The couture and the movement

Local clothing designers compete for the environment.

by Sally Hedberg

WHAT: Sol Inspirations: Eco Fashion Gala

WHEN: Saturday, April 23, 7 p.m.

WHERE: The Depot, 225 Third Ave. S

COST: $35/$15 with a college ID

All the glory of the green movement hits the runway in Minneapolis at âÄúSol Inspirations: Eco-Fashion GalaâÄù on Saturday. Somewhere, Al Gore is weeping because he doesnâÄôt have the build of a male model.

A product of Ignite Models and The Global Eco Organization, a nonprofit that promotes the advancement of new technologies that aim to keep the planet healthy,âÄúSol InspirationsâÄù incorporates some friendly competition to environmentalism.

The challenge is straightforward: Create three looks using nontraditional, sustainable and recyclable materials. Local designers will contend for both a $5,000 cash prize and the modern-day honor of being crowned the ultimate eco-fashionista. Additionally, show-goers will be privileged to see the exclusive SolarWorld collection of âÄúProject RunwayâÄù winner Seth Aaron Henderson showcased live.

While the phrase âÄúnontraditional materialsâÄù is utterly daunting within the design world, local designers like âÄúProject RunwayâÄù finalist Christopher Straub are thrilled to design outside the box for such an important cause.

âÄúI just think itâÄôs such a great concept,âÄù Straub said. âÄúIâÄôm so supportive of alternative-energy resources and really any way to clean up our planet, so this show was the perfect opportunity.âÄù

As far as the three looks go, the parameters are pretty much endless within the broad scope of the design requirements. Take into account the diversity of the competing designers (weâÄôre talking the edgy flash of Niki English compared with the classic feminine elegance of Jenny Carle and even bridal designer Tara Latour), and the end results are completely unpredictable.

When some of the cityâÄôs most talented designers are forced out of their element, your guess is as good as mine. Straub will be utilizing resources as bold as glass, manipulated mops and rough cotton.

âÄúMy overall vision is sustainability, and IâÄôm using visual motifs such as solar panels and bamboo to pull me in the direction as well,âÄù Straub said. âÄúI just jumped right in.âÄù

Fashion in its highest form is so often targeted for being shallow, frivolous or closed-minded (when John Galliano goes on public, drunken, racist rants, it doesnâÄôt exactly help to change these opinions).

There may be truth to such claims in some instances, but itâÄôs unfair to pigeonhole an art form entirely. At its core, itâÄôs about creating something unique. With the proceeds of âÄúSol InspirationsâÄù benefiting the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society and Help Haiti Rebuild, perhaps the naysayers can acknowledge the good for once. Clothing designers, after all, are artists in every sense of the word.

âÄúI hope that someone newly appreciative of fashion looks at all of the designers and really appreciates that each one has a valid point of view,âÄù Straub said. âÄúEveryoneâÄôs voice is important. ThatâÄôs what makes art happen and thatâÄôs what makes fashion happen.âÄù