THE WORD for this week on the Portland fashion design calendar is "familiar." Longtime followers of the city's apparel design scene might be—ahem—familiar with the name Daniel McCall. Fitting, then, that he re-emerges this week with a new project called Familiar Assemblage.
McCall's relationship with and approach to apparel design is somewhat unusual, and it's just one his interests, which also include work in the fine art world and even building restoration—a job on a Eugene apartment building is one of the reasons for his absence as of late. Now, at the urging of Physical Element boutique owner Jo Carter, he's turned his focus back to the garment. However, rather than beginning with an original idea, McCall's method begins at a specific source: The patterns included in a book on Madeleine Vionnet, the early 20th century French designer credited with, among other things, popularizing the bias cut.
"I tend to want to bring them into a utilitarian realm," says McCall of the material choices and finishes he brings to the designs, modernizing them and making them his own. The result is a collection of dresses that are at once sporty and elegant, cut to accentuate movement in cotton blends and thick knits, blending simplicity with an elegance and structure rarely seen in contemporary apparel design. "Familiar Assemblage is me telling the story again," he says.
McCall admits that he's gone back and forth over the obligation to invent a design from the ground up, but at the same time he's borrowing a starting point, there's also nobody doing the same thing, and he finds value in tracing the through-lines of Vionnet's influence. "For me, they still look progressive," he says of the designer's patterns. "One reminds me of Issey Miyake, one reminds me of Donna Karan. I love that she brought women out of the corset. She was good to people, and more disciplined than I will ever be."
Known as one of fashion's most important architects, Vionnet was prolific, creating thousands of geometrically considered designs. McCall takes interest in the interplay of her work and that of the Cubists and Futurists with whom she associated, noting that the intricacy of her patterns are rarely replicated in the modern age. "The industry doesn't take the time, in general, to make clothing like this anymore... some of the designs take days and days, and some I can do in one day, but my favorite ones are the most fussy," McCall admits.
Familiar Assemblage could be considered a tribute to an extent rarely seen outside the world of cover bands, something McCall has made peace with. "I'm not hyper-focused on originality or pumping out new things," he explains. "I'm always more interested in things that are worth making again."
The event itself is planned to more closely resemble an art opening than a fashion show, with live models circulating in a total of 11 dresses, all available to order in a small run of sizes. McCall will also be available to offer more information about the Vionnet's life and methods. "I'm not really in the fashion game of doing everything on a seasonal basis or wanting to go on Project Runway," he says. "They're just really beautiful." Familiar Assemblage, Physical Element, 416 NW 12th, Thurs Nov 20, 6 pm
• Communion's pre-holiday fashion show has become an annual tradition. Preview the new season's items from the boutique's favorite brands for gift giving and wardrobe building, or just go for the party, which includes free Stance socks for early arrivers, and a raffle benefitting the Pixie Project. Dig a Pony, 736 SE Grand, Wed Nov 19, 7:30 pm
• Collectors, crafters, and jewelry-makers take note: Gem Faire, the "West Coast's premier jewelry and bead show," is coming to town with more than 70 wholesalers, importers, and exporters on hand from around the world. They'll be selling finished jewelry as well as raw materials, jewelry-making tools, and more at manufacturers' prices. You can also bring in pieces for repair, cleaning, and ring sizing while you're at it, plus there are hourly drawings for door prizes. Oregon Convention Center, Hall E, 777 NE MLK, Fri Nov 21, noon-6 pm, Sat Nov 22, 10 am-6 pm, Sun Nov 23, 10 am-5 pm, $7
• Demimonde's Rachael Donaldson shares a birthday month with her shop, so she's doubling up on reasons to party. They'll have a date-appropriate 22-percent-off sale all day until 7 pm, including goods from new lines to the store, like Caravan Pacific and Anna Joyce. Demimonde, 2428 NE Broadway, Sat Nov 22, all day