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I AM MPLS: A Runway for the People

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The crowd gathers for Third Thursday: I AM MPLS!

The crowd gathers for Third Thursday: I AM MPLS!

Emma Freeman for Minneapolis Institute of Art

Emma Freeman for Minneapolis Institute of Art

The crowd gathers for Third Thursday: I AM MPLS!

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The I AM MPLS biannual fashion show took place last Thursday at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. It was a night of creativity, celebration, and, of course, fashion. However, this was more than just a fashion show—it was a way to connect different people from different backgrounds.  Even people from outside the fashion industry got involved.

Lauren Buckley confidently shows off her outfit styled by Davee Ek.

Emma Freeman for Minneapolis Institute of Art
Lauren Buckley confidently shows off her outfit styled by Davee Ek.

It was by no means a traditional fashion show. The models were comprised of locals that range from artists to businesspersons to activists. Lead stylist, Davee Ek, said, “Each year, a select few movers and shakers are chosen to be ‘models’ in the fashion show, instead of using actual models. We take this moment each year to showcase cool people and things happening in our beloved city.” The stylists also pull from local shops and boutiques rather than from high-end name brands.

This year’s show made an especially strong statement. Several of the models wore tees with the phrase “YOUR FEAR OF BLACK MEN IS IRRATIONAL” printed on. The t-shirts are a part of Project Humanize Me and were picked up from one of the show’s boutiques, B.Resale.

Lauren Buckley, a model who wore the shirt, said, “That is a 100% accurate statement. […] I think there is more to each person that unites us than divides us.” 

Left to right: Riché Battle raises his fist to symbolize Black Power and Aubry Marie Walch wears Project Humanize Me's shirt.

Emma Freeman for Minneapolis Institute of Art
Left to right: Riché Battle raises his fist to symbolize Black Power and Aubry Marie Walch wears Project Humanize Me’s shirt.

Several of the models and stylists agreed that these shirts served as a critique on the way society has demonized blackness. Buckley and Ek both emphasized the importance of making this simple yet powerful message on the runway. They agreed that given recent history, it was important to remind the world that everyone is human.

In addition to showcasing Project Humanize Me’s tees, I AM MPLS drew in a large crowd and represented Minnesota fashion. The runway divided a crowd that stretched from one side of the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s lobby to the other.

Victoria Turcios, stylist in the show, gave insight into why the show drew in so many people by saying, “I AM MPLS helps create a sense of inclusivity to those who love fashion locally and outside our state. […] These shows define and showcase the advances our talented designers and local boutiques are creating as well.” The show featured looks from AK Collective, Mia Giftshop, Atmosfere, B.Resale, Proper, Roe Wolfe, Hazel & Rose, Cliché, and Rewind—all local boutiques and stores.

Mixie Di, full time mother and owner of #artbymixie sassily shows off her red velvet jumper.

Emma Freeman for Minneapolis Institute of Art
Mixie Di, full time mother and owner of #artbymixie sassily shows off her red velvet jumper.

Again, the models were not your “typical” models. Instead, they were average people that happened to work their stuff on the runway. Mixie Di, an artist and a model in the show, wrote, “Instead of looking for petite, specific looking models, this showcases the beauty in SELF & the creators who are usually behind the scenes.”

Every single person who walked down that runway Thursday night was not a professional model. All of them had full time jobs and occupations outside of the fashion world. There were photographers, journalists, and even a couple vegan butcher shop owners.

I AM MPLS was more than a fashion show. It served as a platform to represent people from all walks of life in the cities. It brought several different groups together. Nicole Fae, a freelance makeup artist and model in the show, stated, “It’s bringing a lot of people together and they’re getting to know each other and from this there’s going to be a lot of collaboration from this. And it’s not going to be just in the fashion world; there’s going to be collaboration outside of the fashion world too.”

Sarah Edwards, founder of I AM MPLS, gives her closing statements at the end of the show.

Emma Freeman for Minneapolis Institute of Art
Sarah Edwards, founder of I AM MPLS, gives her closing statements at the end of the show.

As Sarah Edwards, founder of I AM MPLS, said at the end of the event, “Fashion isn’t about brands or money—it’s about people and personalities.” And this year, it was about representing people and personalities that have been too often excluded.

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I AM MPLS: A Runway for the People