OF ALL THE SHOPS that make up the impressive retail hive at 1306 W Burnside, Blackbird was perhaps the most anticipated. The original, located in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood, has been a destination for many Portland men who felt the retail offerings at home were too few, and too limited to a woodsy or workman aesthetic. In Seattle, Blackbird is an institution. In addition to a wide range of wearable goods from lines like A.P.C., Obey, Comune, and, as of recently, Rick Owens, plus their own in-house collection of denim and neckwear, Blackbird also has an outpost called the Field House that carries a general-store jumble of pantry items, candles, and workwear—basically it's emblematic of the neo-old time-y appeal that has been resurgent of late, and is associated to a great extent with the Pacific Northwest. We've got that pretty well covered here. Other Blackbird favorites include Filson, Pendleton, and Tanner Goods, all of which have long been available or have originated in this area.
By contrast, the Portland edition of Blackbird puts an emphasis on black. Shying away from rugged plaids and work boots, and in general de-emphasizing the Portland brands it enthuses to the north, the petite 600-square-foot retail space (the walls of which were ink-painted using old copies of the Mercury, incidentally) is decidedly dedicated to the sleek, urbane end of the Blackbird spectrum. Rick Owens in Portland? Yep. Ultra-emo, dramatic shredded tee shirts by CMRTYZ at cropped lengths and draped tatters down to the knees? Check.
It makes sense; the store seems stubbornly determined to be contrary to typical Portland aesthetics, and that's the only way to make an impact. And the pricing tier welcomes new customers ready to experiment with a darker look. "We made the new store the blackest of Blackbirds," says owner Nicole Miller. And while it's ostensibly a menswear store, there are more than a few items of interest for women, including unisex wallets by Commes de Garcons and a selection of Diptyque colognes.
Thus far, the response seems to have been a positive one, if perhaps a bit jarring to those familiar with the range and tone of the Seattle store. Given the offerings already available in the downtown retail sector, Blackbird's dedication to offering itself as a counterpoint can only indicate good things about an increasingly diversified menswear culture in a city with a historical paucity.