Regardless of the dreary, wintry February landscape, the movers and shakers of Portland's apparel scene are not waiting for spring to start bustling with activity. The coming week provides a full schedule of goings on—from shows to parties to massive sales and trunk shows.
Of particular interest to anyone hearing wedding bells this year is A Novel Romance, The Sequel—the annual bridal show put on by the English Dept. (1124 SW Alder). In addition to its trove of any-day clothes, the English Dept. has established itself as the go-to for brides-to-be who dislike the gem-encrusted, puff-skirted monstrosities that typify the traditional wedding gown. Instead they offer a modern and more practical approach, carrying lines that emphasize simplicity and options that span a wide spectrum of price points. This year's show will present several such options from the store, including newcomers to the racks: Melissa Sweet, Simple Silhouettes, and Embellish, by local Terri Spaeth-Merrick, who uses eco-friendly fabrics in her designs.
The crown jewel of the event will be a section of the show dedicated to one-of-a-kind creations by some of Portland's best: Adam Arnold, Holly Stalder, Kate Towers, and the English Dept.'s co-founder Elizabeth Dye will also show bridal pieces. Expect this episode to be the showstopper—the designers are thinking about this as more of a design challenge than anything else, so the chances of imaginatively over-the-top results are high. And while Dye, Stalder, and Towers are no strangers to bridal design, Arnold has historically been coy, claiming that he doesn't do bridal (though clients have been known to casually commission occasion dresses that just happen to be in white)—seeing him attack the genre with gloves off is sure to be a treat. (Eskimo influences are rumored.)
Another interesting aspect of the show is that the English Dept. will be showing some of their non-bridal inventory, and demonstrating how pieces that were never intended to be bridal can be re-imagined as such. The concept is a logical extension of the shop's generally convention-challenging approach to bridal fashion, and a niche that maintains their distinctiveness in an increasingly populous boutique scene. (A Novel Romance: The Sequel, Maison, 1611 NW Northrup, Wed Feb 13, 7 pm)
In other doings, fashion takes its place among music, performance art, dance, and visual art at the Future Arts Festival (see My! What a Busy Week!, pg. 19). Denwave (811 E Burnside, Ste. 113), Luxury Jones (myspace.com/luxuryjonesforever), and Stand Up Comedy (811 E Burnside, Ste. 119) will all have a presence, though not in a traditional runway format. Look for installations like Denwave's Genevieve Dellinger's comment on packaging and over-packaging, in which she models transparent boxes containing dresses—themselves simple, easy fitting, and therefore theoretically easily mass-marketed—based on the IKEA system of labeling products with a simple outline drawing and listing of box's contents. Stand Up Comedy abandoned the original idea of showcasing their spring arrivals when the shipments failed to show up in time, and instead used the change of plans to their advantage. Using pieces already in-store that are more staple than season-driven, they made a video of girls, ages 6-10, modeling the oversized clothing. Addressing proportion, underscoring the line between a girl and a woman, and thumbing a bit at fashion's slave-driven march from season to season, look for the video to be projected around the space amid the festivities. (Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison, Thurs Feb 7, 9 pm, $8)
Speaking of the 811 E Burnside building, changes are afoot: Stand Up Comedy is moving into the space currently inhabited by the Grass Hut, and while Denwave is closing, its co-founder Hazel Cox is moving her studio next door in the former Moshi Moshi spot, and Holly Stalder is opening a studio space in the space being vacated by Stand Up Comedy. The musical chairs should be settled by early March—hopefully there'll be a grand opening party to celebrate the re-opening of a building whose suite-mates have made strides in blurring the distinctions between private studios, retail boutiques, and project spaces. And before shutting its doors this spring, Denwave is hosting a trunk show with Winifred Jewelry in preparation for Valentine's Day: Designer Winnie McDonald's line of double knuckle rings, snake charms, and grenade necklaces make for a good sweet-but-not-too-sweet gift. Plus grab a cupcake to see if you bite into one of the three that have jewelry pieces hidden inside. If you do, it's yours. (Denwave, 811 E Burnside, Ste. 113, Sat Feb 9, 5-7 pm)
The biggest sale of the week is the annual PDX Collective Sale, featuring a dozen choice boutiques: Bubble, Moxie, Mimi and Lena, Nolita, Parts and Labour, Physical Element, Pin Me Apparel, Le Train Bleu, Sameunderneath, Shoefly, and the English Dept. (Ace Hotel, 1022 SW Stark, Sat Feb 9, 11 am-6 pm—vendors prefer cash, but many will accept credit cards)