Minneapolis, MN, August 2009—Designers often say they’ve got a muse by their side when developing a new collection. But what inspiration should the muse offer in these uncertain times? Glamorous optimism? Tough Chic minimalism? Safe classics? While Donna Karan and Balenciaga may be defining a softly draped pragmatism in their silhouettes, others such as Zac Posen are off replaying the glamour of Hollywood circa 1940s with fanciful collections that are surely meant to counterbalance the economic realities. Ralph Lauren and Hermes have balanced sculpted classics with a bit of whimsy and adventure. Karl Lagerfeld found his muse in the warrior-esq power-woman of the eighties—all in an effort to strike the right mood in tough times. Still others, like Shari Keller who designs Mehera Shaw, and has an eponymous shop here in Minneapolis, engage their muses with the toughest of jobs: appeal to both the creativity and pragmatism of the feminine spirit.
This fall, Shari walks the fine balance between affordability, wearability and joie de vive. Her new fall collection is titled “Footpaths: The Silk Road to High Street”. The look? Bohemian Classicism: touches of nouveau classics woven together with folkloric elements from across the Orient. Styles range from sophisticated and smart, a la Audrey Hepburn, to contemporary artisan-wear akin to the tapestries of Etro and the heritage prints of Liberty of London.
Shari notes, “As always, I strive for wearability, comfort and femininity in this fall’s collection. In response to the times, I have found inspiration from lands along the Silk Road: trading centers rich in a mix of Oriental cultures where one can enjoy the play of the sensuous with the pragmatic. I use layer upon layer of richly patterned fabrics, subdued pastels mixed with saturated-tones in heavily quilted jackets, ruched skirts, and richly stitched tunics. I allude to Tolstoy’s Russia: reds, maroons, and teal blue together. I pair tassar silk and handloomed wool in neutral tones contrasted with earthy olive and burnt sienna.”
Shari uses only natural fibers in her collections. Her color palate includes a range of neutrals such as wheat, parchment, bark as well as iron, graphite, and warm grays as a more subtle, atmospheric response to the traditional black. She reworks traditional autumn colors in shades of soft reds, honey yellows, muted sienna shades and hints of sensual lavender. Saturated tones are also present in fall’s array: midnight and majolica blues mixed with warm olives give an air of refinement and much needed mystique to counterbalance the times.
“At Mehera Shaw, we see women looking for high-value styles: styles that are affordable, highly wearable, and yet decidedly feminine. It’s a look that transitions easily from work to socializing, can be dressed up or down and won’t go out of style quickly. Women also love a bit of creative expression, a touch of magic, to their overall look –achieved through richly colored scarves, accessories, and a few specialty pieces. Feminine expression is vital to maintaining a cheerful outlook during tough times.”
Owners Mark and Shari go one step further in their embrace of the pragmatic, creative feminine. They urge women to “be the change they want to see” in the philosophy of the late Indian social leader, Mahatma Gandhi. In practical terms, this means a vibrant, be-yourself form of feminine esprit coupled with a belief in grassroots buy local, buy independent, purchasing power. Shari comments, “Our customers support independent businesses and buying fair made wherever possible.”
Mehera Shaw is part of a growing trend of artisan-style, small businesses, i.e., businesses that develop a high quality product on a smaller scale and tailor it to local customer needs. The Kellers have also created a vertical business by designing and manufacturing their own product under fair trade working conditions. Mehera Shaw is located at 2004 Hennepin and on the web at meherashaw.com.
Upcoming Events: Look for Mehera Shaw during MN Fashion Week.“Feminine Fair” is the title for their upcoming in-house fashion show September 24, 7-9pm. “Meet the Designer,” a chat and in-house reception, will take place September 26, 1-4pm.
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