Be the city you love

“I AM MPLS!” is back for its sixth year, blending fashion and music.

Jared Tuttle looks through various clothing options at Atmosfere in North Loop on Monday, selecting an outfit for the upcoming I Am MPLS fashion show tonight at First Avenue

Image by Sam Harper

Jared Tuttle looks through various clothing options at Atmosfere in North Loop on Monday, selecting an outfit for the upcoming I Am MPLS fashion show tonight at First Avenue

by Grant Tillery

Local fashionista Sarah Edwards puts on countless shows each year for free in addition to juggling work for other events and a creative career. She’s one of those people who look like they have it all together, but by her admission, she doesn’t.
“I think I’ve been trying to embrace this idea of not sounding perfect or [that] everything’s great,” Edwards said. “Life is so messy, so sometimes when I have all this press and media, people think, ‘Oh, she must have her [expletive] together,’ and I’m like, ‘Not really.’”
That said, “I AM MPLS!” is the result of her tireless work and turns the idea of the fashion show on its head. For one, it doesn’t fall during a fashion week. Furthermore, music acts and local comedians break up the runway looks, which are worn not by models but by local men and women about town.
Since her first show six years ago, Edwards added several other “I Am” shows to the mix, including “I AM Kindness,” “I AM Rescued” and “I AM FABULOUS.” 
Though Edwards’ events are tasteful, they don’t take themselves too seriously. Since the Twin Cities is an emerging fashion community, there’s a lot of room to take risks and have fun.
“[Photographer Nicole Feest and video producer Tyler Eichorst] had this great vision of the trailer and photo shoot being based off the ‘Freaks and Geeks’ opening,” brander and producer Allegra Lockstadt said. “We went through that high school yearbook [thing]; it was really fun to work with.”
This year’s crop of models draws upon a wide range of local creatives and thinkers, including policy advisers, chefs and artists. Edwards champions underdogs — people making waves in their field but who either receive less recognition than they deserve or want to remain under the radar.
Artist Anne Labovitz is one such model. Labovitz’s pieces have taken her all over the world, though much of her success came later in life. Her artwork tells stories based on 
connections she’s made and people she’s met, and her quiet success fits well with the ethos of “I AM MPLS!.” 
It’s no surprise, then, that Labovitz attended a couple of Edwards’ events bwefore meeting her.
“I’ve been to other things that [Edwards has] done, and every single thing that I’ve seen her produce has been collaborative and community building,” Labovitz said. “She’s somebody who I’ve been watching.”
Stylist Davee Ek became a friend and collaborator of Edwards’ in a different manner. When Ek was a student, she covered the maiden voyage of “I AM MPLS!” as a writer for an online fashion publication. She had a strange encounter with Edwards off the bat. Fast forward six years, and the two have worked on numerous shows together.
“When I first met Sarah, I thought she was the most awkward person ever. When I introduced myself, she just kept staring at me,” Ek said. “Later on, she was like, ‘I’m sorry I keep staring at you. I just really love your outfit. You’re wearing 10 different patterns at the same time, and I really relate to that.’”
Ek and her team of stylists are responsible for preparing the models’ looks. Their ensembles draw upon garments hand-picked from six local boutiques and vintage stores.
This seamless blending of old and new makes “I AM MPLS!” unique because it’s reflective of the wardrobes of stylish folks, not brands.
While the “I AM MPLS!” team pushes the style boundaries of the models, they’re keen on making sure that everyone is comfortable in their clothes.
“Once we do the fittings and get everybody into something they enjoy wearing — or pushing that fashion boundary — then I’m in charge of making sure all those looks stay together,” junior stylist Alex Kelm said. “I’m kind of like [a] smoother, if you will.”
The models also carry props representative of who they are when walking down the runway. For instance, Labovitz plans to drape a canvas of a recent project of hers across
her back.
“I’m so excited about my prop,” Labovitz said with elation. “I’m going to bring this 6-[feet]-by-4-[feet] cover of my table. I put canvas on there on purpose. I had it made into these pouches for this exhibition I had in Canada. The public was invited to choose a color of this beautiful, thick square and draw or write their story on it and put it on the wall. It’s related to that project, but it’s also related to my interest in people and building community.”
Creating community with intent is the forte of the “I Am” series. People who wouldn’t come across each other forge friendships backstage. In an ever-isolating digital age, “I AM MPLS!” serves as a connecting catalyst that brings different disciplines together and forges projects in the making.
“ ‘I AM MPLS!’ makes sense now, but six years ago it was a little before its time,” Edwards said. “Back then, it was all about digital, digital, digital. Now, it’s about real human 
Where First Avenue, 701 N. First Ave., Minneapolis
When 7 p.m. Thursday
Cost $15-50
Ages 18+