PROPS WHERE PROPS are due: Putting on a fashion show is hard. Not only do they require a small army of people to create, they're expensive, and they're usually glued together with as many favors as contracts, and maybe a bit of eyelash adhesive. When further complicating the basic format, you are brave indeed.
Then again, fashion show producer Elizabeth Mollo has probably been behind the curtains of more Portland fashion shows than anyone else in the city (including the Merc's 2014 Open Season series). Her semi-annual Fade to Light show has attracted loyal designers who trust her to represent them on a tightly run ship, even as she ups the ante by asking them to not only produce a never-before-seen collection, but to create a companion film as well. Returning designers like Bryce Black, Michelle Lesniak, Primal Haunt, StudioSKB, and WWJJD don't seem to think of it as extra work as much as another opportunity to communicate their design work.
In the spirit of that investigation, we caught up with a few of the show's leading lights to get a sense of where their heads are at.
On the mood of his new collection:
BRYCE BLACK: Coherence and intelligibility after desolation... this is a take on a futurism and a society that has degenerated to a Paleolithic way of life. I'm also into all kinds of '90s new age shit right now, like meditation music or Enigma. I've been reading a lot about L. Ron Hubbard, and I find the idea of starting a religion and [its] collection of followers fascinating. Maybe that's because I want people to fall under my spell, too. Pledge your allegiance to Bryce Black or prepare to be basic! Muahahahaha!
On what's happening in fashion now:
I do love the minimalistic tone that has been in fashion for the last few years. I think fashion has lost all the rules—with trends coming/leaving so quickly and with vintage clothing everywhere, people really are able to wear whatever they like. You really have to try to be irrelevant or dated.
CASSIE RIDGWAY OF ALTER HOUSELINE
(co-designed by Rachel Marie Rasmussen), altarpdx.com
My biggest influence is textile. I am infatuated with layering sheer fabrics. I love the way it allows for very billowy use with a hint of the body's silhouette beneath. I am also trying to use elements as a theme for this next collection. We used water last time. This time, we are all fire.
On fashion now:
The resurgence of alternative and darker fashion is on an upswing—which I am super into, as it's always been my personal leaning—but I would caution people away from supporting it through mass-manufactured channels such as Urban Outfitters. Those companies make a caricature of your originality. Don't shop there.
On her spring/summer '16 collection, "Falling Upwards":
Airy silhouettes, dramatic outerwear, sexy swimwear, and romantic layering elements in a fiery color palette. The whole collection floats upward in silk chiffon, nylon ripstop, dramatic pleated silk, and naughty wool knits.
My father used to race hot air balloons, and when I was thinking about this collection I wanted to capture the lightness and magic of hot air balloons. I picked up the book Falling Upwards by Richard Holmes, and fell in love with the story of Sophie Blanchard, a French aeronaut who made more than 60 balloon trips.
JOSHUA BUCK OF WWJJD
(co-designed with Jeanne Tunberg),
By exploring the body's functions and needs in a variety of situations, each season we take as a point of departure a common scenario. This season we designed deep into the act of sleeping. We deconstructed beds, pondered the brevity of dreams remembered, and reinvented the comfort of being swaddled. Also, when sleeping you are at your most vulnerable. You take a leap of faith that you will awaken from dreaming into the serial of experiences that make up your life. There is a stillness or calm in that vulnerability that is very seductive or even mesmerizing.
On inspirational material:
Dreams were a large portion of the inspiration. A dream—good or bad—can cast a halo on an entire day, week, or month. It can reveal truths and horrors unacknowledged to our cloistered consciousness. A dream can make something absurd seem totally familiar, and we wanted to capture some of this surreal essence.
On fashion now:
The silhouette has become more important in menswear over that last couple of years. There is a play on proportion, and an interest in novel methods of make. I think of the success of the jogger pant or even running tights (lots of guys in Portland are wearing these as their sole bottom when working out). It is exciting to look to the future and contemplate the new spaces that can be forged for men, the new systems of dress that arise out of these new proportions and garments.
Fade to Light, Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W Burnside, Wed Feb 25, 8 pm, $12-40, all ages
• One of Portland's most irreverent designers of casual but well-tailored streetwear, Brady Lange, is hosting a sample sale of his already reasonably priced designs at up to 85 percent off. He makes clothing for boys and girls alike, so everyone should go. Service, 2319 NE Glisan, Sat Feb 28, 11 am-6 pm
• It's the biggest version of the PDX Collective Sale all year, with 11 boutiques—Adorn, Folly, Mabel & Zora, and Physical Element among them—clearing out their post-holiday back rooms. As always, go early for the greatest scores, and play nice! The Cleaners at Ace Hotel, 403 SW 10th, Sat Feb 28, 10 am-5 pm, Sun March 1, 11 am-5 pm
• Portland Bride & Groom's Rocked wedding-planning bonanza returns to the Nines for a full afternoon of dresses, cakes, caterers, makeup, flowers, wine, napkins, stationary, tiaras, DJs, tailors, venues, manicures, photographers.... The Nines, 525 SW Morrison, Sun March 1, noon-5 pm, $15-25
• While the Portland Art Museum's current Italian Style exhibit may be a retrospective of the last 70 years, it also has an eye to the future. In that vein comes the lecture "Codeable Objects: Making New Fashion," from MIT Media Lab researcher Jennifer Jacobs, who will address how innovations in the digital world have the potential to influence future design with complex forms and patterns. Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park, Sun March 1, 2 pm, $17-20