When it started, riding high on the wave of shock that accompanied the dive of the economy, my expectations for 2009 were low, to say the least. And while there were a fair number of shops that quietly shut their doors over the past year, others surprised me by bravely opening. It was also a breakthrough year event-wise. I'd humbly submit that 2009's Mercury spring fashion show, "Forecast," was the most impressive thus far, and fall's "Content" event at the Ace Hotel was inspiring for its originality and the degree to which the participating designers rose to the challenge, as well as for the impressively huge and enthusiastic turnout. Surely the 2010 edition is going to be one of the hottest tickets in town.
Gretchen Jones, the designer behind MothLove and Content's mastermind, reflects, "The year was about growth and confidence... and perhaps a little responsibility. What's more, the extremely hard work and dedication behind the professional, prideful, and unique identity Portland fashion is all about. I feel Portland truly is the artery (perhaps capital) of American hand-crafted, small-production fashion and accessory design."
It was also a year in which Portland Fashion Week, ever controversial, managed to negotiate ink in Spin and the Lufthansa in-flight magazine, as well as media sponsorship from Surface. The days-long showcase included designers from locations as far flung as Pakistan and Paris, coming closer than ever to its goal of becoming an international platform for sustainable collections. Tito Chowdhury, the engine behind the event, says, "I am biased to fashion endeavors which provide the precursors to decent living and capital to enhance business. If trade doesn't happen, craft ceases to move forward or even exist."
Speaking of internationality, FUSE was another of the year's most notable events, the first collaboration between Portland and its newfound friends in China. Headed up by the Portland Fashion Synergy group, it remains to be seen how this relationship will manifest, but the promise of an exchange of ideas and resources is one of the things I'm most looking forward to in 2010 and beyond. The year will also see a significant challenge to Portland's indie-ethos in the installation of an H&M at Pioneer Place next summer after years of rumors and negotiating.
Iconic Portland designer Adam Arnold is also in the process of relocating his longtime SE Morrison studio and showroom. Self-described as "die-hard Eastside," he probably won't wander far, but here's hoping the new digs are roomy enough for seasonal fashion shows—a proper public viewing of Arnold's complete fall 2009 collection was one of the year's most painful omissions.
As of this writing, there is no ice or snow on the ground, which would indicate our having sidestepped a repeat of one of Arnold's own favorite fashion remembrances of 2009: "I loved seeing what kind of Snowpocalypse fashion people were reduced to last winter. Plastic bulk-food bags over two pairs of socks inside of a pair of dirty low-top Chucks?" Anyone? Anyone?