AMID THE CRUSH of holiday sales (see "This Week's Style Events," below) and down jackets, R.A.W. is the little lingerie line that could. The work of textile artist Rio Wrenn, R.A.W. began as a means of showcasing her fabrics and exercising her interest in the history of women's undergarments, particularly the corset. Over the years, Wrenn has evolved the project to be more commercial, to facilitate a lower price point, to be marketable. Now, she's at a crossroads.
The lingerie, which includes corsets, but also beautiful kimono-inspired robes, briefs, bras, and beyond, is typically dyed using natural elements like berries, rust, or insects in a process that takes days to complete. After trying for several years to bring down pricing by diversifying with smaller, less complex pieces, Wrenn has decided to stop shaping her pieces around the pursuit of commercial viability, and her new collection, Psyche, marks a return to her original attitude toward the project, as a visual artist.
With renewed energy and an inspiring freedom from pressuring herself to make sales, Wrenn has made a return to the larger, flowing, dramatic pieces that are her most visually striking. Inspired by (of all things) a calendar that featured butterfly species, she poured herself into research, stopping at the word "psyche"—ancient Greek for both "butterfly" and "soul" (pronounced like "Nike," not "bike")—as the muse for the collection's creative direction.
As ever, the dying process is a crucial one for Wrenn's process, and for the new pieces she folded berries into the material using a specific, complex technique, then let it sit in the heat (a paper bag in a sunny spot outside during nice weather, an indoor heater for inclement times) for days—long enough to saturate but not long enough for it to mold, although, "A little bit of mold is okay," she says. "It looks kind of pretty." As earthy and messy as the process sounds, the results are dramatically ethereal and luxurious—qualities that don't, and shouldn't, come cheap. R.A.W. 2012 Psyche Collection runway debut, Branch and Birdie, 8021 SE Stark, Thurs Dec 1, 8 pm, free
One Night Stand is the inaugural event from Student Stylists, devoted to finding work in the fashion industry for current students and recent graduates. The vendors in this holiday sale, however, are already big league, including Haunt, Grayling, Ms. Wood, and many more. ADX, 417 SE 11th, Thurs Dec 1, 7-10 pm
Reading Frenzy's 16th Annual Cheap Art & Craft Show features small-batch goodies for $50 and less, kicking off tonight but going all month long. Reading Frenzy, 921 SW Oak, Thurs Dec 1, 6-9 pm, through Dec 31
Lodekka and Wanderlust, Portland's two premier mobile clothing stores, have joined forces with a shared space on N Williams (between Pix and Hopworks' BikeBar). Their dual grand reopening features 20 percent off items in both stores, gift certificate package holiday specials, and a screening of It's a Wonderful Life. N Williams & Failing, Fri Dec 2, 4-9 pm
Winter Frolic is a collective effort by shops up and down NE Alberta to unite the time-tested wonders of discounts and wine. Look for refreshments and significant deals from favorites on the strip including Tumbleweed, Garnish, and Abrahams and Duffy. NE Alberta between 14th & 23rd, Fri Dec 2, 6-8 pm
Alder & Co., one of downtown's most delightful international home-and-beyond stores, is hosting a holiday party featuring discounts and champagne. 'Nuff said. Alder & Co., 537 SW 12th, Fri Dec 2, 4-8 pm
Machus, the newly minted, crème de la crème outpost of Local35, celebrates its inaugural First Friday event, which doubles as its official grand opening. Machus, 542 E Burnside, Fri Dec 2, 7-10 pm
Give Good Gift is one of the more stellar group sales that's cropped up this season, with a diverse line of fantastic vendors (Pattern People, RillRill, Woonwinkel, Yo Vintage!), plus food (Brass Tacks) and a cash bar. Union/Pine, 525 SE Pine, Fri Dec 2, 7-midnight, Sat Dec 3, 11 am-3 pm
The Sunday Best holiday sale is back for its sixth annual victory lap, with an always well-curated roster of artisans (Better Late Than Never, Camamu, Demimonde, so many more). The Cleaners at the Ace Hotel, 403 SW 10th, Fri Dec 2, 5-9 pm, Sat Dec 3, 10 am-7 pm
Frocky Jack Morgan has long been a presence on the Portland scene, and this week sees the inauguration of a new studio/shop space with an open house. Frocky Jack Morgan, 811 E Burnside, #122, Fri Dec 2, 6-10 pm
Holidays Made by Hand, hosted by Union Rose, focuses on crocheted and knitted goods, featuring sweaters from Patricia de Salis and jewelry from MOSS Handmade. Union Rose, 7909 SE Stark, Fri Dec 2, 6-8 pm
Frances May's Off the Back of a Truck Warehouse Sale is an amazing opportunity to score deep discounts on lauded lines from past seasons—not just last season. Can you say 75 percent? 610 SW 12th, Sat Dec 3-Sun Dec 4, 9 am-4 pm