IF FASHION DESIGN can be a form of activism, Mag-Big might come close to fitting the bill. The SE Hawthorne shop houses only locally made goods, and its in-house line breaks away from a local fashion market that hews toward high prices and one-of-a-kind designs. Owner Cassie Ridgway is interested in the promotion of the designer-manufacturer, and she produces enough quantity to keep pricing relatively accessible. A Mag-Big dress, for example, might set you back about $70 off the rack—certainly not chump change, but closer to what many customers are accustomed to paying in the context of mass production.
This week, Ridgway is kicking off a two-week residency with a lecture at the Museum of Contemporary Craft, as part of the Fashion Safehouse program. "The intent of the Fashion Safehouse is to operate as an experimental site to speculate on the future of fashion," says Sarah Margolis-Pineo, curator of Fashioning Cascadia.
"It was my feeling that Cassie Ridgway would thrive in the free creative space of the Safehouse," Margolis-Pineo continues. "Away from the store and the pressures of producing her house line, I knew she would engage with the conceptual underpinnings of the project, leveraging the site and the two weeks as an opportunity to create a unique body of work that... taps into the zeitgeist of Portland fashion. Mag-Big is already a Safehouse of sorts, manifesting new ways to make, distribute, consume, and coexist with fashion."
"My thought process is kind of wack-a-doo, so I guess I'll be sharing that with the world," says Ridgway, laughing, of plans for Thursday's lecture. Ridgway will co-present with her design partner, Becca Price, walking the audience through the process of designing a collection "from inspiration, to mood boards, to concept, design, then patterning and making."
The lecture will also introduce the project Ridgway will be undertaking throughout her residency, a collection based on the concept of a uniform, called "In the Working Woman's Uniform." Margolis-Pineo says it's "a way to bring visibility to—and, in a way, to valorize—the women who have a hand in PDX's grassroots garment industry." The concept of uniform comes up a lot in the context of personal fashion, and Ridgway says it plays into a lot of the custom design work she produces for Mag-Big customers.
For this project, Ridgway also researched the "history and impact" of uniforms to inform a collection that will be revealed at the Alley 33 fashion show she co-produces, on July 26. "What first came to mind were smocks for over clothing," says Ridgway. "Then I found these Chinese fishermen pants with a dropped crotch... I want them to be something you'd kick around in and pair with a big piece of jewelry and look trendy, but with a little bit of the poetry that high fashion has. I'm definitely going to use industrial-inspired material, so it'll be chambray and maybe some seersucker and railroad print. Probably the same three bolts of fabric for the whole collection." Cassie Ridgway and Becca Price, Museum of Contemporary Craft, 724 NW Davis, Thurs July 17, 6:30 pm, free
Speaking of manufacturing more broadly, ADX and Sandy, Oregon's Stargazer Farm is launching the Explorer Series this week—an ongoing program of meals that serve as a forum to "investigate the relationship between urban, rural, and the space in between." The first event is the inaugural Lunch Wagon, a weekly luncheon aimed at the "Central Eastside's workforce" where Jason Barwikowski will serve 25 people a meal made with ingredients from Stargazer and its neighboring farms. It will also feature guest speaker Travis Feldman, an ADX member and electronics inventor who has researched the barriers to having his products produced in the US (much less in Portland). "Topics that are sure to come up: manufacturing infrastructure, workforce training, and the role of maker spaces like ADX." The Explorer Series' Lunch Wagon, ADX, 417 SE 11th, Fri July 18, noon-2 pm, $10 members, $25 non-members
• Grayling Jewelry's annual sample sale has grown bigger than ever, stretching across four days with up to 70 percent off past season pieces. Grayling Jewelry, 3115 NE Sandy, Wed July 16-Sat July 19, 11 am-6 pm
• Shop Adorn pairs a jewelry trunk show for Lulu Jewelry with exclusive discounts on Pendleton's the Portland Collection, including the opportunity to work up an original piece from Lulu's stash of semi-precious stones and other doodads. Shop Adorn, 4120 NE Fremont, Wed July 16, 4-8 pm
• Who doesn't like wine, fashion, and recycling, really? The delightfully named "A Debris Aperitif" is a haute trash fashion show "designed to entertain, educate, and empower." Corkscrew Wine Bar, 1665 SE Bybee, Sat July 19, 9 pm, $15
• Combining two of Portland's favorite things, comedy and fashion, Hems and Ha's is a fundraiser for the all-female sketch comedy web series Potty Talk, featuring looks from designers like Carolyn Hart and Lizz Basinger, along with stand-up from comics like Bri Pruett. From the highly quotable press release: "Both fashion and comedy are about beauty, observation, and vulnerability. Both genres are highly personal and creative and deal with the realness of personhood." Amen. The Secret Society, 116 NE Russell, Sun July 20, 7:30 pm, $10-12