With Obama on his way to the Oval Office, already rolling up his sleeves to undo some of the exiting administration's unseemly doings, worries about the economic crisis seem a little less crisis-y than they did just a short time ago. According to at least one Portland boutique owner, sales have been up since the president-elect swept last Tuesday's election, the resulting buoyant optimism apparently spreading to that penny-conscious part of the brain so recently tormented by images of breadlines.
Certainly as empires of consumerism like Circuit City fall to ashes around us, it's hard to remain impervious to the changes apparent in the country's economy, but isn't it interesting that despite all the falling Goliaths, no less than three new stores have swung open their doors in our city? Either there's something in the water that's inducing hallucinatory levels of optimism in the minds of local small-business entrepreneurs, or things just aren't as bad as they might seem after excessive doses of NPR.
Like a mother hen warming hatchlings under her feathered belly, the Ace Hotel has been steadily providing a sense of security to the businesses that have sprung up around it, and the surrounding, newly christened "West End Fashion District" is the breaking ground of choice for retail forays. (Pssst! Speaking of remarketing boutique-heavy neighborhoods, word has it that the denizens of the unfortunately nicknamed "LoBu" [Lower Burnside] are pushing for a rename, to the more complimentary "Lower East End.")
The past few weeks saw two new boutiques open under the hipster hotel's skirts, Radish Underground (414 SW 10th) and Narcisse (1015 SW Washington). One could throw a Visa Platinum card from either locale and hit any number of the neighboring shops (Covet, Francis May, The English Dept., Odessa) who are transforming a formerly much-grittier part of downtown into a cloister of personality-driven shops—a key detail, given that we might not so agreeably relinquish our city grit (pour some out for the Ben Stark, Vaseline Alley, and actual dry cleaners) in favor of, say, a brand-new Bebe Sport, or even—if I may be so bold—a centrally located Sephora.
Radish Underground was co-founded by Celestial Sipes (whose own line, Aster Park, is the store's inaugural featured line of the month) and Gina Johnson, and a packed grand opening party seemed a good omen for them, as did a collection of small lines that looked very wearably New Portland. Hailing mainly from the West Coast, lines like raw earth wild sky (Los Angeles), Studio SKB (Portland), and Suzabelle (Seattle) held court among Ts, hoodies, and jackets that looked easy and functional as well as forward thinking and unique.
Meanwhile, Narcisse is the grown-up goth shop you've been waiting for if you're ready to trade your stripey tights and clunky shoes up-market. Accented with artificial spider webs, the roomy store's dark eggplant-painted walls hold Victorian-inspired garb like velvet jackets, corset tops, and flouncy petticoat-skirted frocks that could have been lifted from the traveling trunk of a forever-young vampire sophisticate. Notably, they are America's only resource for garb by the Danish line Noa Noa, but I'd stop in anytime you want to add a dash of macabre romanticism to your look.
Not fooled by the optimism of a fresh venture? Still mired in the guilt-driven resolve to make only responsible, sensible expenditures? Then Filson should be on your radar. Filson's roots in the Northwest are deep: Originally founded to supply attire for the harsh conditions faced by miners making their way up to Alaska, the Seattle company, founded in 1897, officially opens its third store, in Portland (526 NW 13th) on November 15. Nowadays its core customers are fly fisherman, hunters, and other recreational outdoorsman, but a quick grope of its products assures the old standard of durability is intact. Still producing much of its line in the US, shopping at Filson for wool basics like blankets and shirts might be a bit of a Pendleton betrayal, but the company makes a very convincing case for its selection of jackets and coats. Sturdy, weatherproof, curiously well cut, and built to last several generations, a Filson coat seems like a compellingly sensible investment, all the more so if you do wind up shivering in a breadline. (Filson grand opening Sat Nov 15, 10 am-7 pm, with hourly drawings for merchandise and a portion of sales donated to WaterWatch of Oregon)
One other calendar item for your post-apocalyptic preparations: The annual Junk to Funk fashion show, in which designers and artists design astonishing costumes out of society's landfill-destined rubble, is here again! Witness the amazing transformation of bottle caps and zippers into couture, as hosted by this green town's mayor-elect, Sam Adams, and judged by a panel of talent from Wieden + Kennedy, Sameunderneath, the ReBuilding Center, and more! (Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell, Sat Nov 15, 8 pm, $16-35, 21+)