Designers breathe new life into the local fashion scene

University of Minnesota alum Ellie Hottinger presented a collection from her brand, Emah The Label, at the Envision Fashion Show as part of Fashion Week MN on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016 at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. Hottinger graduated from the Apparel Design program in 2013 and lives in Chicago.

Chelsea Gortmaker

University of Minnesota alum Ellie Hottinger presented a collection from her brand, Emah The Label, at the Envision Fashion Show as part of Fashion Week MN on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016 at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. Hottinger graduated from the Apparel Design program in 2013 and lives in Chicago.

Maddy Folstein

Step aside Vikings jerseys and puffy parkas — Minnesotan designers are redefining what Midwestern style can, and should, be.

From Sept. 15-25, local creatives descended on Twin Cities streets and stages to celebrate Fashion Week Minnesota (FWMN). Events ranged from fashion shows to pop-up shops and a craft market. The program is currently in its third season.

“We saw an opportunity to revive and refresh the fashion community,” said Sarah Edwards, FWMN co-founder, co-director and event producer. “We started connecting all these dots — reaching out to people and gauging their interests.”

Proving there’s more to fashion than whatever’s on the front page of Vogue, FWMN makes use of artists, photographers, designers and advertisers to provide a well-rounded look at all of the talent the Twin Cities has to offer.

“We’re trying to treat FWMN like a start-up … we have to be really savvy, really smart with our decisions,” Edwards said.

This year, FWMN gave two University of Minnesota apparel design students — one current and one alumni — a platform to showcase their work at the Envision fashion show on Sept. 24.

“What’s interesting about their approach is the research aspect, even though it’s highly based in the industry,” Ellie Hottinger, a 2013 graduate of the program, said.

With an emphasis on research and strong faculty support, the University’s program provides students with technical and experiential learning opportunities.

Spencer Versteeg, a current student in the apparel design program, was the youngest designer in the Envision show.

Versteeg designed a collection aimed at providing an alternative to traditional women’s business styles.

“I think that women in male-dominated professions try to be, and dress, like men. It got me thinking, ‘What would happen if they didn’t do that?’” Versteeg said.

New shapes, textiles and leopard prints for business were focuses of his collection.

Hottinger brought styles to the show from her line: Emah the Label.

“I started doing it as a way to have full creative control,” Hottinger said.

Clothing design is an art form like any other — inspiration must strike from somewhere.

“I was going through a couple of major changes in my life when I was creating my collection, so that carried into the clothing … very organically,” Hottinger said.

Fall 2016’s FWMN will not be the last — another installment is slated for spring.

“We’re really just trying to help build a community,” Edwards said.