Designer Dogs, Unisex Shirts 

Marjorie Skinner

2008 hit the ground running this year in most respects, and local fashion is proving no exception. Fashion shows are coming fast and furious, with at least one thing going every other week. This time around, there are two shows on the week's calendar and even more in sight (including the Mercury's annual show), plus a highly notable studio sale.

Up first is Boutiques Unleashed, marrying Portland's dual loves of fashion and fur balls. An annual fundraiser for Dove Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital, it's known for its sometimes-hilarious premise of showcasing dog clothes as well as people clothes, with zany local personalities and kids modeling alongside pooches on the runway. All the socializing and charity is augmented by a shopping pavilion, and the clothing on the humans is provided by a formidable list of local boutiques: Amalee (909 N Beech, Ste. A), Aubergine (1100 NW Glisan), Bee and Thistle (120 NW 10th), Bijoux Luck (bijouxluck.com), Black Wagon (3964 N Mississippi), Bubble Boutique (1238 NW Glisan), Dragonlily (1740 SE Hawthorne), Ella's Boutique (2529 NE Alberta), Este's (1633 NW Glisan), Foundation Garments (2712 NE Alberta), Garnish (1524 NE Alberta), Gypsy Chic (3966 N Mississippi), IDOM (1600 NE Alberta), Little Urbanites (916 NW 10th), Mabel & Zora (1468 NE Alberta), Meringue (meringueboutique.com), Mink (3418 SE Hawthorne), Moxie (2400 E Burnside), Phlox (3962 N Mississippi), Physical Element (1124 NW Lovejoy), and Tumbleweed (1812 NE Alberta). Plus there's gear for the critters from Bentley B (bentleyb.com), Hip Hound (2328 NW Westover), LexiDog (416 NW 10th), PetUtopia (8670 SW Scholls Ferry, Beaverton), and Reigning Pets Northwest (25 NW 23rd Pl, Ste 6). (Staver Locomotive, 2537 NW 29th, Thurs March 13, 5 pm, $60, includes hosted beer, wine, signature cocktail, and heavy hors d'oeuvres)

One of the more curious shows to come along in a while is the one being put on by a sole designer, Young-hee Shin. It's unlikely you've ever heard of her, unless by chance you attended the small community event she organized to showcase her collection of unisex ties last year. A native of Korea, Shin came to the United States 15 years ago, buying a house in SE Portland (she now lives in Damascus). She'd harbored an interest in fashion design since her early 20s, but was prevented from pursuing it by a disapproving husband who considered it "frivolous," and instead concentrated on the duties of housewifery. Now entering retirement, Shin has decided to take a shot at designing, despite her disinterest in dealing with any commercial or business aspects of the industry; it is uncertain whether the designs to be debuted at the show will ever make it to a retailer.

Shin's emphasis is inclusive. Open to all ages and free of charge, this availability is reflected in her design sensibility, which emphasizes unisex and non-age-specificity. Through a translator, Shin explained, "There are no boundaries of what is men's and what is women's. Both men and women can choose the same clothing, and maybe come to a better mutual understanding that way. Same with across different age groups and even lifestyles: A mother could wear the same clothes as the daughter, the husband and the wife, the doctor and the musician."

This philosophy is manifested in pieces of the shirt and tie variety (even, perhaps, shirts modified to include a built-in tie), and coats that are actually separate jacket and skirt pieces. Shin says she hopes primarily to inspire people in the audience to change their attitudes about "what clothes could look like, and who should wear them," but even before the show gets going she's an inspiration for those who assume they've missed their chance to pursue their creative endeavors. (Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell, Sun March 16, 4 pm, free)

The Wonder Ballroom is seeing a lot of fashion action this year, including the Mercury's own Installations annual fashion show. The jury (myself, Adam Arnold, Holly Stalder, Leanne Marshall, and Julia Barbee) recently made our selections from the designers who submitted their work. The lineup: Makool (Anisa Makhoul), ElizaBeth Rohloff, Dust (Julia Blackburn), Rachel Mara, Paper Treasure (Jess McCloskey), Ruth (Ruth Waddy), Rio Wrenn, Erhart (Chelsea Erhart), Amai Unmei (Allison Covington), Elizabeth Spencer, In Love & Memory (Janeane McSpadden), and Freyja (Gretchen Jones and Melody Geer).

Meanwhile, if you're tired of merely looking at clothing and ready to buy, you'd be wise to take note of the bargains to be found at Anna Cohen's studio sale. Clearing out before a move later this month, lauded local and eco-conscious designer Cohen will be offloading samples, including pieces from her most recent spring '08 line, which features tons of looks rendered in a luscious orange, a definite favorite shade of the season, as well as elegant and feminine dresses and wraps contrasted with some fairly extreme cuts of denim. Constantly shouted out as a leader in the sustainable fashion design movement, Cohen's clothing is equally cosmopolitan, and it's just our luck to be her neighbor when times demand a sale. (323 NE Wygant, #204, Sat March 15, 11 am-4 pm)

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