Southwest fashionista starts a magazine

It's not just parkas; there's a fashion scene here and a publication that covers it

Minnesotans have long been recognized for their practical style, like the sub-couture socks-with-sandals look or the parka as fashion statement.

But in Minneapolis lies a growing underground fashion nerve, fueled by area art schools, small independent shops and local designers. Beth Hammarlund, a 24-year-old Uptown resident and fashionista says, &#8220There's a really rich scene up here as far as fashion design.”

Unfortunately, it does not receive the coverage it needs to thrive, she added. So Hammarlund, a native of Beltview, Neb., set out to acquaint the local populace with local style by starting a fashion magazine called L'toile (French for &#8220the star,” pronounced la-twal).

Hammarlund said the magazine is a quarterly publication dedicated to local fashion and as an introduction to the local scene, businesses and artists. The debut issue of L'toile was published at the end of April, and the summer issue arrived a little late in mid-August.

Hammarlund, who works at a local life insurance company, is the magazine's editor-in-chief. While it's too early to &#8220quit her day job,” she said the response to her magazine - the second issue sold 1,000 copies - has been strong. The second issue was bigger, circulated more copies and was sold at more boutiques than the debut publication.

Esther Park, a local fashion maven, said her circle enjoyed the debut and looked forward to the next issue. &#8220People get excited about the growing fashion and design community,” Park said, adding that they read about it in L'toile.

Oh my stars!

Faced with the task of naming the magazine the design/content editor and boyfriend of Hammarlund, Christian Dahlager, suggested L'toile du Nord (or The Star of the North). Deeming it too long for a magazine title, the duo shortened it to L'toile.

Astronomy was not only inspiration for the title of the publication but also a guide for its content. The magazine includes sections titled &#8220Stardust,” which features new hair and makeup ideas for men and women and &#8220Connect the Stars,” which presents do-it-yourself fashion. The &#8220Nova” department features a different local designer in each issue.

Park thought the content of L'toile was &#8220great,” and added that she especially appreciated an article on Revolver Modele, a Minneapolis-bred band. &#8220It's not strictly fashion,” Park said of L'toile.

The magazine shows that other things intertwine with fashion and influence its culture, explained Park. She said L'toile also influences collaboration within the spread-out scene.

Anna Lee, a local clothing and hat designer and founder of the local Voltage Fashion Amplified show (see sidebar) also said she loves L'toile. &#8220Beth Hammarlund and her staff are adding validity to what the local designers are working towards, while raising the bar as well.”

The debut proved that L'toile is very different than mainstream fashion magazines. It had an article on do-it-yourself embroidery and a new type of hair braiding, but notably missing was a fashion rules section.

Hammarlund promised in the debut's letter from the editor that L'toile &#8220will never run a ‘fashion do's and don'ts' article. We will never publish a ‘hot or not' feature.”

When asked why Hammarlund referenced magazines where &#8220they'll have the woman who has her eyes blacked out walking down the street and I think ‘she looks awesome, I wish I had that outfit!'”

&#8220The whole idea of fashion rules is so archaic,” said Hammarlund, including not wearing white after Labor Day and the taboo of pairing gold and silver jewelry together. &#8220My mom doesn't even buy into those rules,” she said with a sigh.

&#8220We'd rather encourage individual style than try to tell everyone ‘you can't do that, that looks automatically bad,'” she said of L'toile's mission.

(Whew! Minnesotan parka wearers are in the clear).

Financing L'toile

The magazine's half-catalog size seems convenient and portable - it fits in a purse, or tucked under an arm. &#8220Originally, we just went with this size for cost but now it's kind of growing on me just aesthetically,” said Hammarlund.

Writing articles is one thing; financing a publication is quite another. L'toile does not look cheap and the debut issue sold for only $2.95. It's printed on high-quality paper in four-color and hardly seems affordable to the producers, who, before creating L'toile, already had day jobs to make up for a low local fashion economy.

Hammarlund financed the entire first issue of L'toile herself, using her apartment as a staff office and paying her six-person staff and other contributors with little more than portfolio shots and clips.

While the publication's advertising space looks pricey - since it offers quality paper, color and hits a target audience - the prices are lower than standard rates, Hammarlund said. &#8220We wanted it to be affordable enough for independent designers and boutiques and so we lowered our rates.”

Amy Roark, marketing director for L'toile, said their rates fall below market averages. In addition to lower rates, they also have a discount program &#8220 to make advertising accessible to young designers, artists and other qualified small businesses,” Roark explained.

With low selling prices and ad rates, Hammarlund said, she luckily has staff members who work at Target headquarters, and the magazine uses the corporation's printing. &#8220They've been really great and are a lot less expensive,” she said.

The 48-page spring debut sold 800 copies - better than expected, Hammarlund said, so the summer issue was larger at 64-pages with 1,000 copies in circulation. The second issue was more expensive at $3.95, rather than the original $2.95. Hammarlund regrets this but said the lower price was not enough to support the magazine.

Hammarlund said she is looking forward to making a profit and being able to pay her staff and she also hopes to have a real office someday. The second issue financed itself, she said, and she hopes to make some of her investment back on the third.

As the magazine becomes more popular, Hammarlund hopes to be able to produce six issues a year, possibly at a larger size. Until then, L'toile hopes to continue shedding light on the local fashion community and helping it to shine bright.

&#8220Their commitment to the fashion community is inspiring,” said Lee.