FASHION HAS SUCCESSFULLY invented itself a holiday. The global Fashion's Night Out (FNO) is in its third iteration, and September 8 marks Portland's participation for the second consecutive year. Founded in 2009 as a partnership between American Vogue, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, New York City's official tourism marketing nonprofit, NYC & Company, and the City of New York, Fashion's Night Out is essentially a worldwide trunk show, where retailers throw parties featuring merchandise debuts, special appearances, runway shows, and lots and lots of shopping. With far less need for justification than Christmas or Valentine's Day, it is a bald-faced riot of celebratory consumption meant to stir up some much-needed action on the retail front during the endless doldrums of recession. If you can get on board with that, Portland's downtown retailers have quite a day planned for you.
The centerpiece of our city's FNO festivities is a series of runway shows occurring throughout the evening in Director Park. Every half hour for two hours, a parade of looks submitted by downtown shops will traipse up and down a black carpet carrying shopping bags marked with the relevant retailer, culminating in a finale show at 8 pm, where Pendleton's Portland Collection will make its proper debut in the city for which it is named (full disclosure: I'll be lending a production hand backstage during this portion). West End boutique Frances May will then host the Portland Collection afterparty, joining the throng of shops who will be popping corks well into the night (runway show, Director Park, 815 SW Park, Thurs Sept 8, 5 pm; afterparty at Frances May, 1013 SW Washington, 8:30 pm).
A few other participant highlights: Los Angeles design-centric Pearl District newcomer House of Lolo has jumped into the community with both feet, and will host a trunk show with one of their favorite (and Portland exclusive) talents, Ani Lee (House of Lolo, 1037 NW Couch). The Westside bridal-focused Lille Boutique outpost, Lille Trousseau, is another new face in the neighborhood, and will feature live models in pieces from new collections mingling with guests and refreshments (Lille Trousseau, 1124 SW Alder).
In its continued haunting of Portland, Project Runway just had to insinuate itself somehow. Local reigning champ Gretchen Jones' final (and by far most controversial) conquest, Mondo Guerra, will be holding court at Macy's with a "styling contest," proselytizing his fashion dos and don'ts and dispensing tips and autographs—but you have to purchase a minimum of $35 to meet him. Oh, the conflicted feelings (Macy's, 621 SW 5th). With typically elegant insouciance, Mario's party will be catered by Ruth's Chris Steak House and feature a giveaway from Hugo Boss valued at $400 (Mario's, 833 SW Broadway). The similarly luxe Mercantile will host models in the latest collections alongside music and light refreshments (Mercantile, 729 SW Alder).
Belle of the ball Pendleton is activating both of its central store locations with a giveaway promotion that rewards stops at both (Pendleton Home Store, 220 NW Broadway; Pendleton Downtown Store, 304 SW 3rd). Representing one of the most important recent accomplishments in the world of downtown retail in its association with the downtown holiday pop-up shop program, the Portland Design Collective is representing local talent with a trunk show of original designs by in-house alterations tailor Jennifer Faust and Sarah Livingstone (Portland Design Collective, 902 SW Morrison). Stalwart of regional loyalty Radish Underground is featuring the work of co-owners Celestial Sipes and Gina Morris along with jewelry by favored independent Sword + Fern (Radish Underground, 414 SW 10th). Meanwhile the boys of Under U 4 Men are going all out with one of their crowd-pleasing runway shows, teaming up with neighbors Core Men's Shop, Jane's Vanity, and Pinkham Millinery (Morgan's Alley, 515 SW Broadway).
Last year's FNO in Portland felt like it was still finding its sea legs, a little lost on a calendar log jammed with competing events (hello, MusicfestNW and Time-Based Art Fest). The Portland Collection is a crown jewel marking the progress made in the past year toward stimulating an increasingly mainstreamed, visible local scene. "People have been waiting for Pendleton to do something themselves for years," says Frances May owner Pamela Baker-Miller, who ordered "pretty much everything" from the collection as the principle stockist of the brand in this city. She points out that this collection has more of Pendleton's own stamp on it compared to past projects with firms like Opening Ceremony, which shares its closest target customer, pointing to its functionality. "It has to get wet, it has to get dirty," she says regarding Portland's expectations toward clothing. "It has to be smart. It's not just fluff." For times and schedule check downtownportland.org.