The incredible Fulk: Minnesota Fashion Week 2009

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With spring in the air and the Twin Cities’ premier fashion event just weeks away, it was crunch time for local designer Laura Fulk on a recent afternoon, but you wouldn’t have known it from the looks of her studio space.

The studio, one half of a room in her South Minneapolis apartment, seemed organized down to the last pin—in sharp contrast with the other half, which doubles as a storage space for her four roommates. In that half of the room, a cream-colored cat perched atop a mountain of amplifiers, milk crates, and bikes; the cat looked across the room and surveyed Fulk’s collection of neatly labeled Tupperware boxes, her three sewing machines, and her neat rainbows of thread.

Fulk, 26, has been sewing ‘round the clock in preparation for her first solo runway show April 21 at the Lab Theater; the event is part of this spring’s Minnesota Fashion Week. Fulk’s show, Suffocate, is one of the headlining events of the newly expanded Fashion Week, formerly Minnesota Fashion Weekend.

highlights of minnesota fashion week include:

friday, april 17: exclusively spring; kjurek couture runway show featuring accessories by adrienne; 8-11 p.m.; w minneapolis, foshay tower; 821 marquette ave, minneapolis; tickets: $10/$15

tuesday, april 21: suffocate; runway show by laura fulk, produced by mplsart; reception: 6:30 p.m.; runway show: 8 p.m.; lab theater; 700 1st st. n., minneapolis; tickets: $15

thursday, april 23: clothing swap by yelp and mnfashion; bring your gently used clothing to trade. leftover clothes go to goodwill/easter seals; textile center; 3000 university ave. s.e., minneapolis; free

friday, april 24: voltage: fashion amplified; runway show with music by local artists; first avenue main room; 701 1st ave. n., minneapolis; doors: 8 p.m.; tickets: $25/$30

Though Fulk has found her calling in fashion, she is no stranger to the fine arts. She studied sculpture while a student at the Minnesota College of Art and Design, and her artistic pedigree is evident in her work with fabric.

The dresses featured in Suffocate lined her studio walls in various stages of completion, but each one showed signs of careful construction and painstaking tailoring. Tall asymmetrical collars, rows of buttons, edgy shoulders, and sharp hemlines are some of the trademarks of the line.

Fulk acknowledged that she conceives her designs in much the same way she would a sculpture. “I’ve been pinned as the architectural, structured, symmetrical designer,” she said. “I just can’t help it. But then you can stick a body into this sculpture and it becomes a living, breathing thing.”

Suffocate is one of the more conceptual lines Fulk has undertaken. The title alludes to the feeling of breathlessness associated with the individual’s struggle against forces of nature and society.

Though the tone seems dark, the end of the show will bring resolution, Fulk said. “The idea of suffocating is going to be resolved. There are going to be gasps of air, so to speak.”

Made-to-order printed fabrics, featuring graphics designed by local artists Melissa Breitenfeldt and Jay Langer, will help evoke the theme.

Above all, Fulk has proven herself a versatile designer. In addition to her work with the conceptual design style of Suffocate, she has worked in costume design and high-end retail fashion. In her “day job” she works as an assistant to a local tailor who has dressed stars such as Kevin Garnett and Jimmy Jam. She has also designed costumes for installations at the Minnesota Historical Society, which holds two of her dresses in its permanent collection, and for two recent Minneapolis theater productions.

Though she has produced more than 40 lines in her career, Fulk has learned that a solo show can be as much work for a designer as a more traditional type of milestone. “You have to worry about the music, the venue, the alcohol, the lighting—everything,” she said. “It’s like planning a wedding.”

Jamie Thomas (jethomas319@gmail.com) is a freelance journalist living in South Minneapolis.

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