I've always thought of Portland as the "final frontier" of the West Coast. Sure, that's partly because you can still smoke in bars and non-millionaires can buy homes within the city limits—but more importantly, it's because Portland is still a place where people can come in order to do things. Because the city is fresh and growing, it's attractive to people who not only have a vision, but want to get started on it right away. And even as newcomers come, old ideals of Portland remain, creating a very attractive hybrid.

One Portland hallmark is sustainability. This was recently underscored when Portland was christened the number one most sustainable city in the United States for 2006, beating out last year's leader, San Francisco.

To celebrate, Portland City Hall has been highlighting aspects of our city that have stood out as exemplary of this conscientiousness. And this Thursday, August 3rd, is Portland's fashion design community's turn to take a bow. Recognizing both the value of apparel design to the local culture and economy, and Portland's role as the de facto capital of sustainable fashion, city hall is hosting a runway show free to the public that will showcase some of our most interesting talents.

Headlining the showcase, entitled "Locally Grown," is Anna Cohen. A Portland native, it was after a relative in New York City urged her to apply to the widely respected Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) that Cohen's career began to take form. She enrolled at Portland's Art Institute to whet her appetite before matriculating at FIT, and in her third year as a student went abroad to study at the affiliated Polimoda in Italy, working with the highly respected textile factory Binicocchi, among others.

Upon graduating from FIT, Cohen took a job at Adidas, co-designing the high-end Women's Performance lines, where she studied muscles and movement, adding to her already-comprehensive education. After being eventually laid off, Cohen decided to put her own ideas into practice, producing the Anna Cohen line, which marries Italian street couture with the sustainable ideals she values, making very thoroughly considered choices in everything from fabric to shipping.

Another exciting design team that will be in the mix this Thursday is Entermodal, debuting a line of high-end leather bags that share Cohen's concern for combining sustainable products and high-minded style. The brainchild of husband-wife team LarryO. and Holly Brunk, along with fellow design partner Kari Merkl, Entermodal is the product of intense study of leather and its history. LarryO., whose previous experience is in backpack design for serious outdoorsmen, wanted to focus on targeting the urban customer, while maintaining the functionality that he brought to his previous work.

Extensive research into leather history and technique has led to Entermodal's uniqueness. For instance, the shaping of the leather around a mold—a tactic still found in saddle work, but something of a lost art in bag making.

Entermodal's dedication to susainability plays out in their choice of leather, which is vegetable tanned, and the use of dyes made without heavy metals. After extensive research, they chose to work with aluminum components because of aluminum's high-recycled content, and when possible, the bags are bolted together rather than sewed, making it easier for them to be reincarnated after their life cycle as a bag. (Thursday, August 3, City Hall, SW 4th & Jefferson, 5 pm, free)

There is another contingent of Portland fashion that shouldn't be forgotten tonight. "The Collections" will be occurring in September for the second year in a row, a loosely affiliated series of small shows by some of Portland's most interesting designers (Liza Rietz, Church + State, Elizabeth Dye, etc). So after you're done at city hall, head down to "Design Your Own Dance Party," a benefit for "The Collections," where in addition to DJs 1996 Olympics and SewWhat, the designers will be taking turns on the decks, plus a custom clothing raffle, an "I'm a Top Model" photo booth, and more chic shenanigans. (Thursday, August 3rd, Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison, 8 pm, $5-8 sliding)

The fashion never stops: marjorie@portlandmercury.com