Sustainable Sunday, the final event of Portland Fashion Week, kicked off with Portland-via-NYC .a fortes design. My first impression was burlap sacks with holes cut in them. My second was the same. My third was of burlap sacks with holes cut in them, creatively dyed. Fashion should flatter the form; there is such a thing as too simple. As I was writing down my burlap sack impressions, my female companion leaned over and said "it looks like they're all wearing paper bags."
Second came Mountains of the Moon, a Chicago designer focusing on eco-friendly materials. Bland, hippie fashion. These dresses would be glamorous only on a commune.
Third, and the highlight of the evening, Jonano was doing something the rest of them weren't—making the models look attractive. Using traditional forms with cashmere and organic cotton, the clothing was sexy and feminine—womanly without being girlish. All of these "eco" designers were aware of the granola, nature-loving side to the Pacific Northwest, but Jonano incorporated it without sacrificing their aesthetic.
Which is exactly the problem French designer Ethos Paris had. The first two-thirds of their run were bland earth tones. Eco doesn't have to mean brown and green. And environmental doesn't mean it has to look like it was drug from the forest. The shapes and styles of the clothing worked well, it was the color choices that failed. Sometimes basic is a synonym for boring.
The main event of the evening, Anna Cohen and Imperial Stock Ranch, began with a classroom-style presentation from Jeanne Carver about the inner-workings and history of the ranch. Carver spoke about the progression of the use of livestock in the modern marketplace. "Our challenge was to look creatively at ways to survive," she said. She went on to talk about reducing carbon footprints (hoof prints?) and finding ways to raise livestock in an environmental manner. The message seemed a little lost on the crowd. They began to fidget. One woman left. Another slept. And I watched yet another motion "over my head" to her friend when Carver brought up slow food.
But how were the clothes? The clothes were a little more...inventive. For example, one model came out in what looked to be wool lingerie. Fortunately the point was in finding new ways to develop materials, because some of the designs weren't sustainable in the sense that people could actually wear them.
All photos, Minh Tran.