Portland's not a fashion capital by any measure, but it is an interesting time and place to be in the industry. Touted in the media as a "green" city, 2007 saw the debut of a greenly produced Portland Fashion Week (full disclosure: I'm a member of the advisory board), six days of runway shows that featured designers working toward sustainable production methods, or that underscored the benefits of buying locally produced goods.
Now, springtime brings us the Better Living Show, a free, three-day summit on lifestyle changes the common citizen can make to reduce their impact on the planet. It spans the gamut from learning about how to reduce energy consumption in your home to green wedding planning to incorporating native plants in your garden. And, naturally, Portland Fashion Week is in on it, with an installation fashion show of eco-designers and a discussion panel featuring major players in the field of green fashion.
The festivities kick off with a display fashion show and auction, a party benefiting the Children's Cancer Association. Sofada, Sameunderneath, Alula, Blairwear, Amai Unmei, Lucia Apparel, and Diana Acuesta Designs will be joined by Chicago's Lara Miller, Seattle's Lizzie Parker, and the UK's Izzy Lane in previewing looks for their never-before-seen fall/winter 2008 collections. Attendees can bid to be custom fitted in the pieces before they're available in stores. (Discovery Center, South Waterfront, 0680 SW Bancroft, Thurs March 27, 8 pm, $30-75, includes hosted wine and beer bar)
During the Better Living event, Portland Fashion Week will hold court at a plaza set up displaying the new pieces (bidding will still be encouraged), and Saturday will feature a fashion show with new fall looks from Anna Cohen, Lizzie Parker, and Nau. Cohen, Parker, and Nau's VP of Brand Communications Ian Yolles will join a panel that also features some notable out-of-town participants: Rebecca Luke is the cofounder of Seattle's Sustainable Style Foundation (SSF), a nonprofit that acts as a resource for sustainable living and production for professionals and consumers. The panel also features Leslie Hoffman, the executive director of New York's Earth Pledge and the director of FutureFashion, the organization's fashion wing of initiatives, which has produced sustainable fashion runway events (including a presence at New York Fashion Week).
In a consumer environment where choices seem increasingly complicated, and staying on top of the latest thinking can be overwhelming, this panel promises some valuable insight. The primary focus, according to Hoffmann, will likely be the issue of sustainable materials—how to define them, how to obtain them. While these discussions are primarily the concern of designers, there will undoubtedly be plenty of advice applicable to everyone. For instance, Hoffman's number one recommendation for people who would like to steer their wardrobes in a more sustainable direction is to reexamine your laundering habits, pointing out that the greatest portion of a garment's carbon footprint occurs after it is purchased. Washing in cold water, line drying, and minimizing dry cleaning and ironing are all simple things that can make an impact over time. (Better Living Show, Fri March 28, noon-9 pm, Sat March 29, 11 am-9 pm, and Sun March 30, 11 am-5 pm; Portland Expo Center, 2060 N Marine; panel and installation fashion show happens Sat 5-8 pm)