Julia Blackburn is feeling the recession. No, I mean feeling it—in positive, stylistically inspiring ways, with a new collection titled "Dust Bowl Ballads: A Sturdy Collection for Tough Times." The tagline is a little bit disingenuous given Blackburn's propensity for garments composed of frail materials in her smashing Dust line, not to mention that it contradicts her garment care instructions: "Dry clean only. This shit is fragile!" Still, the latest crop of 17 one-of-a-kind pieces for women that will be featured this week at Radish Underground's monthly First Thursday showcase are inspired by pioneer-wear and include "work skirts" and emphasize simplicity.
Blackburn explains further that, "Times are shitty. People are sort of noticing but aren't really affected by it. In the old days people lived more simply and made their own clothes and luxury meant eating an orange once a year. I think visually there's something special about that time because it's so honest and true and simple. Yeah, the clothes aren't actually sturdy enough to withstand a dust storm or do some field work in, but they are a reminder of the spirit. It just felt really wrong right now to make something based in excess." To that end, Blackburn ensured that all of the materials that went into the collection were either found and repurposed or inexpensive, and she is keeping the prices "as cheap as we can make it without screwing over me or the ladies at the store."
The monthly showcases at Radish Underground just get better and better. Having entered a hopping neighborhood that so quickly became saturated with personality-driven boutiques, it has gone out of its way to distinguish itself from the fray. The regular highlighting of exciting, handpicked Portland designers speak volumes about what owners Celestial Sipes and Gina Johnson stand for, and the foodie linkage indicated in their name is proving to have an appropriately locavoric effect, to a degree of success reminiscent of the early years at Seaplane.
In addition, Sipes and Johnson are giving Blackburn free reign over the store's window display for an installation that she promises will involve old wood with nail-head lettering, a cow skull, and bandanas emblazoned with Woody Guthrie lyrics. (The store's window projects alone have been generating buzz in their own right.) The event will also feature Gowan Metal, a Portland-based jewelry line, piano music from Thunder, plus refreshments. (Radish Underground, 414 SW 10th, Thurs April 2, 5-9 pm, free)
Also, I hereby decree April Lille Boutique Awareness Month! In honor of the lingerie store's second anniversary, there will be art, sales, and parties throughout the end of the month, with the official birthday party on April 18. See mod.portlandmercury.com for more details!