Failing economy be damned, Portland is still the entrepreneurial hub of the West Coast. The country's woes seem, if anything, to be driving young professionals to start their businesses on Portland's green banks at an ever-increasing clip. The area of inner Northwest Portland, north of Lovejoy, is a testament to the influx, where towering condos stand, anchored by retail and live/work spaces that are gradually being filled in, slowly laying the foundation of character in a neighborhood that is still largely a blank slate.
Parallel (1122 NW Marshall) is one such business, a small, well-edited shop that opened three weeks ago by childhood friends Tez Hartney and Mannix Arcelona. Both have roots in San Francisco, although Hartney spent six ("long, painful") years in Vegas before moving to Portland several years ago. Arcelona came to join her and open Parallel just a month ago, armed with 12 years of experience in the retail industry at Giorgio Armani. Hartney, meanwhile, earned her stripes at Tiffany's.
Just off the beaten path of NW Lovejoy, Parallel sits on a quiet street with little in the way of foot traffic, making it decidedly a destination store. With development plans in the neighborhood that include a Safeway and more office buildings, that may change—but for now, the store benefits mostly from word of mouth. What you'll find is a smart selection of clothing for men and women, curated to emphasize quality classics that can take the business casual-clad young creative professional from day to night: Lightweight solid-color cashmere shifts and V-necks from Lutz & Patmos and Dear Cashmere share space with tissue-soft organic T-shirts from 88 Orange that have been rinsed with orange oil to leave a lingering, subtle scent.
Other lines are San Franciscan favorites making exclusive forays into the Portland market. Sunhee Moon's shop in the city's Mission District is a favorite stop when I'm in the Bay Area, and Parallel now boasts a healthy representation of the line. Likewise, beautiful, lightweight jackets and trenches are made in exclusive combinations for Parallel by the husband and wife team of Lemon Twist, which is headquartered in San Francisco.
Fans of Giovanna Parolari's Una (2802 SE Ankeny) will recognize lines like House of Hengst and Jarbo at Parallel, though the shops' picks from the collections are decidedly distinct. Other standouts are LA's Cassette, identifiable by its signature zipper piping, which has a wonderful double-breasted jacket in sweatshirt jersey (a knockoff of Balenciaga) that would make an ideal spring and fall go-to staple for Portland's touch-and-go weather. Dear Pruitt's affable sweaters effortlessly top jeans or skirts, a stunning MS by Martine Sitbon oversized glossy black satchel is both practical and show stopping, plus there's a small selection of swimwear by Iwalani Isbell's Pualani Hawaii (named by Cameron Diaz as one of her summertime must-haves).
Perhaps Parallel's single most important contribution to the local shopping ecosystem will be an infusion of much-needed menswear. Most notably, Parallel will soon be home to pieces from the exclusive Nom de Guerre, the über-cool New York line that is fabricated and constructed in Japan. And, Arcelona hints at the possibility of experimenting with fashion-forward lines like Commes de Garçons and Raf Simons, if Portland men—who are often underestimated in their adventurousness—are up for it.
The grand opening of Parallel isn't slated until August 8, but don't wait that long to check them out; the new wave of Portland shopping is too good to miss right now.
Stores aren't the only launchings happening in Portland's apparel scene, either. END (Environmentally Neutral Design) outside gear footwear will be in stores (look for them at REI and Fit Right Northwest) this August. Based in West Linn, the company is the brainchild of former global director of footwear design at Nike, Andrew Estey, who has trimmed down the excess materials added to most running and hiking shoe designs, conserving resources and streamlining the product's look—I'm no fan of running shoes, partly because they seem so over-thought and yet so ugly, and END's designs relieve some of these problems. With a company goal of manufacturing their products with 100 percent renewable, sustainable, or recycled materials within the next three to five years, here's hoping the latest Portland outdoor and outdoorsman-friendly venture will stick.
...Speaking of Nau, the socially and environmentally conscious outdoor wear company that folded its operations in May has been purchased by Horny Toad. Look for the new Nau at The Lizard Lounge (1323 NW Irving) this fall—welcome back.