Stripped down to basics, these are the things a human needs to survive. While each of these categories bears achievements that elevates it to high art, it's the identity-driven world of clothing that is most often at odds with the virtues of necessity. Exercised as fashion, clothing is often associated with frivolity and wastefulness as much—if not more so—as with function. There are, however, many reasons to examine our relationship with clothing, from the effervescent to the soberly practical.
a new exhibit opening at the Museum of Contemporary Craft this week, completes a triumvirate of exhibits that have been based on the aforementioned human necessities. By focusing on the regional aspect of apparel, as well as the emotional and narrative attachments we have to these items, the exhibit draws attention to the increasing movement to address social and environmental concerns by reconnecting to how our clothing is produced.
Curated by Sarah Margolis-Pineo, Fashioning has many moving parts. It captures some of the history of apparel making in the region, unearthing, for instance, the archives from legendary shop and design hub Seaplane. It celebrates the design innovation exercised by Portland and Seattle designers like Adam Arnold, Michael Cepress, Liza Rietz, and Michelle Lesniak Franklin, and examines the burgeoning community of production houses like Portland Garment Factory, "ranch to runway" operations like Imperial Stock Ranch, and evolving heritage brands like Pendleton.
To alleviate some of the navel-gazing perils of the project, Margolis-Pineo sought out figures from beyond our region to engage in site-specific projects. Brooklyn's Emily Spivack will host Sentimental Value, a project that invites its audience to share and document the stories and personal connections behind wardrobe items, while Sweden's Otto von Busch will create a "Fashion Safehouse," wherein participants will "question fashion from a perspective of hands-on capabilities: what we as individuals can do and be, rather than consume."
Throughout the exhibit's run there will be workshops, lectures, and designer residencies, a daylong symposium on Portland as "an incubator for slow fashion," a runway show celebrating vintage fashion, and an array of opportunities to engage with apparel on an intellectual and tactile level, whether your interest is in the convergence between fashion and technology, the collaborative process of custom tailoring and design, or a Native American's take on cultural appropriation.
To kick off what may be the biggest summer yet for independent fashion in our city, the Mercury is co-presenting Open Season, our 10th annual spring fashion series, featuring many of the designers also highlighted in the museum's exhibit. Dovetailing with Fashioning's opening week, it's a great entry point to an industry that is quickly gaining attention as part of the city's cultural identity and will likely play a bigger role in our evolving economy, too. Whether you're a longtime follower or just getting to know the world of Portland fashion, join us in declaring open season on the modern wardrobe; the next few months are truly going to be fabulous.
The Mercury's 10th Annual Open Season Series of Local Fashion Shows!
Monday, May 12, 6-8 pm
Alexa Stark and Crazy Wind
Doug Fir (830 E Burnside)
Tuesday, May 13, 6-8 pm
Mississippi Studios (3939 N Mississippi)
Wednesday, May 14, 6-8 pm
Portland Garment Factory's HouseLine
Rontoms (600 E Burnside)
Tickets are $5 per show ($8 at the door) at
The Museum of Contemporary Craft's Fashioning Cascadia
Fashioning Cascadia opens Friday, May 9, at the Museum of Contemporary Craft (MoCC) and runs through October 11, with tons of events to keep you engaged throughout the run. See museumofcontemporarycraft.org for details and full schedule, including multi-day continuing-education workshops.
• Future Fashion: Design and Wearable Technology
A showcase of Cascadian designers whose work pushes the limits of technical innovation, from textile design to projects involving a body monitor bracelet and a prosthetic leg. MoCC's the Lab, 724 NW Davis, Fri May 9, 7 pm, free with registration at eventbrite.com
• Sentimental Value: Artist Talk and Writing Workshop
Brooklyn's Emily Spivack presents an archive of clothing and personal stories, Sentimental Value, followed by a workshop in which participants are invited to bring in a piece to write about. MoCC's the Lab, 724 NW Davis, Sat May 10, 1 pm, free with museum admission
• Vintage Fashion Runway Show
AlexSandra's Vintage and Tony Starlight host an array of historic looks from collections from Portland shops like Bombshell, Lodekka, and Xtabay, plus a dose of comedy. The Plant, 939 SE Alder, Fri May 30, 7 pm, $20 (includes two drink tickets)
• Prototyping Fashion's Futures
A day-long symposium delving into the possibility of the region as a hub for fashion innovation, comparable to its accomplishments in transportation, energy, and food. Speakers and panelists include Elizabeth Dye, Gretchen Jones, Prairie Underground's Davora Linder, and Portland Garment Factory. University of Oregon's White Stag Building, Light Court Commons, 70 NW Couch, Sat May 31, 9 am, $85
Photography: Chantal Anderson
Model: Keely DiPietro
Hair & Make Up: Tony Alaina of Bishops
Styling: Marjorie Skinner
Assistance: Coralie Hews
Art Direction: Justin "Scrappers" Morrison
Top and pants, Crazy Wind (crazywind.co); necklace, Barrow (etsy.com/shop/barrowpdx). Jewelry throughout provided by Backtalk (backtalkpdx.com), except where noted. Shot on location at Sand Lake Estuary and Recreation Area.
Top and pants, Mag-Big
Noniko (etsy.com/shop/noniko), provided by Mag-Big. Sunglasses, stylist's own.
Top, Alexa Stark (alexastark.com); necklace, Foxtail (foxtailjewelry.com). Sword + Fern earrings (swordandfern.com), stylist's own.
Dress, Portland Garment Factory's HouseLine (pgfhouseline.com); necklace, RillRill (rillrilljewelry.com).
Jumper gown, Portland Garment Factory's HouseLine; Kiss Me Kitty leggings (kissmekitty.com), stylist's own.