Andy Warhol and Alexa Stark have a few things in common. Both have strong ties to New York City. They both bring a distinct American sensibility to their creative work, shaping and participating in the current culture while critiquing its flaws. And they both spend (or spent) most of their time in a place called The Factory.
Stark is currently the only working designer at The Factory on 1609 NE Alberta, which has been in business for about four months as your standard Portland thrift shop. Owner Mella Kauffman has had a bigger plan from the beginning to hire in-house designers to refurbish the thrifted clothes for sale in the store, and Stark was the perfect fit.
Born and raised in the Big Apple, Stark just moved to Portland after graduating from Parsons School of Design. She took her time getting here though: armed with only the possessions she could fit in her Prius, she drove across the US in a three month road trip, stopping often to check on the state of clothes in the states, and found closed-up shops on ghost town boulevards. It only confirmed Stark's focus on eco-friendly, entrepreneurial re-design. Check out her artist's statement.
Obviously, Portland latched its green-blooded, crafty-fingers onto Stark and she's here to stay for awhile. So far, only a few of her re-designs are ready for sale, but by next week there should be an entire rack at The Factory. Prices for Stark's one-of-a-kind refurbished clothes run $40-$60, but The Factory offers a $5, $10, and $20 rack for stylish folks on a budget (aka: everyone I know).
These refurbished designs are more sophisticated than simple alterations to tuck in, tie up, or bling out old clothes. Once Stark's patterns get shipped from NYC, we can expect some truly special garments. "You shouldn't be able to tell where it came from," says Stark, and explains that the limits of using recycled garments actually increases the creative potential. As director Anne Bogart said, "Take away people's money and give them back their creativity."
Stark is an advocate of giving people back their hands, their ability to be makers. We chatted about how our grandmothers sewed out of necessity in tough times, and taught us to do the same. She hopes her "waste-less" designs will "be an expression of the tumultuous present and the feminine power of the modern American woman."