Elizabeth Rudge

WARM-WEATHER LOOKBOOKS are popping up and coloring the landscape of Portland's fashion scene in dynamic ways. The highly anticipated new collection from boutique and jewelry company Betsy & Iya is among these releases, with its eye-catching message about expressing oneself through the art of personal styling.

Owner/designer Betsy Cross cites a focus on accessorizing "without boundaries" as an inspiration for their new line, which reimagines last season's Unu Collection and depicts how individualism is conveyed through styling components. 

"I always like demolishing boundaries," says Cross. "No one should ever say that he/she can't wear a certain style, like a large hoop earring or a bold necklace. Nope. You can, and that's what I wanted to show with this collection and lookbook." 

Betsy & Iya's photos use contrast, color, and mixed ready-to-wear styling to show how people can boldly empower their fashion sensibilities with accessories and makeup. While the jewelry is classic B&I—minimal with a delicate attention to tasteful details—the color scheme and polemic of this lookbook are vibrant, allowing us to focus on the effect of the jewelry as a unifying and expressive finish. While the whimsical styling is attention-grabbing, the looks transmit an essential message very clearly: It's your jewelry, style it however you want. 

This particular sentiment strikes a chord with me because I've always thought of fashion as shorthand for expressing our desired identities. So many of us feel bound to continuity when it comes to our style decisions, to the extent that we may even shy away from trying new things, despite admiring them. This can split the difference between being totally confident in your self-image and feeling like you're not [whatever] enough to "pull it off."

Cross says the collection is a continued refinement of her design and production methods. "We strive for every collection to be a step up from the one before in terms of style, processes, quality, and efficiency," she says. "The Unu Collection is no different. There are several pieces plated in 14 karat gold, and we're using a lot of labor-intensive production methods to form these pieces (such as the handspun fiber you see on... [some of our] necklaces).

"In a lot of ways," she continues, "this collection represents the Betsy & Iya woman as I've always envisioned her: feminine, classic, and decorative, but also simple, dynamic, and bold."

Cross describes her inspiration as "[breathing] new life into classic everyday pieces. I challenged myself to strike the right balance of bold shapes and textures that stand out just enough. It was a back and forth of putting an edge on something and smoothing it, softening it, while not losing the edge."

We're sure to see more growth for Betsy & Iya following their 2014 remodel, which facilitated a massive overhaul of their manufacturing space and the addition of more staff. As a looking glass for younger companies, it's easy to see that the hard-earned foundation of this business is the work of a small team that pushes growth at every phase. [Full disclosure: As a boutique owner/designer myself, you may catch me extolling the work of brick-and-mortar boutiques that push their houselines to the foreground and create production jobs.] 

Betsy & Iya not only carries their houseline jewelry, they're a hub for independently manufactured products from all over the country. With an eye for apparel and a range of accessories like bags, home goods, body care, and more jewelry, B&I is definitely worth a serious look. Betsy & Iya, 2403 NW Thurman, betsyandiya.com


We love knowing about fashion happenings in and around Portland. Email fashion@portlandmercury.com with info about events, lookbooks, sales, and other fashion-related content.