FADE TO LIGHT'S not the biggest fashion show in Portland, but it may be the most consistent. If we count its earliest incarnations as a rock-themed show, it's one of the longest running, and the only one that's been able to sustain two seasons.
Last week's winter edition at the Crystal Ballroom saw an overall uptick in interesting design work and a welcome proliferation of live musical accompaniment, though the introductory films seemed to take more of a backseat than usual. It was a long show, with two intermissions, and the usual cast of loyal participants mixed with a few newer names.
Among the best was Veil & Valor (formerly known as Primal Haunt), a collaboration between textile designer Kate Troyer and apparel designer Shelby Morgan. Always attuned to offbeat takes on the natural world, Troyer came up with a fantastic snake motif that blazed across a demure dinner jacket, evoking a biker vibe. A folksy, oversized flower print, frog-printed tops and bottoms (the collection was called "The Toad Frog"), and braided edges on many of the garments helped seal the deal on a project that took Frida Kahlo as its muse.
Bryce Black also stepped up his game considerably, melding his signature high drama with a stronger than usual concession to wearability, including a unique, feather-festooned anorak, an awesome fringed black pantsuit, and an overall lean into more structured garments. Not to say things were quiet—there were plenty of oversized fake furs being thrown around, including a bright yellow and black wink at the humble bumblebee.
This was the first apparel debut for the Altar Houseline (née Mag-Big), which proved to be a lovely wash of easily layered sheer prints in simple tunic and caftan shapes, as well as more ambitious pant looks, establishing Altar as a go-to for embellishing pieces as well as staples (and at one of the more accessible price points in Portland).
As always, WWJJD and Michelle Lesniak stretched the imagination. WWJJD's sleep-inspired collection featured pajama-esque wide pants, dropped crotches, sheer tunics, and leggings with an acid-dream combo of orange and blue. Lesniak, meanwhile, concentrated on swimwear with hot air balloon prints and roped ruching, gradually transitioning to cool windbreakers and dresses and skirts with amazing drape, unexpected color combinations, and micro-pleated embellishments—a fittingly high note to end on until Fade to Light returns for summer.
Noriko Kikuchi was born in Beijing, grew up in Japan, and lived in Florence and New York before moving to Portland earlier this year, arriving the way so many other artists have: under the magic force that lures in creatives seeking new adventure. Her work has had plenty of exposure elsewhere (featured at both London and New York Fashion Week, and in the New York Times and Elle magazine), but she's new to the scene here, and will be exhibiting pieces "in a museum-like presentation style" as part of this week's RAW: Grandeur artists' showcase.
MERCURY: What do you typically listen to while working?
NORIKO KIKUCHI: I used to go to a lot of jazz gigs in New York, and enjoy listening to jazz pieces while creating, as well. Also I'm more and more leaning toward meditative music, like Hawaiian ocean waves and Tibetan singing bowls.
What's next after this show?
I don't make plans any more. After fully surrendering in each moment for [the past] nearly two years and reflecting back, I have accomplished more than ever before, when I was always making plans and looking at the future. I enjoy different creative expressions now. I can't tell what's next. We will see!
What are you hoping to experience in Portland, and do you plan to make it your permanent home?
Again, I'm really enjoying Portland now, will put full focus in the now, and look forward to seeing what the universe will show me, and co-create my future.
Kikuchi's work will be shown along with her videos and paintings by Kenneth Quiroquiro, some of which are inspired by Kikuchi's "White" collection. KATIE GUINN
RAW: Grandeur, Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison, Thurs March 5, 6-10 pm, $15-20