These photos are a bit late, since the Fade to Light fashion went down a full week ago, but their tardiness reflects the one mar on this event's otherwise flawless production: The lighting! Seasoned producer Elizabeth Mollo certainly meant to give the stage-left audience a primo view, but the giant spotlight following the models up and down the runway left us completely blind for 85% of the show. Still, what could be made out under the glare was an inspiring grouping featuring some of the city's freshest design talent. There were a few showstoppers, but overall the vibe of these collections was clean, tailored, and deceptively dramatic, with few patterns and bright colors in favor of subtly cut, versatile and sophisticated staples.
Portland Sewing honcho Sharon Blair kicked the evening off with her Studio SKB line, here designated as "SKPDX." It was one of three collections of the night that she had a hand in, with Bryce Black for Studio SKB and Joshua's Chicago Harper lines to follow. As is typical for Blair, her no-nonsense designs were geared for a slightly more mature customer than witnessed in the bulk of the night's designs, though women of any age could easily pick and choose versatile items like her signature short safari jacket, or the bell-sleeved blouse she paired with a kicky pleated skirt. The standout look, however, was a long, full, sheer striped skirt paired with an asymmetrically hemmed loose-knit sweater, the lines of which were echoed in an excellent and more formal blue and gold dinner jacket.
Immediately following Blair's collection came Bryce Black's contribution to the brand, a modern, sophisticated clutch of knit dresses that was one of the strongest showings of the night. Subtle variations in hem and sleeve let the handsome bones of the garments speak for themselves in classic solids of black, inky blues, and a gentle mint. I was reminded a little of Jil Sander.
One of the most anticipated collections of the night was Ms. Wood, whose dynamically angled, universally flattering apparel designs are routinely given stiff competition by their accompanying accessories. After a finely produced short film featuring dancing Ms. Wood-clad models and fire, the fall collection marched out, marked by classic Ms. Wood wrap jackets, a continuation of her experimentations with leather tassels, and a few basic, unadorned black tops. The big thrills were the introduction of an eye-popping blue for bags and shoes, and a sparkling long evening gown looking for the invitation to a red carpet event that should be its birthright.
Setting itself apart from the rest of the pack, Clair Vintage Inspired was all about cheerful color and patterns, from kitchen florals to stripes and (my fave) gleeful pink dots, without much variation in shape. These easy wear above-knee, flexible-waist dresses are an absolute breeze for day-to-night office-to-happy-hour dressing, though it would be fun to see what would happen if separates entered the picture.
As expected, the most experimental designs of the night were brought forward in Joshua Buck's Chicago Harper menswear line. I loved the ribbed, lounge-y leggings and an artfully slashed textured sweater. Men who may not be comfortable donning some of Buck's more outré proposals, like crushed white velvet pants or a frantically printed dropped crotch, will also find a number of more quietly accessible pieces, like slim black trousers and an unassailably simple white tee. Still, as one of the most creative minds working in Portland apparel right now, his wildest ideas should never be stifled in the name of wearability. It's a balance he appears well equipped to strike.
Bringing up the rear were the towering, color-drenched new arrivals from Solestruck, shown with Black Milk's plain glossy black body stockings. Indeed, these are the kind of shoes that demand every other aspect of your outfit (and possibly your life, or at least the day's agenda) be carefully planned around them. One woman's "fun" is easily another's "ugly" when you enter the realm of extreme-platform, cheetah-printed riffs on hiking boots and curious combinations of purples, neons, and reds in shapes that look like alien technology, and it's a neat trick to wear these shoes (not even considering the ankle-breaking danger they present), as opposed to the other way around. Still, heights like this have an addicting effect when actually tried on, and you have to admit that a night out with those neon green and black creeper-inspired risers would be a memorable one.