Fortissimo Fashionistas

Voltage Fashion Amplified combines bands and clothes on the catwalk

Haily Gostas

Madonna’s cone boobs. J-Lo’s plunging Versache “dress.” Angry-girl Chan Marshall of Cat Power Ö repping Chanel jewelry?

It’s no secret that the music and fashion industries have overlapped time and time again. In the same way that a hot little look can shape a big sound, a performer’s personal style can kick off a major trend. The result? Girls dig into their daddy’s tie collection, boys apply “guy-liner,” and everyone else ponders what the boss would think if you showed up with grillz come Monday morning.

Voltage Fashion Amplified ’07
WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: First Avenue Mainroom, 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis
TICKETS: $12 advance / $15 door, 21-plus, (612) 332-1775, www.first-avenue.com

Although a musician might be pleasing to a fifth of our senses, their guitars and tambourines aren’t the only things catching attention during a live show. And though a stack full of conceptual art sketches seems interesting in theory, a mass audience might find the final product more appealing on someone other than an anorexic catwalker.

Either way, each party’s got to have “it”: uniqueness, unconventionality, the shine of a little spotlight and a whole lot of willingness to partner up and make each other’s respective ideas come to life.

Minneapolis’ Voltage Fashion Amplified seeks to sew those seams together even further, celebrating this fabulous fusion of mediums in a way that encourages collaboration and community.

Produced again by Ruby3 designer Anna Lee, Voltage’s second installment since its 2005 debut boasts yet another, more grandiose runway rock show that offers a big-time opportunity for small-time local talents on both sides of the fence. While a host of fantastic local bands provide the soundtrack to each swagger, designers outfit them accordingly in illustration with their music.

And this fashion ain’t all frivolous either – Voltage supports some mighty nice causes too, including the Artists’ Access to Healthcare and emerging nonprofit MN Fashion, both of which provide benefits for starving visionaries.

Here are some of the highlights in Voltage’s carnival of band-designer covenants, that, though not as mainstream (or money-based) as the aforementioned, still know how to work what they’ve got.

THE MOOD SWINGS

Ashley Prenzlow, the self-described “buyer by day, rocker by night,” knows a thing or two about the Voltage aesthetic.

From 9 to 5, she lovingly selects and purchases dresses for Macy’s department store distribution. When the sun goes down, however, she hikes up her own and struts on stage as the lead vocalist and guitarist for pop rock darlings The Mood Swings.

After the 2001 dissolution of old band TheMeg, Prenzlow recalls feeling rather bummed and in desperate need of a breath of fresh air. She was tinkering around with a four-track and concentrating on new songwriting techniques when, through “a stroke of good luck,” a co-worker introduced her to Sallie Watson.

Now BFFs, the two share duties in The Mood Swings and bring a double dose of sugar to the hard-edged scraps of garage and punk. The band’s sound leaps back and forth from ’60s and ’70s staples like the Rolling Stones and the Stooges to emotive ’90s heaviness of Spiritualized and the Jesus & Mary Chain.

In addition, both women are serving on the Voltage design panel, working closely with the designers to cultivate each of their visions.

“I think collaboration is the most important element here,” Prenzlow said admiringly. “There’s a bunch of really strong individual efforts.”

Yeah, yeah – but do all these connections bring any fashion forecasts?

“Dresses are the number one item of the season!” she hints with a squeal of delight. Naturally.

BLACK BLONDIE

Black Blondie prefer their fashion the way they prefer their music – shaken, stirred and just a bit schizophrenic.

“We all have really diverse tastes,” claimed keyboardist Tasha Baron, formerly of local hip-hop gems Heiruspecs. “A bunch of different influences are brought to the table, both in how we look and how we sound.”

Just as a particular number could contain equal parts chilled trip-hop, smoky soul and throbbing afro beat, each of Black Blondie’s members maintains a unique individual appearance: playful, artistic and plenty sexy, certainly, but no one is trying to follow quite the same pattern.

Baron jokes that the band nearly settled for the repetitively fast-paced techno found along the atypical runway path, but eventually threw their hands up and just decided to be themselves.

“We do what we do, you know?” she said of Black Blondie’s sultry, raw and often unpredictable approach. “We have a tendency to make some pretty emotional music. Maybe we’ll make a model cry!”

THE ALARMISTS

You’d never believe it from looking at him now, but there was once a time when the Alarmists’ Eric Luvold preferred the checkered angst of a flannel grunge uniform to the dandy Keith Moon-cum-Beatles style he now sports.

“I really used to love the Smashing Pumpkins,” he admitted. “I actually bought my first drum machine because of them. I was convinced I could do anything once I had that, but I don’t think I’ve programmed a single thing in it since.”

Now, the ringleader of the British-influenced, guitar-centered psychedelic pop rock outfit dresses a bit more to impress. His band was crowned number one in City Page’s Picked to Click 2006, after all – upholding at least somewhat of an image is crucial.

“We try to present ourselves well,” said the still-modest Luvold, who always tries to don one of his grandfather’s old ties for each high-energy performance. “When you dress up, you definitely feel more confident.”

Still, the Alarmists hardly suffer for fashion.

“When you’re in a band, you can sometimes get away with looking a little crazier,” said Luvold, “but in our case, simple is better.” No frills, just good, old-fashioned rock n’ roll.

JENNY OLSON

Fascinated by antiques and vintage furniture, Jenny Olsen likes to layer her designs with surprising seams, urban inspirations and swanky hints of history.

On the horizon of graduating from the University, Voltage is Olson’s first fashion show off campus.

Mirroring the band’s sound, Olsen, the primary designer of Pomije, decided on a ’60s mod military look for The Mood Swings.

Olsen said she and the musicians agreed from the start on a less flash, more class wardrobe. Olsen said she didn’t want them to look like they were wearing costumes, rather something they would want to wear again.

The women of The Mood Swings will be featured in slim dresses, adorned with buttons and buckles, chosen from a handful of Olsen’s designs.

ELIZABETH CHESNEY & MACKENZIE LABINE

If there were a larger cricket population in Minneapolis, you would’ve been able to hear them Friday night as Elizabeth Chesney and Mackenzie Labine worked on their line for Black Blondie in an Uptown apartment.

The on-and-off sound of the sewing machine replaced conversation as the designers concentrated on stitching black lace and perfecting hems on corsets.

While Chesney generally goes for comfort and natural fabrics, Labine likes to mix “floofy” girly stuff with dark fantasy.

Opposites in design tactics, Chesney and Labine paired up to create a sassy showgirl-esque line for Black Blondie that combines leather with tutus.

With inspirations from Moulin Rouge and daring female fashions from the prohibition era, the line made for the members of Black Blondie is tight, tasseled and curve accentuating.

“It was nice to work with real women, versus models who have the bodies of 12 year-old boys,” Labine said. “They actually have boobs to put in a dress.”

Expect to see a tasteful amount of leg and cleavage, devious hues and a dress modeled after those fancy vintage lampshades. The only male in the group will sport a fine tailored suit.

JAHNA PELOQUIN

Always on the hunt for old items that could use revamping, Jahna Peloquin prefers the term “stylist” to “designer.” Her fashions tell stories and are often inspired by classic films and then reworked with a more modern approach.

Her designs for The Alarmists will be a composition of baby blues, rich cognac and chocolate browns, slate grays and beige. Each of the indie-rockers will feature a vest and/or sweater paired with flattering button-downs, neckties and loose-yet- tailored pants.

With a bit of military inspiration fused with Brit icons like Bowie and the Clash, Peloquin says she simply took the look the band already sports as a jumping-off point.

Sharp and dashing, Peloquin’s line for the Alarmists will resemble Frank Sinatra’s character in “The Man with a Golden Arm,” a sexy heroin addict/poker dealer (armband included). A good-looking group of young men to start, their subdued sexy apparel is basically guaranteed to make the crowd swoon.

Peloquin says there’s a meaning behind each article she’s chosen and is excited to surprise the audience with the final product.

She also promises holsters will make a special appearance as an accessory Ö uh, hot.

OTHER FEATURED BANDS:

THE PLASTIC CONSTELLATIONS
Heavy, unpretentious rock that incorporates an air raid of rhythmic intensity, sprawling post-punk melodies and Minnesota-bred dark humor.

THE GOD DAMN DOO WOP BAND
In which delectable soda fountain doo-wop is given a smattering of sass by a crop of tattooed cuties in three-part harmony.

DANCE BAND
Matching tracksuits (usually concealing, albeit for only a short period of time, neon booty shorts) + mullets + snarky lyrics over funktastic, babymakin’ beats = Dance Band!

OTHER FEATURED DESIGNERS:

GRETA HERMAN
A self-taught dressmaker who likes using recycled fabrics.

MICHELLE HENRY
A fan of bright prints and plush fabrics, Henry uses funky and dynamic designs to reflect her passion for life.

DAHIL LANGER
Her handmade line “reinvintaged” can be found in local boutiques such as Cliché in Uptown.