All dressed up and nowhere to go

Really? Minneapolis needs three local fashion magazines? The creators of L’Etoile, Industry Minnezine and the new kid, FAME, say yes

by Erin Adler

About 200 guests donned prom dresses, special occasion jewelry and somewhat bewildered expressions at a gathering last week in St. Paul. Their faces seemed to echo the awkward-but-promising state of the local fashion scene they were celebrating.

At this fashion magazine launch, each too-tight tie and nervous glance posed an all-important question: Does fledgling Twin Cities’ fashion truly need another fashion magazine? And why?

Copies of the second issue of FAME Digest sat silent, swaddled in each table’s gift bags. The petite local publication’s launch inspired the night’s events, including a fashion show and stand-up comedian.

“It’s strictly a magazine for fashion-oriented people. Absolutely fashion only,” said Eric Olson, FAME’s founder and editor in chief.

Olson is as enthusiastic in person as he is on the phone as he is in writing. His exclamation-point-riddled “letter from the editor” attests to this fact.

Olson said he’s always been “a very visual person” and his interest in starting a magazine highlighting local fashion goes back almost five years, he said. The past five months, though, have seen the publication really take shape.

“It hasn’t been easy, but the Twin Cities is really hungry for something like this,” he said. He points to the many local designers and fashion shows and the upcoming casting call by “America’s Next Top Model” at the Mall of America.

The arrival of FAME comes at an awkward point in the timeline of the regional fashion community; despite the establishment of regular fashion shows, copious enthusiasm and plenty of raw talent, most area designers still retain day jobs and the Twin Cities still are without a garment district to mass-produce clothing.

But Olson isn’t the only one to observe the Minneapolis-St. Paul burgeoning design scene, nor is he the first to propose and publish a magazine tailored to local fashion.

Last spring, Beth Hammarlund produced the first issue of L’Etoile, a magazine also devoted to area clothing, jewelry and accessory designers. In 2004, Industry Minnezine arrived in the metropolitan area, covering arts, entertainment and fashion.

Despite the other fashion magazines, FAME Digest has a niche of its own, Olson said. The publication is monthly and devoted just to fashion, whereas L’Etoile publishes quarterly and looks to branch out into arts coverage.

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“People ask me if I worry about running out of content, but I don’t think they realize how much untapped talent is out there,” he said. “I meet new designers every day.”

Hammarlund, L’Etoile’s editor in chief, confirms that the magazine is trying on a broader arts, fashion and culture focus in the upcoming issue, in stores in mid- to late February. The issue is 96 pages long, the heftiest she’s produced thus far.

She said she’s excited to hear about FAME and thinks the added competition can only be positive.

“It puts a good pressure on all of us to put out our best work,” she said.

Hammarlund also pointed to the varied aims and “very different aesthetics” of FAME, L’Etoile and Industry, another mini-magazine that includes fashion, among other things.

Those aims can be seen through a single dress, she said. L’Etoile featured the frock in its second issue.

“It took on an early-20th century style because of the makeup and photographer,” she said. “The model is lying in the grass and smiling.”

That same dress appeared in a recent issue of FAME, worn “by an intensely beautiful model with an aggressive stance and striking makeup,” Hammarlund said.

Cara Lindgren paid the $40 to attend FAME’s launch party. She said she and her sister, Molly, like to shop at some of the smaller Minneapolis and St. Paul boutiques featuring local designers’ works.

“You can go to Banana Republic, but then you’ll look like everyone else,” she said.

Lindgren’s said that when she lived in Chicago, she regularly perused the free glossy magazines showcasing area designers.

Her review of the FAME Digest publication, though, was mixed.

“Remember that David Spade show (“Just Shoot Me”) where he worked for a fashion magazine? They would always show the fake covers of their magazine on screen,” she said. “It kind of reminds me of that.”