ONE MAJOR CHALLENGE that every apparel designer in Portland faces is textile sourcing. With scarce options for wholesaling fabric and the relative infrequency of traveling showcases featuring a mix of “jobbers” (fabric wholesalers), designers are often left juggling the tricky balance of visiting Los Angeles’ garment district for larger bolts, and filling in the blanks with Portland’s (incredibly important and treasured) fabric stores to create each season’s collection. Often the result of this limitation is designers sourcing from the same places or unintentionally having overlap on a print or fabric. It’s usually never a big deal in the design community due to the generally collaborative ethos of this city. Every designer certainly understands why such a thing happens, but nonetheless, it’s surely a quandary for which many are seeking a solution.
Enter screen printers. There are a select few apparel companies in Portland that address this matter through the process of designing and printing their own fabrics. This solution requires an entirely new approach to design development and access to equipment with which most seamstresses are not proficient—but the end result is the singularity that’s embraced in companies such as Make It Good, Wolf Child, Rogue: Minx, and more.
This season we’ve seen a prolific collection and lookbook from the print-focused company Veil & Valor, a collaboration of designers Kate Troyer and Shelby Morgan. Offering an evening wear and formal sensibility defined by luscious woven textiles such as raw silk, crêpe de chine, raw linen, and silk organza, we see a bold blend of naturalism and glamour. The striking prints glint with flecks of gold and copper, and have a painterly quality. Printed in large scale over full bolts of jewel and earth-toned fabric, their work has a level of rawness that resonates poetically.
The creative process for Veil & Valor begins with a discourse between both designers about inspirations and feelings. Artist and screen printer Troyer will sketch rough images based on thematic elements, which are then passed over to seamstress Morgan, who develops a color story and begins draping silhouettes.
“During this part of the process it’s a constant exchange of showing our work to each other and making edits that are necessary to make the collection stay true to our muse,” says Troyer.
When the printing begins, many new ideas inevitably enter the full image and the process takes on a very organic method. Both designers extol the end result of a printing cycle as the most exciting moment of unveiling during this process.
The most recent lookbook from Veil & Valor, called “Norse Fields,” is inspired by Viking culture and Scandinavian aesthetic. When asked about the vision behind it, Troyer says, “We hoped to create a visual calling card for the Veil & Valor woman. She’s strong, modern, and her spirit is timeless. She has the warrior strength of our feminine past—like our Viking muse—and is also fierce and bold as hell in the present, while embracing her feminine side. We should never hide who we are!”
To create this aesthetic for their Norse Fields collection, Veil & Valor employed a sepia color palette with transparent overlays that create a sense of temporal fragmentation or ancestral quality. The off-the-shoulder and one-shoulder silhouettes in the collection are also very evocative of the feminine warrior. The overall product has a rawness balanced by beautiful textile and romanticism.
Troyer and Morgan say major influences for their company include Frida Kahlo, Elsa Schiaparelli, Issey Miyake, and Hussein Chalayan. Morgan has a personal inspirational passion for Alber Elbaz who was mentored by Geoffrey Beene, and was the creative director of Lanvin. He’s known for his draped dresses, distinctive wit, and such kernels of wisdom as “If you take something out of the freezer, it’s cold—but what happens when it melts? It’s a cool party, a cool person, a cool collection. What does that mean? I’m more interested in the things that are uncool, things that have individuality, a certain soul, a certain longevity, emotion, fragility.” Morgan mentioned this specifically as an influential sensibility in her work.