While on a trip in Paris, local fashion designer Allison Quinnell, a graduate of the University of Minnesota, visited the National Museum of Modern Art in the Centre Pompidou. When she walked past a painting by contemporary artist Joan Mitchell, Quinnell couldn’t take her eyes off the artwork.
“I sat there for 45 minutes … I was like, ‘Yes, this would be beautiful on the wall in my home, but I want it closer to me. I want it on my body,’” said Quinnell, who runs her own design consulting firm, Q&Co. “That’s when the ideas merged together.”
After a few years of work and planning, Quinnell is launching Slate Collective, a line dedicated to the intersection of art and fashion. Slate Collective is based in three black dress silhouettes (shift, swing and slip dresses). Each season, Quinnell will collaborate with an artist to develop prints for those three silhouettes, and Quinnell also plans to include scarves in the collection. The line will launch on April 23 as a part of Fashion Week MN.
“I know what I like. I know what silhouettes look good on my body at this point in my life, and so for me, Slate Collective is not going to be everything under the sun,” Quinnell said. “It’s an incredibly focused silhouette selection, and that really covers the gamut of body types and personality types.”
Slate Collective: Session 01 features artist Kim Kei, whose work Quinnell first connected with at a gallery in San Francisco. In order to create the first installment of Slate Collective, the collaborators drew from Kei’s existing works to find prints, which were manipulated to suit the dress forms.
“For me, her artwork is incredibly soulful. Even before I met her, I could just tell that the person behind it just had a lot of dimension and layers to them,” Quinnell said. “Knowing her now, it’s just so interesting because she’s this sweet, soft-spoken person, but then her artwork is just so intense and very beautiful.”
To create the prints Quinnell and Kei used for the collection, Kei begins with abstract sculptures.
“I take the form and wrap it up in … skins [of] dried paint and found objects. … Those get inked and then put through a printing press so the pressure creates an impression on the paper [and] becomes a way of drawing. It’s mimicking a skin-like surface,” Kei said. “I hope that they’re really addressing the body and the figure without [it] being an identifiable form.”
Quinnell herself favors simplicity in her wardrobe — she likes a daily uniform and has high expectations for what she buys. The last item she bought and loved? “A twill trench coat that matches the color of [her] eyes.”
As simple as Slate Collective may seem, this simplicity reflects Quinnell’s own style and lets her designs appeal to a wide variety of customers who can style the designs to their liking.
“I’m most excited about … the slip dress,” said Lauretta Jaye, a graduate of the University and friend of Quinnell who helped to produce Slate Collective’s first photoshoot. “It fits my body the best, and it’s a dress I see myself wearing all summer long.”
Slate Collective’s first show will break away from the formality and structure of traditional runway shows by including performances and an exhibition of Kei’s work.
“This show is absolutely the most ambitious thing I’ve ever taken on. … It’s not a traditional runway show. You will see models, but you’re going to be immersed in some different experiences. So, you’ll be able to see the collection differently and through different lenses, and hopefully have a really good time,” Quinnell said.
Beyond collaboration with Kei to produce the prints for the first installment of Slate Collective, Quinnell has worked with photographer Eliesa Johnson, who shot the first installment of Slate Collective.
“Allison is a person who has so much positive energy, and she and I work really well together in a creative space,” Johnson said. “It was just kind of this magical little collaboration, to be honest.”
So, along with displaying the connection between art and fashion, Slate Collective is a celebration of women and their work that went in to producing the collection.
“I think that it’s important because everyone should be able to shop the line, with the inclusivity of silhouettes and sizes. … It is coming from a place of intention with women in mind and a place of collaboration,” Johnson said. “[Slate Collective] highlights how women can work together to create something really amazing. … From point A to point B, it’s Allison’s vision for sure, but she’s collaborated with other women to bring it out into the world.”
What: Slate Collective: Session 01
When: 6-9 p.m. (general admission at 7 p.m.), April 23
Where: Le Méridien Chambers, 901 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis