IT'S GONE THROUGH changes in location, name, and personnel, but Fade to Light is one of the longest-standing traditions in Portland's increasingly active winter fashion schedule. Now helmed solely by backstage-managing hired gun (and mod.portlandmercury.com contributor) Elizabeth Mollo, it's shrugged off its long association with combining fashion and live music, evolving into one handsome beast of pure fashion.
With an eye toward giving the audience more than just an oblique presentation, Fade to Light aims to present more of the process behind the designs, as manifested in short films shown just prior to the designs hitting the floor. This year's lineup includes repeat presenters like Ms. Wood, Bryce Black, Clair Vintage Inspired, Studio SKB, and Chicago Harper, along with new participants Gregarious T. Cline for PINO, Emit, and Wandering Muse.
New work from this lineup is hotly anticipated, with the designers cannily offering only hints of what to expect. Alyson Clair of Clair Vintage Inspired will be concentrating on the "party dress" end of her fall 2013 line, while Ms. Wood's Alicia Wood promises a small limited-edition line that deviates from her signature kimono inspiration and wooden accessories: "Separates good for layering, with the expected Asian flare (although you won't see any kimono sleeves in this one), lightening up on the wooden accents, and experimenting with fabric bag styles over all leather. With our other collections we were either heavy on the edgy/rock and roll vibe or light and poppy. With this one we are kind of combining edgy and soft using a color palette of earthy nude tones (think ballerina pink) to black."
Studio SKB is taking a page from the well-thumbed Edie Sedgwick playbook, a move actually inspired by a conversation with Mollo herself. "Elizabeth looks a bit like Edie," explains designer Sharon Blair. "Our conversation made me feel the same atmosphere of that time: The bursting desire to break free from past constraints and move into a new, exciting future... My 10-piece collection moves from the well-tailored details of a Pauline Trigère, as worn by Patricia Neal in 1961's Breakfast at Tiffany's, to the loose, fun styles of Mary Quant and Ossie Clark." Meanwhile, the increasingly edgy Bryce Black says he's "not following a season or any other traditional fashion rules that seem irrelevant to how we dress today. These fabrics will satisfy your comfort needs and tickle those who want more drama in their wardrobe. I mostly reference medieval Catholicism and the idea of insurrection."
Of the show as a whole, Mollo answered a few of our questions on what to expect on this sure-to-be-fabulous night.
MERCURY: For the first time the show doesn't appear to involve live music. What led to that decision?
ELIZABETH MOLLO: Honestly no one would really stay for the live music, and even though we would always book really amazing bands people just left after the fashion show. I decided that now, as opposed to years past with the rock and roll fashion shows, people are coming specifically just for the fashion show, so not having a band freed us up production-wise to just focus on the fashion show. The live music element is not completely gone from the show this year, however, and I don't want to divulge too much about it, so I will just leave it at that.
Can you elaborate on Fade to Light's aim to better understand the designers' process?
I don't want to say that most fashion shows don't aim to foster a better understanding of the designers and their process, but with Fade to Light I pretty much give the designers free rein to do whatever they want. Most designers choose to stick with the typical presentation format, but others, and especially Joshua Buck of Chicago Harper, really try to think of things to do for their segment other than just models walking down a runway. The [other] element, in addition to the collections, of course, is the short video that each designer shows. That helps to really drive home their brand and collection, and adds another dimension to the show. As Fade to Light grows I really hope to keep expanding the production creatively. My goal is to not just present the designers and their collections, but add some theatrics that not many people attempt in Portland.
How did you curate this lineup?
By choosing the designers I really admire in Portland, designers who are trying, and succeeding, in making a name for themselves. I also chose these designers because they all design and manufacture their lines in Portland, which is a super important factor for me. Most are showing fall 2013, [but] I don't give them any thematic guidelines. They are in complete control of what they want to show.
How did [your boyfriend and well-known DJ] Gregarious become involved with the men's accessories line PINO?
I think it came about with them talking at a party or something, and [PINO founder Crispin Argento] commenting on Greg's tie. I didn't set it up, and I have not really been a part of that collaboration at all, aside from giving my input when Greg has asked me for it. It's Greg's thing, and I am letting him run with it.