Amidst the FASHIONxt and Design Week pandemonium, Cassie Ridgeway carved out time for a dialogue about fashion's role in Portland. The proprietress of Portland fashion powerhouse Mag-Big, Ridgeway is one of the foremost figures in Portland design and her endeavor to bring a voice and conscious to the week's aesthetic overload felt necessary.

When I walked into the Hazel Room, it felt like home. Perhaps it was the warm cocktails or the familiar faces (among the crowd were local designers, photographer, retailers, and print-makers alike) but the panel made local design seem both accessible and exciting. Which is kind of the heartbeat of Portland, right?

The panel consisted of Lizz Basinger who was showing later that evening at FASHIONxt, Alyson Clair of Clair Vintage Inspired and Carolyn Hart. It aimed to guide us "through a verbal and visual exploration of their individual styles, processes and insights into the Portland fashion scene" and I was definitely feeling the powerful, female-entrepreneur vibes. My favorite claim of the night came from Clair when she casually stated, "I will let my line die before I send production overseas." which is what the night's discussion kept returning to: the fact that, with community support, lines can be produced locally and sustainably.

Many of us are accustomed to walking into a store and paying $25 for a garment but we have to ask, what's behind that? What exactly are we buying into with our consumer dollar? The panelists all function on a small scale and the pieces are direct designer-to-buyer transactions. Why have a garment travel thousands of miles and expend thousands of resources when we can keep production within a few street blocks? Basinger mentioned her use of plant dyes. Hart explained her approach to widely-applicable design that is both high-quality and easy to wear. This brings me to my next observation:

Apart from all of the moral implications and economic analysis the panel explored, these are exciting, well-executed lines. Here are some snapshots of what these designers' labor of love looks like:

Clair Vintage Inspired at Mag-Bigs Alley 33 Event
  • Beth Olsen
  • Clair Vintage Inspired at Mag-Big's Alley 33 Event

One of Lizz Basingers Illustrations
  • Mike Miller
  • One of Lizz Basinger's Illustrations

A Carolyn Hart stunner

What the panel encouraged was community. It was an ideal space to make the necessary connection between makers, designers and retailers that help sustain Portland design. One stand-out voice was PINO's Crispin Argento, who brought up this book, which seems to address many of the concerns the panel explored.

I anticipate more discussions like this in the city's future (designer book club anyone?). There is something undeniably supportive about the Portland fashion scene and I hope this critical examination of fashion and design continues to grow alongside the city's prevalence in these arenas. So thank you to Miss Ridgeway for hosting. Here's to keeping Portland weird well-educated.