Sameunderneath

With all the grim talk of our economy, it's really nice to hear about a local company whose business is booming.

Said company is Sameunderneath (915 N Shaver), which is preparing to open its second storefront in two years, in the former Souchi location at 806 NW 23rd. Started in 1999 by founder Ryan Christensen, the Sameunderneath line's origins come from an unlikely source: Christensen's background is in education studies, and what eventually became a concept clothing line began as his college thesis outlining a teaching method for the national school system that proposed a combination of history and sociology, breaking down perceived differences and emphasizing our similarities—that we are all, as it were, the same underneath.

Beginning with prints on American Apparel Ts and sweatshirts, Sameunderneath found its signature logo, one that Christensen says has a universal appeal. His marketing strategy, likewise, was aimed across the board: He promoted everywhere from skateboarding events to Saturday Market, targeting all genres.

When the company reached the point at which it was ready to make the leap toward designing and producing original lines of clothing for men and women, Christensen wanted to keep things ethical, first considering organic cotton, but then discovering bamboo. While the market is now saturated with "green" everything, in 2005, when Christensen started taking his bamboo-fibered clothing to trade shows, people still thought it was some kind of hippie thing—not a harbinger of an industry-wide transformation.

Wanting to cut down on transportation of goods, Christensen had the product made in the country of its materials' origin: China. Like other progressive companies, Sameunderneath long ago established production contracts with factories where the clothing is ethically produced. (Rejecting all "Made in China" products is quickly appearing to be an overly simplistic approach these days.)

The Sameunderneath formula has worked: Through concept and design, not only is business brisk enough to finance an expansion, but as of spring '07 the clothing has been picked up by both the Mercantile (735 SW Park) and Mario's 3.10 (17031 SW 72nd in Tigard). Stop by the headquarters and see what's led to their success, and look here for updates on the grand opening party for the new location, coming this summer.

Sweet smell of success: marjorie@portlandmercury.com