Fostering a night full of light, reflection, and reclamation; designer Michael F. Byers debuted his [RED]EMPTION collection for Fall Fashion Week MN 2021 with his reflective luxury streetwear brand Energy Gear. Inspired by the chakras, Byers’ hope for the collection was to touch guest’s lower states of minds and bodies with the power and energy of the color red; to do away with negative energies and guide us on his quest towards illumination through fashion.
The fashion show was held on the evening of Wednesday, Sept 15th at Mall of America’s - The Overlook 6th Floor in Bloomington, Minnesota. Harboring the feel of a chic warehouse, The Overlook featured a partially lit event space with windows lining the walls, polished concrete floors, high ceilings with exposed wires, and pillars wrapped in white linens lit up in a deep red glow. Energy Gear fans and fashion enthusiasts filled all sides of the runway, donning outfits inspired by the collections’ red theme.
The show’s energy was magnified with music selections by DJ Ray Mills who incorporated throwback hip-hop and rap tracks as well as more recent music from artists like Kanye and Drake. The event was MC’d by Adrian Wilson and Weldom M. who ensured the crowd had as much energy on the sidelines as the garments that were presented on the runway.
Opening up the show, Skilla introduced their newest contemporary and modern leather goods collection, ‘Skilla Leather Goods’, with the concept of everything and anything leather. For a total of seven looks; the collection featured yellow and red leather crossbody barrel bags with green and white striped shoulder straps, black and tan leather holster bags, and white and black leather messenger bags. Models also wore trucker hats with the Skilla logo, sweatpants, and extra-long sleeved jackets in traditional denim and the shades white and black. Skilla models wore the bags in both dressed up and down styles, showcasing the diverse and sleek ways to incorporate the leather goods into different looks. To view the leather goods collection, you can find it showcased on the designer’s Instagram page @attile_.
Transitioning from the contemporary color schemes of the show's opener, Energy Gear models cascaded across the runway in red evening and streetwear styles. Splitting the show into two portions, the first set of looks featured models of all shapes and sizes wearing mostly tight, form fitting feminine silhouettes. The designer incorporated his play on reflection in many ways, but the ones that really stuck out were his use of vinyl fabrics in the form of long sleeve jumpsuits, mini skirts, cropped tank tops, and trench coats. Models also wore high shine silk dresses in mini-cinched and long sleeve wrapped styles. The choice of fabrics created a liquid metal look clinging to each model's curves as they powerfully paraded down the runway.
The second part of the show is where Byers’ signature use of reflective strips on streetwear garments came to life. The designer’s use of white and red reflective strips tapped into a new untouched realm of reflection in fashion. With reflective strip placements down the back of coats, sleeves, bodysuits and the sides of pants, the strips caught the light from every angle creating an atmosphere of power and sexiness not often seen in streetwear fashion. Also incorporated into a majority of the looks, the designer’s most notable pieces came in the form of outerwear with long trench coats, puffer jackets, furs, hooded capes, and lightly pleated nylons. The translation of his vision into his garments was a clear and strong representation of his understanding of streetwear fashion and his intentions of others being able to truly wear the clothes off the runway.
Throughout the show, models were decorated in red, white and black face painting that paralleled the reflective strips seen on his clothing, creating an air of importance and high status around his designs. Using glasses, bags, phantom of the opera style masks, and shoes from the collection, each unique detail on the runway helped to tell the narrative of the importance of inner power and strength through fashion and self expression. The clothes can only tell so much of the story, it was in the way each individual embodied the garments and sent vibrations of energy throughout the room that really made the collection unique. It was an energy that could be felt from my seat on the side of the runway and something that would be breathtaking worn on the street. It was clear to see that the show wasn’t just about the clothing, it was a production with every feature well thought out to deliver a beautiful experience and proved insight into the designer’s thoughts and feelings about his work and how he wants others to feel wearing his clothing off the runway.
Post-show Byer's was pulled left and right with everyone wanting a moment of his time, luckily; I had the opportunity to pull him aside and dig a little deeper into what went into creating this impressive runway show:
How did you feel the show went?
“I was backstage helping with everything, and everything went beautifully. But there’s always hurdles before something great happens and I was just embracing all the hurdles that came today.”
What kind of hurdles did you run into?
“At the last minute we couldn’t have alcohol because we needed to have a specific alcohol license for this room. There were also some outfit malfunctions and one of my models got really sick, she got overheated and she was in the back throwing up. I was back there taking care of her during the show and making sure she was okay. But when her turn came on, she was like “Nah i'm going, I don’t give a fuck” and she came out and killed it. I am so grateful that people take this so seriously and are so passionate about something that I’m passionate about as well.”
I know that you are influenced by energy stones, why did you choose red-opposed to other colors this season?
“Well I first started with black, and black stands for protection. I wanted this show to start with red and the root chakra and start from the bottom. My plan is to really take people from their lowest form of self and lead them up to their all white, like I have on tonight. So the plan is to start with the red, and the roots of yourself and reveal that it’s a redemption, it’s like a refresh. That’s why we named the show redemption; It’s like a restart so people are able to clear their mind and cleanse themselves to reach their highest self.”
How did you get the inspiration to design around the chakras?
“God. It’s the way these things happen, and the way these communities are connected and the way these shows come together. The way that the Mall of America happened, I know it’s not me, it’s God working through me. I fully follow and live in that realm.”
How did you choose your fabrics for this season?
“I am thinking of reflection in every term. I want to tap into any form of reflection that I can think of. Even using silks, I know how they reflect in light, and even though they are a different type of reflection, I think reflection with Energy is going to be here forever.”
You incorporate a lot of construction stickers and reflective strips on the clothes, will we continue to see that?
“Yes, that’s my thing, I'm sticking with reflection to the end. Reflective IS Energy. I am thankful that I was able to find a new level of reflection with the red and the white strips. We are going to always be reflective.”
How do you want people to feel wearing your clothes?
“I want them to get into the energy, I want them to feel good and feel like their best selves when they put it on.”
What is your plan for the future of Energy?
“We are going to start a modeling agency, where we are going to help models actually get into the industry. As I grow I want to help everyone around me grow and we really want to give them the best, anything they need. We are going to give them comp cards, and have trainers for models to be able to model walk. That way when we are traveling around and doing these shows around the world I will have my own fleet and my own people that we can take with us and make this happen everywhere we go.”
Are you originally from Minnesota?
“No, I’m actually from Alabama. I moved here two and a half years ago.”
Has Minnesota had an influence on your fashion design?
“Absolutely. Minnesota shows so much love. For me to be new here and not know anyone, and be able to throw something like this and partner with Mall of America, that’s huge to me. I still feel like it’s surreal, I feel like I'm out of my body right now to be honest with you. I come from a small town so coming here and being able to do this kind of thing and bring together every type of community, I think that’s just amazing.”
A humble man who expresses so much love for those who support and share his vision in fashion, it’s clear to see Michael F. Byers has big plans for the future of Energy Gear and the progression of his collections. You can follow Energy Gear's official Instagram (@energygear) to get notified when it drops on their Instagram shopping page and on their website www.shopenergygear.com. For those of you who cop some of the [RED]EMPTION collection, let's take this journey together. I can’t wait to see the city glowing red!