I just got back from the press conference for FUSE, the inaugural event kicking off tomorrow in celebration of new attempts between the design communities of Portland and the Henan province of China. The primary local liaison in the Portland Fashion Synergy (PDXFS) group, which is working alongside Portland's Art Institute and—hopefully—the city to explore mutually beneficial arrangements and exchanges. It seems to boil down to this: The delegate here from China, consisting of designers as well as the CEOs of large apparel factories (the region specializes in the design and production of women's pants—as in, they are responsible for over 50 percent of all of China's production of women's pants) have things to teach Portland on a technical level as well as how to streamline production. Portland, in turn, can share its creative design approaches, particularly in regard to approaching manufacture of apparel in sustainable ways. Visions of this playing out include organizing student exchange programs—Shao XIanwei, president of the Henan Institute of Engineering, which has 25,000 students, 1,700 of which are studying apparel design, was one of the speakers—as well as mutual exchanges of design and manufacturing ideas. If it all sounds a little vague, take heart that the itinerary of the trip also includes a visit to Sam Adams' office, who I trust will be interested in the possibility of creating a greater number of apparel-industry jobs in the area, further meetings with AI, as well as tours of some of Portland's existing design studios and production facilities.

Just about every Chinese delegate who spoke this morning invited Portlanders to visit China and get a better idea of what their operations are like, something which I hope to be able to do (hey, Mercury, feel like chipping in on my ticket?) as this relationship develops, to see if it's really possible to make it work in such a way that will benefit Portland's economy and industry in a meaningful way, and effectively integrate environmentally sensitive practices in a culture that most liberal Americans (such as Portlanders) strongly associate with industrial pollution and questionable labor practices. The first step will be to see what comes of tomorrow's black tie affair, I suppose...


A pair of ladies' trousers made in Zhengzhou, in the Henan province.