AFTER MONTHS of pining for warmer temperatures it can be hard to muster excitement for anything to do with fall and winter, with the notable exception of clothes. Summer dressing is delightfully light and easy, but when the temperatures drop you simply need more clothes, making the game of layering textures and silhouettes a more challenging, stimulating game. And just like shopping for a bathing suit in August, neglecting to plan for the coming season can bite you in the ass. Fall- and winter-appropriate garments are naturally heavier, more substantial pieces than spring's, and traditionally pieces of a wardrobe one invests the most money and consideration. Inevitably the most put-together men and women have pre-ordered their winter coats before the Fourth of July, and while the late-coming slacker might get lucky with a sale price, they won't have their pick of the litter.
Whether or not you have achieved that kind of systematic sartorial order, you'll want to take a look at what Physical Element (1124 NW Lovejoy) has in store at their fall preview show, Catwalk, happening this week. Long known to emphasize international collections, Element's Jo Carter is debuting several that are new to the store (and therefore very likely new to Portland). Among them are the ladylike femme fatale designs of Spain's Isabel de Pedro (think Penélope Cruz in a Pedro Almodóvar film), whose fall looks for last year made up a richly textured dark palette of deep chocolates, grays, stunning reds, purples, and of course lots and lots of black, which Carter has always made no bones about favoring. "Well, you know me, I love the neutral palette and black is my friend," she says. "On a serious note, black is forever modern to me, and it is the perfect canvas to highlight the silhouette, interesting seaming details, and textures that I am drawn to." There are also new lines from France (Iconoclast and the French-Belgian Soleil), as well as an exciting new addition from right here at home: Dayna Pinkham's Pinkham Millinery hats, fresh off of celebrating 10 years of creating everything from simple cycling caps to festooned concoctions bound for the Kentucky Derby. As underscored by a recent appearance in the January issue of Vogue Italia, Pinkham hats pair naturally with a worldly sensibility.
Pinkham's not the only Portland designer that Carter champions, for all the far-flung locales she sources from. The Portland-designed hats are joined by work from Kate Troyer, another relative newcomer to the store who is participating, along with Pinkham. WeMa, Renee Armstrong, and—another hat maker—Amy Downs are among the hometown designs that will be styled alongside pieces from Japan and France. "I became excited to show, at once, how each of my designers—influenced by their culture—approached fashion and the female form," Carter says of putting the looks together. "All are so different, and beautiful in their own unique way."
The show, comprising about 35 complete looks, isn't a comprehensive rundown of what Carter has planned for fall; she still has a few tricks up her sleeve. "My thought was honestly not to 'be safe,'" she says of her buying strategy. "That is where I have been putting my head the past year and half or so. When the economy started to tank I decided I was going all in, or I was done. It will be amazing jackets with odd little details and asymmetric hems, steampunk influences, imaginative layering pieces that clients can individualize. You'll see a lot of mesh and tulle influences, crinkle fabrications, and controlled volume on one end of the spectrum. On the other you'll see super body-conscious silhouettes and simplicity. It sounds all over the board, I know, but it all comes together somehow." (Catwalk, Pinnacle Pavilion, NW 10th & Northrup, Thurs April 22, 7 pm, free)
Speaking of upcoming fashion shows, mark your calendars for Open Season, the Mercury's big sixth annual fashion show (has it really been six years? Man, time flies!). This year it's going down at the Bossanova Ballroom (722 E Burnside) on Friday, May 7, and for the first time in four years it will be all ages, which allows us to have a special showcase of student work from the design department of Portland's Art Institute in addition to the main event. I think we have one of the most exciting lineups this year, including new work from Adam Arnold, Heather Treadway, Reif, Andy Lifschutz, Isaac Hers, Janeane Marie, Dawn Sharp, Liza Rietz, Dust, Ruki by Melanie Parr, Erhart, and R.A.W. Conveniently located in the heart of E Burnside's First Friday, it's the perfect way to cap off the night—come early to check out installations by the designers and artists, and catch the first glimpse of what Portland's most exciting designers have been working on! (Open Season, Bossanova Ballroom, 722 E Burnside, Fri May 7, 7 pm reception, 9 pm show, $12-15, all ages)