Mankato’s Raw Fusion Fashion Show was reinvented in 2021. The Historical Post Office building in Downtown Mankato became home to the event, which features models wearing outfits created from raw building materials. This marked the 10th Anniversary of the event. Models wearing gowns of Tyvek paper, crowns of copper fittings, and capes of tarp walked the runway of the building that housed Mankato’s post office for over 100 years. Built-in 1896 and vacant since 2015, the post office is being redeveloped by APX Construction Group. Soon, it will house a grand event venue, a high-end restaurant, a speakeasy, and more.
Raw Fusion Fashion Show
Each year, the Raw Fusion committee asks itself, “How do we make the space feel different from last year?” This year, the answer came by happenstance. Jamie Jacobs, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at APX Construction Group and a founding member of the Raw Fusion committee, thought hosting the raw event in a raw space would be perfect. Hosting the Raw Fusion fashion show at the post office building was a challenge the APX team welcomed. In fact, the ownership group was so enthused by the idea, they donated the venue for the cause knowing it would be a great way to let the community experience the building before it undergoes its transformation.
Creating a high-fashion feel in an area once used to sort the mail was certainly a huge undertaking. Some popular details were the furniture pieces and other original elements from the building used as décor for the evening. From the upholstered chairs gathered in the 401 Lounge basement speakeasy to the mail scale perched behind the judges’ backstage area, shadows of the past loomed around every corner. A high gloss white runway was installed in a winding path over the original black tile floor so guests all over the room experienced front-row seating. The juxtaposition of the old and new was felt throughout the event.
The majority of event attendees only had a frame of reference of the space as post office customers. For them, the building’s transformation began almost immediately upon entering. The front counter, where people used to drop off cards and packages, now served as a two-sided bar. The wall that formerly housed post office boxes, was opened up, revealing carefully planned viewing areas and a DJ booth. No detail went unnoticed, thoughtful lighting highlighted the original alcoves and woodwork in the lobby and offered creative photo opportunities throughout.
A single lightbulb illuminating a metal exterior door was the entrance for the 401 Lounge, a basement speakeasy that served as a pre and post-party area. Guests enjoyed live music in the Prohibition-themed lower level of the post office building.
Raw Fusion is not only an event where elements of construction, design, and fashion come together, it is also a fundraiser. Each year there is a new benefactor, this year’s event raised funds for Minnesota Valley Action Council. MNVAC is a community action agency providing resources and opportunities that empower people in low-wage work.
The Raw Fusion event gave the 60,000 square foot post office building life for a night. The bare floors and exposed walls served as the perfect backdrop. One last hoorah for the history books, a passing of the baton from old to new. Revitalization and construction will be underway later this spring ushering in a new era of events in the space.
View more event and model photos here. Special thanks to photographer Dan Dinsmore.