IT USED TO BE a familiar refrain: People in Portland don't want to spend money on their wardrobes. Yet, regardless of where you sit regarding the city's rapid changes, one thing is becoming clear: Portland's developing a taste for spending money on its wardrobes.
If the retail boom isn't enough to convince you, take a look at Wildwood & Company. Started in the early months of this year by Joseph Mueller and Alexandra Loverink, Wildwood originated as Wildwood Bespoke—a source for the custom tailored suits Mueller developed a taste for as a lawyer in New York City.
Originally from Banks, Oregon, when Mueller returned to the Northwest as a Portlander, he had a hard time finding an equivalent. And so, after a bit of self-education, he enlisted master tailor Loverink to begin their own bespoke house.
Since February, Wildwood Bespoke has been operating by word-of-mouth and appointment only, but in the past couple of weeks the operation blossomed into Wildwood & Company: a retail front with a spectacular build-out, specializing in high-caliber craftsmanship in everything from shoes, knives, guitars, and the suits that are the backbone of the operation.
Tucked off the street, it's easy to miss Wildwood & Company. Upon discovery, however, you'll be introduced to a remarkable display of handmade luxury items. There are custom hats by Folklore, gorgeous handmade dress shoes by Elrod Shoes, razors and strops by Portland Razor Co., watches from Art of the Watch, paintings and drawings by area artists... and of course the in-house Wildwood Bespoke items, which also include custom knitwear by Nele Redweik, collar stays, and tie pins. Mueller counts around 20 craftspeople represented in all, and while everything is impeccable, it's also quite unabashedly pricy.
As Portland cultivates expensive tastes, this is the direction that seems most in character. If one is going to splash around several thousand dollars for a new suit or pair of shoes, it's best the money goes directly to artisans rather than be thrown at impersonal multinational corporations, which so often outsource the manufacturing of their mainstream luxury goods to factories hundreds of miles away from the people who design them.
With its clubby wood panels and leather Chesterfield sofa, Wildwood's client lounge—replete with a turntable and wall of Scotch—appeals to a personality that perhaps just hasn't been properly courted by the majority of local retailers and designers. If Wildwood succeeds, it could be a coup for the economy of Portland's independently minded design culture. Wildwood & Company, 529 SW 3rd, wildwoodcompany.com; see more of the Wildwood space this week on blogtown.portlandmercury.com