Review: Black Hearts Ball 2017


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A look by Os.Couture at Black Hearts Ball

Bish Singh

Since its auspicious debut in 2014 at the Minneapolis Club, the Black Hearts Ball has come a long way. The fashion show, which is produced by veteran Twin Cities designers and brothers, Tim and Thom Navarro (aka TIM+THOM), has a unique concept—handmade creations by local designers are presented in a theatrical runway presentation set to a soundtrack provided by opera singers and orchestral musicians. As opposed to a traditional runway show, which showcases seasonal, retail-ready collections, Black Hearts Ball is about pure creativity and artfulness. Designers push themselves beyond the limits of traditional ready-to-wear to create something closer on the spectrum of art than to commerce. The show also emphasizes diversity, not just among its designers but among its talented, behind-the-scenes crew.

This year's show was presented at the American Swedish Institute for the second time, capping off the spring 2017 edition of Fashion Week MN. The 2015 show took place on the main level of the museum's modern wing within its FIKA cafe, which made for a dramatic presentation of models descending a white staircase in front of wall-to-wall windows. This year's event took place in the museum's second-floor ballroom, a change that made for a more intimate setting, although I missed the drama provided by the staircase. (Alas, the carpeted areas of the ballroom didn't make for the most glamorous setting for a fashion show, although the addition of a flora-and-fauna-covered stage was a unique, lovely touch.) Nonetheless, this year's show was the most polished Black Hearts Ball to date, with mini collections by five local designers ranging from emerging to established.  

The show began with a menswear line by Lucie Jane Mulligan, a new name on the Twin Cities fashion scene. My only previous exposure to Mulligan's work was her senior collection of plus-size women's evening wear at the University of Minnesota apparel design program's 2013 presentation, so I had no idea of what to expect from the designer's debut menswear line under her brand, Lucie Jane. The designer demonstrated an eye for unique details, such as kaleidoscopic trim, stitching, patchwork denim, and tie-dyed fabrics—1970s hippie-inspired details rendered in modern, tailored silhouettes and a largely neutral palette. Apart from a hand-illustrated t-shirt, though, the looks didn't have the kind of oomph I come to expect from Black Hearts Ball collections. I wish Mulligan had exaggerated the silhouettes and psychedelic details more—now isn't the time for restraint. But overall, it was nice to see the tame menswear of today given some interesting details. Available by request @ luciejane.com

BISH SINGH

BISH SINGH

PIERRE WARE

BISH SINGH

Shiader Vue made her runway debut during the 2015 TIM+THOM production, LARK. Her latest pieces emphasized tailoring, rich colors, and masculine silhouettes playing off feminine details and floral patterns. Vue showed some strong ideas, such as a wine-colored pant slit down the sides, and a pair of white pants featuring a South Asian-inspired wrap-top closure. However, the finishing needed some work--the fit on the crotch of the pants was a bit too loose, and the shoulders on a dress were a tad too snug. But I thought her white blouse with sheer panels was sharp (aided by metal collar clips by local designer Annie Thao), and that her sheer wine top strategically encrusted with sequins was truly inspired. It was an overall elegant presentation from a talented designer with some good ideas, slightly marred by execution issues and (like Mulligan) a bit too restrained of an approach for a show that emphasizes theatrics. But I am definitely looking forward to seeing what's next from this designer. Available by request @ shiadervue.squarespace.com

PIERRE WARE

BISH SINGH

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Oskar Ly provided the first big runway moment of the evening with her three-piece line under her label, Os.Couture. The Twin Cities-based Hmong designer (a fixture at the annual Fresh Traditions Fashion Show) presented her best work to date, playing with proportions, color pairings, and varying textures for a couture-meets-streetwear look that wouldn't have been out of place on the streets of Tokyo. There was so much to love--the black mesh, floor-length jacket; the bomber jacket with blue satin on the front, and yellow chinoiserie on the back; the origami-esque pink balloon pants; the balloon-sleeved chinoiserie bolero--it was hard to pick a favorite piece. My only complaint? It wasn't a full collection. Give me more, Oskar! Available by request @ oskarlyart.com/oscouture

BISH SINGH

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Bris Carbajal made her second Black Hearts Ball showing with a four-look line under her Yessenya label after a steller showcase at last year's event. Once again, her construction was impeccable, her point of view was unique, her textiles were luxurious, and her silhouettes were intriguing. The citrus-and-cream color story evoked the rich colors of Havana, and the structured bodices and wide-legged pants brought to mind the breezily chic styles of Saint Tropez (and well-paired with colorful wood accessories by local line Burly Babe). The snap buttons and seaming on an orange sherbet-colored mini-dress were fantastically rendered. The pleating on a pair of cream pants and cropped bodice was perfectly done. And the finale look, a cream, snap-front dress, was effortlessly dramatic and completely original. Once again, my only critique would have been for a bit more boldness--perhaps something that could have been accomplished with more over-the-top styling. Yessenya available by request @ yessenya.com; Burly Babe accessories available @ burly-babe.myshopify.com

BISH SINGH

BISH SINGH

PIERRE WARE

BISH SINGH

BISH SINGH

Form over Function by Lauren Kacher ended the show on a fittingly theatrical note with three looks that showcased her darkly beautiful, couture creations. This is fashion intended only for the truly bold among us--and film sets, and photo shoots. Indeed, some of the well-crafted, intricate pieces actually appeared in a eye-popping, avant-garde video that accompanied the presentation, created by Kacher in collaboration with filmmaker Peter Jamus. Although shown on both female and male models, the looks were intentionally unisex, a notion that was accentuated by the use of vision-obscuring sequined masks worn by the models. (Is it weird that I want one?) The interlocking lines of the garments was a continuation of the collection, said to be inspired by recent trips to Iceland and London, as well as artwork by Bangkok-based conceptual photographer, Tanapol Kaewpring, which she recently showed at the Envision Spring 2017 fashion show. In fact, Kacher's designs thrive in a presentation such as Black Hearts Ball, rather than a more traditional runway setting. Available by request @ formoverfunctiondesign.com

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