Shakopee, Minn., native has risen to fame as a local fashion designer, especially after appearing on season six of “Project Runway.” The venture with Papyrus came about accidentally when he ran into a high-level executive who just happened to be familiar with Straub’s love of creating garments out of unconventional materials.

Together, they decided to collaborate on a holiday window display, for which Straub designed four paper dresses: three for Papyrus at the Mall of America and one the Edina Galleria location.

Inspiration for the four dresses came from a discussion about letter writing and the Victorian era. Straub designed the dresses based on the idea of a Victorian girl — but with a modern twist.

 “Instead of doing golds and ivories and rich reds and purples that are classic Victorian, I did it in a new way using jewel tones and peacock colors,” Straub said. “I really tried to evolve that thought and make it new, make it now and make it fresh for Papyrus.”

Of the three garments on display at the Mall of America, two are short cocktail dresses, and one is an elaborate floor-length gown. While Straub can’t pick a favorite, he said people tend to gravitate toward the long gown.

“When you do a full-length paper dress, you’ve got to know what you’re doing as a designer,” he said. “[People] know it’s not just slapped together. There has to be a lot of thought and a lot of math.”

Straub designed all of the garments to be fully wearable. Before being topped with greeting cards, ribbons and wrapping paper, each dress started with a fabric base so the model’s skin would never come into contact with paper. All of the pieces on display at the Mall of America are separates with lace-up corset tops and skirts with zippers down the back.

Straub is no novice when it comes to using unusual materials — he’s made dresses out of burlap, circuit board and photo paper. After his stint on “Project Runway,” he fell in love with using unconventional materials because of the creative freedom it gives designers.

“You’re taking something that someone can respond to outside of fashion. In this case, I took greeting cards, wrapping paper and ribbon — materials that we use all year long, especially during the holidays — and turned it into something completely out of context,” he said.

When Straub isn’t designing paper dresses, he is focusing his attention on his eponymous brand (which opened this year’s “The Shows” at Minneapolis-St. Paul Fashion Week) and designing one-of-a-kind pieces for private clients.

After a fun holiday collaboration, Straub said he hopes to work with Papyrus again in the future.

His designs will be on display at the Papyrus shops in the Mall of America and the Galleria for the remainder of the 2013 holiday season.