Life is not fair. And so while you may be a promising Portland designer, full of taste and vision, you're going to have to deal with the fact that Adam Arnold gets all the attention. But there's a reason why the PDX fashion community jumps to attention when an Arnold collection makes its debut. His designs exhibit a craftsmanship that bears no relation to the kitschy joie de vivre that haunts so many small-time designers (excessive deconstruction, precious embroidery motifs). What sets him apart is fine tailoring, proudly exhibited in simple, wearable clothing that doesn't need to hide behind gimmickry. Even in exhibition, Arnold has historically avoided visual bells and whistles, so it's notable that for this week's spring show, Colorblind (Friday March 31, Design Within Reach, 1200 NW Everett, 7 pm, free; after party at Apotheke, 1314 NW Glisan, Suite 2A), Arnold has been collaborating with artist Federico Nessi on additional visual impact. Details are "a surprise," but promise to work within the theme of colorblindness, a fascination that originated in Arnold when he encountered an Ishihara color plate at OMSI as a child. In later years, he began to be interested in concepts that questioned whether individuals perceived color in the same ways, and how life experiences affect this perception. He manifested this in his line by challenging himself to use colors he normally detests (such as jewel tones), and "making them seem right." Another new element to the show is the inclusion of three dancers from the Oregon Ballet Theatre as models. (OBT's recent "Who's Your Dancer?" ad campaign has featured his designs.) Arnold, known for providing unexpected references for each line, also names the following influences on the collection: gold teeth, light fixtures, porcelain, the band Goblin, dots, city government, freckles, pear-flavored Jelly Bellys, the film Idaho Transfer, and murderous hippies. Look for vodcasts of both Arnold's show and the Church + State fashion show taking place two days beforehand at Seaplane on portlandmercury.com's "Pod 'n' Vod."
In other pressing sartorial news, a new boutique has opened on Alberta. Foundation Garments' (2712 NE Alberta) owner Heidi Carlson aims to stock lines unavailable elsewhere in Portland, the smaller the better. Look for lovelies from Ship to Shore, jewelry by Day Lab, and more. And, finally, Le Train Bleu (letrainbleu.com, 1822 NW Overton), a fantastic online boutique based locally, will begin having limited showroom hours (Fri-Sat 11 am-4 pm) beginning this Friday. Stop by on April's First Thursday for the grand opening,and check out hard-to-find lines from around the world.