This Saturday is Portland Sewing's Fashion Forward graduate show, featuring the graduates of an intensive program that goes beyond apparel construction techniques to guide students into thinking about how to hone their focus and market themselves. I always love a good student show, but this one tends to produce designers and collections that are more fully formed than in undergraduate shows like those produced by the Art Institute. In anticipation of this weekend's debuts we spoke to some of the students to get a sense of what to expect.

First up: Jessica Caldwell's Machine, which she describes as "modern, attitude-infused women's street wear." [Full disclosure: Caldwell is also an occasional contributor to the MOD blog.]

  • Machine via Facebook

MERCURY: Where were you in your (apparel-related) career prior to Fashion Forward?

JESSICA CALDWELL: I'd been taking classes at Portland Sewing for over two years, and even interned at the Portland Opera costume shop, but I wasn't sure about my next move. My background is in web design and programming, and I was looking for a change. So when the opportunity for Fashion Forward came up I knew it was time to take that leap and really go for it.

What drove you to seek it out? Is it what you expected?

For me, working on a computer all day was creatively draining. When I started sewing, I fell in love with the process of creating something tactile that existed in the real world (instead of always digital). I was hooked. Of course, I had no idea what I was in for upon applying for Fashion Forward. The program has been a huge wakeup call as far as how the industry works and the level of commitment it takes to turn your designs into a business. There is still a lot to learn, but I feel like the program has given me a foundation of skills to be successful in this industry.

What are your thoughts on the experience? What did you learn?

Overall, the experience has been really positive. Stressful at times, but awesome. The group of designers we have this year are really diverse in their style and vision. It’s been fun working with everyone and watching them grow. Because of Fashion Forward, I've uncovered my point of view as a designer and the experience I want to create through fashion. The future is exciting.