Tim Gunther

Last year, the Mercury held its third annual spring fashion show. Unlike the previous two years, in which we stayed basically true to a traditional runway event, with local designers or independent boutiques presenting a series of looks on moving models, we thought the format needed some shaking up.

The sudden prevalence of runway shows in town meant that it would be difficult to go the traditional route without being repetitive. Also, as someone who attends 95 percent of said local runway shows, I was tired of the speedy glimpse one gets on the runway as a model swishes past. One has time to register the overall look, but the best pieces are those you want to see still and up close, to appreciate the detail and answer the questions raised by your fleeting impressions. Likewise, I felt that some of our most talented local designers were working in the realm of accessory design, and that it is even harder to notice the care with which these are assembled as they march on by on the runway.

What resulted from these thoughts was "Installations," a show that gave designers the chance to showcase their product, their creative and technical process, and their inspiration not only in a standard runway stroll, but in a static installation: Each designer was given a square of real estate on the floor of the Wonder Ballroom to exhibit their work as they saw fit. Jewelry and shoes could be shown as their own entity, not required to piggyback someone else's apparel design. This gave the audience a chance to mill through a temporary exhibit that featured such varied interpretations as a pillowy cloud room filled with balloon-toting models who would occasionally let loose with a banshee cry before pouring out into the audience (Diana Lang's Open Clothed); dresses imprisoned in a gilded cage with attendant butterflies (Gretchen Jones); a live model seated on a high ladder with her huge skirt falling to the floor around her (Julia Barbee's Frocky Jack Morgan); or a literal shoe tree whose components were in various states of completion (Donovan Skirvin's Ese Carnal). This culminated in a runway show of one more look from each designer's line, with the models weaving in and out of the audience before perching on raised platforms, with the intention of giving everyone in the audience a good look.

The show's participants were selected by a panel of judges, and at the event both the judges' and people's choice designers were awarded with full-page coverage in the Mercury, in addition to all of the designers being profiled in the spring fashion issue that coincides with the event. This year, the panel sees returning judges Adam Arnold and Holly Stalder, as well as last year's judges' and people's choice designers Leanne Marshall (of Leanimal) and Julia Barbee (of Frocky Jack Morgan), and myself.

I'd like to put the call out to all local designers—even those who participated last year—to submit portfolios to this year's panel. What we'd like to see is a short bio/statement of purpose, as well as photographs, material samples, and anything else that helps illuminate what your final project is and how you arrive at that result—be creative. Drawings are wonderful, but should be accompanied by a photographed example of finished work. Mail in your portfolios to the Portland Mercury, c/o Marjorie Skinner, 605 NE 21st, Ste. 200, Portland, OR, 97232. Or email them to marjorie@portlandmercury.com. Deadline is the end of February!

Once the panel of judges has selected designers to participate, you'll be asked to supply one model in one look to be photographed for the spring fashion issue, attend a rehearsal (or two), and show up the day of the event ready to set up your installation and show Portland what you can do. Remember, the show is not limited to apparel designers, and jewelry, bag, shoe, and accessory designers of all kinds are encouraged to participate—it's your chance to see your work stand alone in a fashion show environment.

Being introduced to and giving exposure to burgeoning designers, as well as debuting new inroads for people already prominent in the local industry is what makes this exercise worth repeating. Here's to the excitement in seeing what Portland's design landscape will yield in 2008.

Questions? marjorie@portlandmercury.com