FashioNXT kicked off Wednesday night with its customary international showcase, which focused this time around on Shenzhen, China. This year, the entire week has moved from the Swan Island Vigor Shipyards to a tent set-up in the Pearl's Station Place. The change was much welcomed by those of us who have always loved to see the collections but hated making the long-ass trek—plus the new setting is a lot more scenic, and makes the whole thing feel more in tune with the heartbeat of the city.

The night started typically, with Mayor Charlie Hales and a Chinese delegate each giving speeches about how pleased they are to form this connection. The most noteworthy moment came when Hales, to much applause, declared October 8-11 Portland's official Fashion Week (so, uh, not sure what that means for that other Portland Fashion Week). The whole production felt like a focused effort to elevate the event to the next level, and fittingly, the lineup was one of the strongest I've seen since FashioNXT launched. As a whole, the collections shown were innovative, beautiful and exquisite in quality. In the past, the international showcases have sometimes felt so far removed from the rest of the shows, it has been hard to know what to make of them. This year, though, it felt like a raising of the bar on what to expect going forward.

First up was Kai Yeung Yau, a designer focused on creating both affordable and forward-looking fashion. His collection was filled with uniquely layered ensembles consisting of loose, intricately embroidered pieces in colors like fuscia, orange and emerald green. There were also some beautifully draped geometric dresses that moved on the body in all kinds of cool ways. The collection was equal parts edgy cool and classically pretty.

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Next was Ji Yaunyaun, whose collection consisted of luxurious, architectural gowns and tailored suiting. She incorporated contrasting elements of crystal adorned herringbone tweed, and lush silk in a richly colored abstract prints. The clothes were beautifully constructed, and the dreamy, romantic aesthetic felt both totally innovative and very accessible. Highlights included a voluminous gown and blazer pairing, and the final look - an all tweed number with ruffled tiers up the front.

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Designer Lu Yu of Maison LuYu showed mostly streamlined black and white ensembles, with a few colorful florals thrown in the mix. Structured jackets were often paired with chiffon skirts, and semi-sheer materials showed just a hint of skin. A sheep-wearing-sunglasses print was incorporated into several pieces, adding a bit of fun and whimsey to an otherwise fairly austere aesthetic. As a whole, the collection felt chic, modern and versatile. As is often the case, some details like the beautiful stitching, intricate lace and delicate pleating don't show up very clearly in photos, but they were a definite strong point.

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The final collection of the night was by Song Hong, who runs and designs and runs a luxury cashmere label called, well, CASHMERE. She showed a series of plush knit dresses, sweaters, cardigans, pants and scarves in a neutral, mostly cream color palate. There were several lovely cable and waffle knits included, as well as well as some finer jerseys. The thing about entire head-to-toe knitwear ensembles is they can kind of start to look like pajamas, but there were many elegant, flattering, incredibly comfy-looking pieces in the collection that could easily be worked into an outfit.

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