Say good-bye to the playful days of summer. And while carousing on the grass in the rompers and ruffles of this past spring and summer's collections may have been what we needed after a long winter, it's time to welcome back fall—and a return to a slightly more formal, more mature wardrobe.
Thus we plunge into a spate of fall fashion expositions, starting this week with the Collections—a series of small, independently produced shows from some of Portland's most progressive designers. It's the fashion kickoff of fall, which continues next month with Portland Fashion Week, celebrating and publicizing Portland as a capital of sustainable design.
The fact that there are two Portland fashion weeks has led some to assume that there's a rivalry—two "camps," and the implication of conflict. The truth is that the two events are very different. The Collections is essentially a group of designers who have been active in Portland for a long time, most of them designers or shop owners involved in fashion as full-time careers—careers which were built up with the help of each other's mutual support. And because these shows are independently produced, each designer has complete control over everything from location to the species of flowers used in the decorations.
Meanwhile, Portland Fashion Week is a great opportunity for small designers to have their work produced by someone else on a larger scale, and to gain exposure, particularly under the umbrella of representing Portland's sustainable industry.
So while it may be glamorous to imagine a local war of dramatic snobbery, it's more important to focus on what brings the designers in the Collections together as a mutually supportive and deeply creative group, than to pit them against their fellow Portland designers. That, after all, would be missing the point of why so many designers have chosen to stay and thrive here: because of the singularly friendly, respectful design community. And as you'll see in this year's crop of collections, there is a lot of fun to be had.
Fri Sept 1, New American Art Union, 922 SE Ankeny, 7 pm, free
Known for his impeccably tailored designs for men and women, Adam Arnold has chosen another unique inspiration for his line: the universal language of Esperanto. Invented during the late 19th century, Esperanto was designed as a universal, neutral, and easy to learn language for people the world over. While Arnold has been studying the language for months, he isn't fluent yet—and has found several Portland-based Esperanto speakers to write a script for the show, presenting and describing each look in this arcane language (luckily the programs will be in English). The theme revolves around the numbness he sees in people toward the ongoing war, and fall as the death of summer. His line carries a certain formality, as if we all need to start getting dressed for the funeral of the year. Implementing luxurious camel hairs, wools, and cashmeres, Arnold has pared down his presentation to what is necessary for the collection. This means using very few models (look for a lot of quick changes!) in an effort to minimize audience distraction.
Tues Sept 5, Seaplane, 827 NW 23rd, 8 pm, free
Milva was an Italian singer and actress who defined European glamour in the '60s. From singing Édith Piaf songs at the Olympia Theatre in Paris to collaborations with Ennio Morricone years later, Milva exuded class and sophistication at every turn. She's also a huge influence on Jess Beebe's fall Linea line, which draws from Italy's cool, smoky '60s aesthetic. This Tuesday, Beebe unveils her new Linea fashions in an informal show and reception rather than with the usual runway pageantry, which gives you the chance to check out the sleek jumpers and dresses in olive and gray wools. It's been teased that the new line may be slightly more cosmopolitan than what we've come to expect from Linea, but since they've been perfecting sophisticated and comfortable fashions season after season, we can't wait to see what they're doing with rounded shoulders, pockets, plaids, and knits. Ciao bella.
Tues Sept 5, Olive or Twist, 925 NW 11th, 7 pm, freeWhile this lovely presentation of local hat designer Dayna Pinkham's work will begin with an unusual, playfully theatrical presentation on a Portland streetcar, space restrictions make it an invitation-only ride. But never fear, because the last stop is Olive or Twist, where all are invited to view the parade of hats that run the gamut of Pinkham's range—from everyday-wear caps to fedoras to cocktail-appropriate to over-the-top, just-for-fun confections. Also, new this year, there will be at least three hat designs for men. The clothing on the models will be simple black jumpsuits, skirts, necklines, and collars made from felt scraps—so as not to detract from the hats. Plus, enjoy hors d'oeuvres and live music!
Kathryn Towers and Holly Stalder
Weds Sept 6, Studio 1050, 1050 SE Water, 7:30 pm, $8 advance tickets available at Seaplane, 827 NW 23rdAnother unifying force between the designers of the Collections is the fact that most of them have sold their designs at Seaplane—the celebrated boutique run by Kathryn Towers and Holly Stalder. Towers-Stalder events are always well put together and this one, titled "The Golden Hour," will undoubtedly be no exception. While Towers revels in keeping her designs a secret until their debut, she does reveal that she is moving away (at least for the moment) from her signature torn-up ruffles. For the fall, she's contemplating ascots, colors in hues of gray, navy blue, and mustard—even tartan plaids. Working toward a woollier texture, she's aiming for wearable jumpers and party dresses, favoring clean, structured, and tailored over the frilly (although she does mention big bows). Think of it as "Alice Goes to the Office." As for Holly Stalder, also secretive in her designs, she only reveals that she is working in monochromatic, deep non-colors—metallics like silver and gold, and lighter, neutral tones, beaded fabrics, and pearl-encrusted collars. Unlike Towers, her pieces will be quite dressy with the exception of a few ready-to-wear jackets and dresses. If anything, she describes the collection as "Romantic Autumn Huntress." Another exciting creative advancement: She is doing all of the accessories herself, including jewelry and headpieces.
Thurs Sept 7, Simpatica, 828 SE Ash, 8 pm, free, cash barAnother interesting inspiration for a collection comes from Elizabeth Dye, whose boutique's name, the English Dept. (724 NW 23rd), falls in line with the literary circumstances that led to these pieces. Having fallen ill back in April, Dye found that watching TV hurt her eyes, and instead rested up while reading the work of Charles Dickens. As she worked her way through Hard Times and Great Expectations back to back, they wound their way into her crazed fever dreams. The result is a collection of very moody, gothic clothing that incorporates bonnets and tons of black. However, Dye was deliberate in avoiding anything literally antique-y or costume-y—for instance adding in the old-fashioned puffs of skirts and sleeves to pieces that are otherwise very modern. Moving away from anything wispy, drapey, or sheer, she uses wools and structured, heavy cottons and silks, creating a coat-heavy collection that emphasizes layering and lots of moving fabric underneath them, like dresses and even gloves.
church + state
Fri Sept 8, 2201 SE Powell, 8 pm, $2When Nathaniel Crissman (who co-designs church + state with Rachel Turk) was given an old family album for Christmas, the colors of the aged photographs and the dressed-up look of the ladies within them planted the seed for their fall collection. Altogether more dressed up—perhaps more grown up—than last season, they're working in wools and browns, experimenting with piping and cording. Almost subconsciously, they noticed a WWII vibe was creeping in. The show will take place in a big gray building, a former Safeway that has been converted into an open living space.
Sat Sept 9, Denwave, 811 E Burnside, 9 pm, freeAlways dependable for putting their own signature on any given project, Hazel Cox and Genevieve Dellinger, co-owners of the progressive boutique Denwave, have collaborated on a single piece (possibly a pair), to be displayed as a month-long installment. Entitled "Cloak," that's exactly what it is—a non-gender-specific cloak, evoking the woods, wizards, and the seasonal changes of September. Cox is known for her jewelry; Dellinger for her clothing, and the garment will be a marriage of their talents. The nighttime affair is intended to be somewhat creepy, and attendees of the reception are encouraged to hang out and enjoy themselves, taking time to soak in the piece, rather than the usual runway show behavior of ducking out after the last model's walk. Refreshments will be served—we're thinking blood and cheesecake.
Liza Rietz, Emily Ryan, and Anti-Domestic
Sun Sept 10, Rake Art Gallery, 325 NW 6th, 8 pm, freeThree designers known for doing some of the most modern silhouettes in Portland—Liza Rietz, Emily Ryan, and April Melnick—chose to join forces because of their shared aesthetic and adoration of minimalism—as well as detail of shape and texture. Believing this would best be represented outside of the traditional runway format, they will each be showing four pieces as part of a collective installation in a gallery, entitled "Hoods, Trains, Pockets, and Crowns." The hope is that the clothing will be viewed more as sculpture (though they will be worn by live models, who will be stationary). The title describes the nature of the pieces, which are constructed out of shared materials (in blacks, grays, browns, and whites). A fourth party also joins them—Wes Younie, who constructed the crown element or headpieces for the looks.Want more fashion fun? An after party sponsored by ultra will be held at Rake Art Gallery following the last show.