Designer Profile: Emma Berg

MPLSart director and local style standout Berg prepares to showcase new fashion line.

by Kara Nesvig

I met MPLSart founder/Target corporate employee/first-rate local fashion plate Emma Berg for lunch at Masa âÄî an airy, modern Mexican restaurant owned by the DâÄôAmico partners on Nicollet Mall. On this sunny Friday, sheâÄôs wearing a worn gray t-shirt tucked into a gold and mauve draped skirt with a pair of aggressive yet elegant strap-laden heels. Her fingernails are long and painted dark grey, her dark bobbed hair shining. Though itâÄôs difficult to sum up a typical âÄúEmma style,âÄù her overall look tends to run towards a mix between flapper and avant-garde. Though sheâÄôs busy curating at Fox Tax art gallery, working in human resources for Target and sewing up her debut collection of five âÄúlooksâÄù for local fashion spotlight show SCENEaSOTA, she made time to chat with me over tacos and ginger limeade. What did we talk about? Clothes, of course. Berg grew up in Stacy, Minn. and did most of her schooling at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, studying costume design and studio arts, particularly ceramics. âÄúIn college, I would sew a lot of my own clothes,âÄù she said. âÄúYou can usually make better stuff than you can buy.âÄù She relocated to Minneapolis, took a job with Target, and began MPLSart five years ago, an online resource/calendar-on-acid dedicated to promoting local art. âÄúIt brought me back into the creative community. At that same time, I met Anna Lee and got on the design panel for Voltage .âÄù Berg is a first-rate clotheshorse with a passion for design. âÄúI love dressing up. ThereâÄôs a time for jeans, but I donâÄôt mind the idea of being overdressed,âÄù she said. âÄúI like to wear something different every time.âÄù Her favorite designers include Alexander McQueen and LanvinâÄôs Alber Elbaz , and their influences readily show in her ensembles. Her favorite local designers include Max Lohrbach , RaâÄômon-Lawrence Coleman and Katherine Gerdes . Berg is notoriously well-dressed, having her photo snapped by style bloggers like Ellen Dahl of the Minneapoline on more than one occasion. âÄúEmma embodies avant-garde. SheâÄôs always innovating,âÄù Dahl said. âÄúThereâÄôs always fantastic color and she understands and incorporates shape, which is really difficult to do, and hard to find.âÄù Though she loves to shop, citing stores like Off 5th and as favorites, Berg has long sewn for herself, too. She estimates that about 5 percent of her endless closet is self-sewn. âÄúI had gone to India last year, visited stores and boutiques there, and when I got home I thought, âÄòThatâÄôs what my passion is. I should be doing that.âÄô âÄù While chatting with local designer Maritza Ramirez , Berg unwittingly committed herself to RamirezâÄôs pet project, SCENEaSOTA. âÄúI thought, âÄòOh my gosh! I just signed up for a fashion show!âÄô It was a nice push because IâÄôd been wanting to do it, but I havenâÄôt been able to commit.âÄù A true statement, since Berg has her fingers in lots of local pies. She recently curated University grad Miles MendenhallâÄôs first solo exhibit at Fox Tax to great success. Art is another of BergâÄôs great passions; she was married to artist Ben Olson for 13 years and played the role of his muse. She also collects her fair share of artwork and considers many local artists and creative types good friends. It was a Japanese film called âÄúDollsâÄù that inspired BergâÄôs collection for SCENEaSOTA . âÄúItâÄôs really beautiful; itâÄôs a tragic love story. ThereâÄôs a scene âĦ a dead butterfly on the ground, and just one of the wings is disattached. ItâÄôs so beautiful and so tragic and that uneasiness is what IâÄôm trying to convey.âÄù Berg says sheâÄôs nervous about presenting her collection to the public, but excited too. âÄúIâÄôd like to sell,âÄù she said. âÄúIt would be amazing to see the pieces on other people.âÄù Ramirez said, âÄúSo many people have expressed great enthusiasm for EmmaâÄôs collection, because they are aware of how prominent she is in the Minneapolis arts community.âÄù Though sheâÄôs not averse to relocating to a new city somewhere in the future, Berg said she loves the Twin Cities and is appreciative of the fashion scene sheâÄôs about to enter. âÄúTo be able to create that sustainability, thatâÄôs amazing. ItâÄôs the same with the arts community, to continue to push expectations, making sure it gets better and better.âÄù