SUMMER CAN BE an off-season in the fashion world. For women in particular, it's easy to slide into the ease of a dress-plus-sandals routine, and there's just not much happening, event-wise. That changed here two years ago, when Cassie Ridgway of Mag-Big—along with her co-producers Elizabeth Mollo (who is also a Mercury contributor) and December Carson—started throwing the annual Alley 33 fashion show, an outdoor, upbeat runway in the heart of SE Hawthorne.
Ridgway is a passionate advocate of locally manufactured design, a commitment reflected on the racks of her shop and in her events. This past winter she also produced the wildly successful Unmentionable lingerie show, and she and her crew are now looking at splicing their events into several categories (next up: bridal). As for Alley 33, they decided to focus on brands that are going for what she terms "viability by volume, rather than price point." In other words, producing higher numbers of each item and selling each piece at an accessible amount. "My personal feeling is it's stronger activism if it's in our closets, and not just in high-end boutiques. In Portland, people are looking for answers to manufacturing conundrums, and getting all of these designers into conversation on the runway showcases how many designers are ready for production—and people can access them easily."
She's not kidding: More likely than not, a designer who catches your eye is being sold at Mag-Big, which directly abuts the titular alley. Many runway shows are about drama, couture detail, and performance; expect this one to be a little more practical. These are the clothes that you could realistically own, and afford—if you think of wearing local fashion as something for special occasions and rich people only, the entire point is to prove that doesn't have to be the case.
"[Local line] Make It Good has their fabric milled for them domestically, and they cut, sew, and silkscreen everything—it blows my mind," says Ridgway of a lineup curated with regard for production techniques. "I'm excited to see what Sara Bergman does. She has such a strong mind for shapes and fabrics. And Poema—people aren't aware of how big their network is. [Designer Hannah Louise] is one of the biggest sellers in the tango community. We've sold her dresses in our store to people who aren't dancers because they're so versatile—she's just got such romantic fabrics."
As is Alley 33 tradition, you might also recognize a few faces onstage modeling, like Luz Elena Mendoza of Y La Bamba and Dave Depper. You might recognize the emcee, too: It's me!
Alley 33, 3279 SE Hawthorne, Sat Aug 10, 8 pm, $10-12, all ages