When you think of iconic wardrobe staples, the "little black dress" is probably the first thing your mind conjures. Using the ultimate must-have as a jumping point, Seaplane owners and designers Holly Stalder and Kathryn Towers once organized a group show around that theme, with designers submitting one or two interpretations on the classic. Now, with summer supposedly upon us and the current preponderance of white in magazine spreads and on runways, they've reprised their original idea with a twist: 24 of Portland's most important fashion designers will debut a little white dress, in the Little White Dress Show, an exhibition that is sure to rank as one of the most interesting visual arts events of the year.
The names on the roster of contributors are enough to quicken any design enthusiast's pulse. Stalder and Towers themselves are contributing, as well as Adam Arnold, Claire La Faye, Church + State, Elizabeth Dye, Frocky Jack Morgan, Linea, Liza Rietz, a broken spoke, Anti Domestic, Birds of Prey, Bonnie Heart Clyde, Diana Joy, Decora, DSR, Emily Ryan, Fancy Pony Land, Midge Wear, Pinkham Millinery, Precious, Sarah Weick, and newcomers Sakijane and Elspeth Vance. (If you want to give yourself a preview of the show, stop by Seaplane (827 NW 23rd)—the racks of which are stocked with items carrying most of these names.)
The magic ingredient that makes these group shows so exciting is the enthusiasm of the designers, who rarely have the resources to display their craftsmanship to a large audience on their own. And with only one or two pieces with which to represent themselves, it's easy to imagine the care with which these garments are designed and constructed. While details of the individual designs are top secret, early reports indicate that the theme will be widely interpreted, with some designers taking the opportunity to be more costumey and performative (according to Stalder, one of the designers' creations isn't even white), while others will tend towards the literal and wearable.
And while the event is certainly a treat for the attending public, it is also a chance for the designers to relax and have fun with their work. Stalder says that she and Towers encouraged the artists to be experimental and have fun with the project, without worrying too much about the salability of their designs. (That being said, most of it will be available for purchase at Seaplane, where avid collectors will most assuredly snap them up.) If there's one fashion show you have to miss this year, for the love of christ don't make it this one. (With music by Small Sails and Copy, Thursday June 8, 8:30 pm, Disjecta, 230 E Burnside, $5-8)
Okay, the only good excuse for missing the Little White Dress show is this month's edition of Local.35's Second Thursday show featuring db clay. It's likely that you've noticed db clay wallets, constructed from gaffers tape canvas and designed with unique paintings, drawings, and even photographs. Creator Garett Stenson is something of a local success story, having gone from making billfolds out of duct tape on a small scale (under the name ductbills) to having a successful business with products available in stores as far away as Tokyo and as big-name as Fred Segal and Nordstrom. A db clay wallet is an art project that handily also functions (and quite durably at that), and designs run the gamut of tastes, from graffiti inspired to graphic to pastoral.
For this show, 100 blank wallets were handed out to 23 artists to be hand painted, but there will also be a display of old school throwbacks to the duct tape days, limited edition screen-printed shirts from partner company Sameunderneath, and the Portland debut of Shade Clothing, designed by Stenson's sister. Plus canvas prints, posters, and swag. (Thursday June 8, 7 pm, Local.35, 3556 SE Hawthorne, free)
On a related note, look out for more db clay activity later this summer, as they're set to debut a new warehouse/party venue/art gallery with a grand opening shindig sometime in August. Keep your eye on dbclay.com for developments.
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