Unlike the fashion world at large, Adam Arnold shows his collections at the crest of the season. His spring line debuts this week, immediately after which the first orders will be taken, and the looks will begin appearing on the town's better sidewalks within the month.
Of course, these days Arnold prefers to keep his shows intimate, and by invitation only. If you aren't a client or friend, you may not have received your invitation to his arena-style presentation, where he will personally introduce each piece with an explanation of his inspiration, creative process, and possible variations that clients can request (and in the ultimate nod to practical candor, prices are listed right on the program). Those not attending the show should not hesitate to call ahead to the studio and drop by to see the pieces up close; visits to Arnold's studio can be deliriously illuminating.
Always armed with a free flow of ideas to reference in his collections, Arnold namedrops a new-wave sensibility, the film Liquid Sky, dark and synthy pop, and German punk music. As is often the case with Arnold, there's a touch of rebellion to his output, and in some respects the new work is a reaction to what he started to perceive as too-ubiquitous qualities in local apparel design: delicate ruffles, muddy pastels, "cozy-comfy-chic," Victorian influences. ("It's done!" he declares.) Instead, look for prints and patterns, stripes and grids and polka dots in "brain-frying" colors in this more casual time of year (though no Adam Arnold collection is complete without exquisite suits, this time in lightweight, sheer materials).
More so than perhaps in the past, Arnold considers this season's work to be more of a departure for him; he took a hiatus in January, exploring the foreign practice of relaxation, during which he felt himself shifting, loosening up and becoming more playful. His first foray post-hiatus was a conceptual piece for a show at the Contemporary Craft Museum, followed by a guest appearance at The English Dept.'s bridal show—bridal wear being something he historically doesn't do; both were exercises in departing his comfort zone while becoming more attuned to himself. He also found a trove of old clothes he'd made for himself as a junior high school new-waver in the mid-'80s: madras plaid, corduroy, pleats, pegged pants, paisley shirts that buttoned up the back. Part homage to the picked-on, ostracized 12-year-old he was at the time, the show is also dedicated to the recently deceased grandfather Arnold remembers as a stubborn, cantankerous figure who always backed him up and encouraged him to never compromise his vision. (Adam Arnold Spring Show, Design Within Reach, 1200 NW Everett, Fri April 4, 7 pm, by invitation; Adam Arnold Studio, 727 SE Morrison, by appointment, 234-1376)
This weekend also brings the opening of a boutique that's poised to be something truly special: Frances May joins a bustling downtown scene that holds, within paces of each other, indie shopping destinations Odessa, The English Dept., and soon-to-be-opened Covet. Frances May is being opened by Pamela Baker-Miller with her grandmother Connie Codding (the store's name comes from Baker-Miller's great-grandmother). It will hold pieces from entrepreneurial lines mostly out of New York, where Baker-Miller attended Pratt and worked as a buyer, merchandiser, and gallery assistant before moving to Portland two years ago. Since her arrival, she's had stints with Anthropologie, The English Dept., PICA's Kristan Kennedy, and American Apparel. Her store will offer edgy designs from Rachel Comey, Christian Joy, Lorick, Samantha Pleet, Clu, Mooka Kinney, Laura Seymour, Ditto, Nomia, Plastic Island, and Church + State. Doors open with a don't-miss champagne reception. (Frances May opening, 1013 SW Washington, Sat April 5, 6-8 pm, free)
Rounding out the weekend is LA's Christina Scarbo, no stranger to fans of Project Runway, on which she recently appeared. She is having a trunk show of her line, Kit Pistol, at that bastion of indie design, Seaplane. In keeping with Scarbo's signature hair accessory, be there with bows on. (Seaplane, 827 NW 23rd, Sun April 6, 4-8 pm)