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Emma Berg

Minneapolis' edgy art darling on curating, designing and more

by Joan Erakit in Style on 13 December 2012

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"I've always appreciated dressing beyond the expected and creating a look for the day that is inspired, not just thrown on," says Minneapolis-based fashion designer and curator Emma Berg. Born and raised in the small, rural town of Stacy, Berg's fascination for clothing came mostly from watching films like Breakfast at Tiffany's or Auntie Mame.

Her move to Minneapolis found her on local fashion blogs, which were undoubtedly attracted to her signature raven haircut, boldly colorful stylings and extravagant shoes. Mixing high-end labels with pieces from Minneapolis-based designers, Berg began to cultivate a distinct aesthetic that was only compounded by her interest in the local arts scene. Her participation in numerous community projects has gained her the reputation as a highly sought-after curator in Minneapolis.

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Berg began her career in the city's burgeoning art industry by both curating shows and working with artists to increase their visibility on a larger scale, which led her to found Mplsart, an online visual arts calendar. For years, Berg was muse to artist Ben Olson, often finding herself as the subject of his many figurative paintings. She tells us this experience formed much of her ability to build an emotional connection to art as well as strengthen her own artistic techniques, which can be seen in her ready-to-wear line she launched in 2009.

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Marrying her love of art with her passion for design, Berg aims to make clothing that is wearable, yet pushes the limits of creativity. Playing with drapery, embracing color and utilizing various different fabrics, her collections are synonymous with her own personal style. For her Spring 2013 collection, titled "Yellow Wood" (from Robert Frost's famous poem, "The Path Not Taken"), the designer departed from her typically colorful palette to create black-and-white garments inspired by her reaction to the current political state and the huge divide between the Democratic and Republican parties. "I had deep fears that we, as a country, would move further to the right, disenfranchising our poor, marginalizing public education and further reducing the possibility of upward class mobility," she says in a comment on the pre-election jitters that influenced her show last September.

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The underlying concept to her collection is heightened by her detailed design process. "When I complete a garment, I want it to have a lasting impact. A client should be able to view it and understand the TLC given to each and every detail," says Berg. From hand-dyeing fur to embroidery, Berg handles almost every aspect of a garment's construction. "When I read of the Rodarte sisters burning fabric and from that action, discovering something new and wonderful, I was solidified in my approach to designing," she says. "Fashion can be about creating, creating can be about playing and playing can be limitless. It's important to me to be hands on so that I can continue to push my own boundaries as a designer."

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As winter approaches, Berg will be working with the Walker Art Center, Arena Dances and the Minneapolis Ball scene to put together an event for the end of January.  The special presentation is in response to the Merce Cunningham/Rei Kawakubo and the Cindy Sherman exhibit currently on display at the Walker.  In addition, the designer will have her hands full with curation projects for Haus Salon as well as preparing to show a new collection during Mpls/St. Paul Fashion Week for the upcoming F/W '13 and participate in Dress Rehearsal, a charity event for the Boys and Girls club at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Images by Amy Gee, Brandon Werth and Russell Heeter

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