If it's true that when you let something go and it comes back to you, then it's really yours, Hazel Cox belongs to Portland. By last fall, Cox had become one of the most prominent fixtures on a local fashion scene that was brimming with activity, her line of jewelry and accessories for men and women setting the tone for the wild, earthy-but-modern feel that was a visible influence on the streets as much as in artists' studios.
While Cox's return gives her a blank slate and a chance to reset, her absence wasn't long enough to have erased the memory of her as one of the founders (along with Genevieve Dellinger) of Denwave, an influential boutique that was the first of many in the musical retail chairs that are still being played at 811 E Burnside. There, she and Dellinger made headway on progressive streetwear options in Portland, and her jewelry and accessories steadily proliferated around the city into other boutiques and wardrobes, recognizable for their uniquely blended materials (a single piece might commonly employ a hand-forged clasp, oxidized metals, vintage charms, snakeskin, and hand-dyed yarn) and reference to nature without being preciously bohemian.
After Cox and Dellinger ended Denwave, Cox briefly held court at her own studio/retail space, Hazel Grayslayer, and shortly after closing that, disappeared to San Francisco. While there, she regrouped and acquired new ideas as well as vintage dead stock, like Italian cabochons and pressed metal pieces from Rhode Island, which she tells me was once the capital of pressed metal. She makes these prefabricated materials her own by combining them with her own hand forging, now favoring traditional Native American cold-forging techniques that "follow the metal," pounding it into new shapes.
Many of these pieces were conceived out of a friendly collaboration with Giovanna Parolari of Una, and will be exclusive to the store. Inspired by mélange of evocative references that include both bullfighters and Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge (not to mention Bruce, Cox's female pet cat and muse), there are small god's eye charms fashioned into cuff links, earrings, necklaces, and lapel pins; strong, everyday chains for men (though women always end up gravitating to Cox's men's jewelry, as well); colorful feather necklaces to be worn over the chest; beautiful fernlike strands of copper that hang lace-like down the ears and on chains, some pieces delicately punctuated with tiny cubes of gold. Demonstrating no small amount of new direction without abandoning her signature, Cox's second run in this town is off to a rich beginning. The new work debuts this week at Una. (Hazel Cox Jewelry Trunk show, Una, 2802 SE Ankeny, Fri July 24, 7-9 pm, free)