Fashion heats up the heart of winter

Posted Jan. 02, 2009, at 6:24 p.m.

It’s about time. For a few years now, a small but talented group of fashion designers has been working, somewhat under the radar, in eastern Maine.

Toward the end of 2007, a few of them strutted their stuff at events such as the University of Maine Museum of Art’s Fashion Challenge, Bangor’s West Market Festival and the Waldo County hospice fundraiser, Haute for Hospice.

Now, it would seem, they’re all stepping out of the shadows and into the spotlight at once.

From her studio in Belfast, MadGirl designer Meredith Alex — who just missed making the cut for “Project Runway” — recently launched www.madgirlworld.com. The site showcases her collection, including one-of-a-kind pieces and fun, affordable T-shirts and undies for everyone.

And in Bangor, fashion will take center stage tonight at the Bangor Meltdown — an event that is sure to warm even the chilliest heart (and lure all you hibernators out of your caves). In addition to runway shows and performances, vendors will be on hand selling clothing and accessories, as well as showing off their skills in music, photography and styling.

“I think it will be a great event in Bangor for people to attend and support local creativity,” said Jessi Sader, a designer who recently opened the Studio boutique in downtown Orono.

For her funky FX Dressed line (available at Studio, Bella Luna in Bangor, Terra Cotta in Ellsworth and Macey’s in Bar Harbor), Sader refashions vintage cashmere, mohair and lace into contemporary clothing and accessories (her cashmere sweaters are a ShopGirl favorite). She recently started working with soft, ecofriendly bamboo fabric, which she sews into tunics and jackets.

During the FX Dressed runway show at Bangor Meltdown, Sader will pair her designs with Citizens of Humanity jeans — new to her shop — as well as jewelry and other accessories from local and small-scale American designers.

Bella Luna, which proudly has supported the work of local designers since it opened in downtown Bangor in 2007, will showcase fabulous finds from the boutique during its runway show.

Caitlin Cogan, a California native and 2007 Fashion Careers College graduate, finds inspiration in the people she sees every day, magazines, TV shows such as “The Hills” and music. Cogan describes the looks her models will wear on the runway as “really ’50s, rockabilly-inspired, poofy prom dresses.”

“It’s fun and unique,” she says. “It’s different. I haven’t seen it anywhere else.”

Bangor native Mallory Bruns studied advertising and fashion design at Syracuse University. And it shows. She went on to design for the brand Teens in Fashion, and her work was featured in Teen Vogue. In 2008, she returned to her hometown to start Sophronia Design (sold at Bella Luna, and featured online at www.sophroniadesign.com) — named for her great-great-great-grandmother. The look is sophisticated yet comfortable, fashion-forward, yet timeless.

For her runway show, she’ll pair pieces from her spring-resort line — cap-sleeve T-shirt dresses that feel “like something out of Nicole Ritchie’s closet,” layered with wintry accessories such as scarves and arm warmers (LOVE these!).

“I’m inspired by Mainers in general,” Bruns said. “I see flannel and plaid popping up in my designs, and I’m very influenced by comfort. … When someone’s comfortable, they’re more attractive and sexy in what they’re wearing. It feels like home.”

Fashion. At home in Bangor. How comfortable — and comforting — is that?

Doors open for the Bangor Meltdown at 4 p.m. today at the Bangor Civic Center. Runway shows include Caitlin Cogan from 7 to 7:15 p.m.; FX Dressed from 8 to 8:15 p.m.; and Sophronia Design from 10 to 10:30 p.m.

ShopGirl would love to hear from you! Send questions, comments or suggestions by e-mail to: kandresen@bangordailynews.net, by U.S. mail to Kristen Andresen, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402-1329, or by fax to 941-9476. For exclusive online shopping tips, visit http://shopblogbdn.blogspot.com.

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