WENDY OHLENDORF has been making a big push. Originally from neighboring Vancouver but with time spent in Chicago, Florida, and Los Angeles, the designer of Magenta has been a newly regular and unforgettable presence on Portland runways this past year. But her roots in the city are deep: She had a shop, Shine, in Portland in the '90s, and did repairs for the legendary downtown luxury vintage shop Torso during the same era. These days, she's settling into her studio/shop downtown, Boulevard de Magenta, which celebrates its grand opening as a showroom space this week.
Fiercely imaginative, diverse, and eccentric, Ohlendorf works like an artist with a vision. We poked her brain to find out how those ideas are percolating.
On design education:
I had always been an artist (primarily a painter)dabbled in jewelry design, and of course clothing while I was in Portland. In Tampa, I decided to take myself back to school and received my BFA from the Art Institute of Tampa in interior design. I love architecture and have translated that into my clothing design.
In 2010, I wandered to Los Angeles, where I put my interior design degree into practice. I was designing celebrity nurseries for a high-end children's furniture company in Beverly Hills. LA really was not the place for me. After 16 months I came home to Portland.
Her philosophy of dressmaking:
I make personalities come to life—ones that exist in my imagination, or the clients I have the privilege of designing for. All of my girls [dresses] live in my mind. I get a vision of a completed design and then I make her come to life.
I am hanging out in 1970s London. Inspired by the looks from Biba, the music of Marc Bolan, Gary Glitter, and the Hollies. Then add a little California Dreaming, and Laurel Canyon vibe... it's hard to describe, but it all comes to life in my mind's eye.
What are the biggest challenges to designing apparel here and now?
Being an artist/designer in Portland is a lot different than when I first gave it a go almost 20 years ago. Today the community is vast, varied, and supportive. It is an incredible feeling to be part of the opportunities for designers today in Portland. The general population is more responsive. The people of Portland are really more supportive and are more interested in shopping locally and having a locally designed and manufactured handmade garment.
I would love to see more local resources for supplies. I can only dream of Portland's very own garment district someday. I think we have the need and support for it now.
What's happening in fashion now that concerns and excites you?
I always think about sustainability and being earth conscious, [and] try to always re-use, recycle, repurpose. I think it is exciting that there are so many visions [and] voices in fashion. There isn't one set fad or fashion anymore—the look of the current decade is simply all of them. The freedom to express your own personal style, whatever that is, that is exciting to me! Boulevard de Magenta flagship showroom grand opening, 632 SW Pine, Sun March 22, 5 pm
THIS WEEK'S STYLE EVENTS
• They're always up to something over at Mercantile, and this week is no exception. They're currently hosting a trunk show for the spring collection from Lafayette 148 (including petite and plus sizes) that'll be popping throughout the week. Mercantile, 729 SW Alder, through Sat March 21
• Indie Ella—your local source for re-purposed saris—is hosting an open house at their studio, where you can shop, snack, sip, and meet designer Jayna Lamb. Indie Ella, 333 NE Hancock, Ste. #2, Thurs March 19, 4-9 pm
• No discussion of Italian contributions to fashion is complete without addressing the importance of craftsmanship. That's why the Portland Art Museum's programming in conjunction with the Italian Style: Fashion Since 1945 exhibit includes a showcase of some of Portland's own design talent, demonstrating and discussing their techniques live in the gallery space every Saturday. This week the guest is Betsy & Iya. Crafting Fashion at Portland Art Museum's Object Stories gallery, 1219 SW Park, Sat 1-5 pm through April 25, included with $20 admission
• The Emerge: Spring Fashion Pop-Up is coming to Tillamook Station on Saturday, March 21, featuring nine up-and-coming designers repping everything from "modern, edgy designs to plus size, corsets, activewear, and eco fashion." Tillamook Station, 665 N Tillamook, Sat March 21, 5-8 pm