AS THE CITY wakes up from its post-holiday food coma, we begin the year with more good tidings for independent retail. Mag-Big, opened by Cassie Ridgway a scant four years ago, quickly became a home base for what Ridgway termed "designer manufacturers," helping to nurture a class of apparel and accessory makers who produce in small-batch production runs, keeping the cost of locally produced work relatively accessible. It was an approach that launched the shop into swift prominence, including winning the support of high-profile customers, like Portland First Lady Nancy Hales.
This month Ridgway, along with her new partner, Amy Fox of Iron Oxide jewelry, introduces a new concept: Altar, a rebrand of the shop and its in-house line of apparel with a tighter aesthetic focus. In describing it, Ridgway and Fox use words like "bohemian" and "Northwest mysticism," painting the picture of a rock 'n' roll influence by way of vintage Stevie Nicks, married with a connection to the earth. They stop just short of using the term "occult," but one gets the sense they wouldn't necessarily kick it out of bed, either. It's a style that falls in line with both women's personal tastes, and suits a customer that Ridgway felt represented an untapped market in terms of local and handmade products: "rocker chicks with incredible taste in jewelry." Altar's soft opening (in the remodeled Mag-Big space) was last week; this week marks the official reveal. Altar grand opening party, 3279 SE Hawthorne, Fri Jan 16, 6-10 pm
Speaking of cult favorites, Portland's most recent Project Runway champ Michelle Lesniak is still going strong on the in-progress Project Runway All Stars, but us locals don't need to turn on the boob tube to access her or her fantastic, elegantly quirky designs. And if you've never seen the show or are otherwise unfamiliar, quit sleeping; Lesniak is doing some of the most interesting apparel work in the city. This weekend she is hosting a trunk show with another All Stars designer, Gunnar Deatherage at her studio. (If you've been watching you know that he was ousted from the competition on December 11, and if you've been missing his designs, get thee to the trunking.) Both designers will be on hand to guide you toward designs, offering styling advice plus nibbles 'n' bubbles to "personalize your shopping experience." Shopping with Project Runway All Stars, Michelle Lesniak Boutique, 1123 SE Market, Sat Jan 17, noon-6 pm