Fade to Light is quickly becoming the Portland fashion show due to the diligent showmanship offered to both audience and designers alike. Attendees are regularly swept off their feet by multimedia elements including video compositions, live bands, dancers, and other performance art installations. For designers, the show provides quality, top-notch production to elevate their brands without breaking their bank accounts. It’s mindful of the challenges the independent design scene faces while seeking to answer the critical question: What can a fashion show actually do for your brand? 

Full disclosure: Fade to Light is produced by Portland Mercury fashion contributor Elizabeth Mollo—but it should go without saying she wears so many hats because this industry is her full focus. To truly understand the Portland apparel design scene requires this degree of cross-pollination and constant hustle (which I can also attest to from my roles as fashion columnist, apparel designer, boutique owner, and fashion show producer). This last FTL felt like the culmination of all the ways Mollo has cultivated her understanding of Portland’s fashion scene. The show gets better every time, while creating a platform for designers who are really serious about showcasing their lines in an expressive manner. 

While I may be late to the party on recapping this show, these are fall collections—so it’ll give you an opportunity to seek out the designers’ lines for your seasonal inspirations. 

The show opened with print-and-sew specialists Veil & Valor, featuring the best collection I’ve ever seen from them. They always bring a gorgeous balance of graphic prints with sparkling, luscious textile, but this time, there was something about the all-over printed garments and stunning color story that hit hard. In addition to beautiful dresses with relatable silhouettes, they had a trench coat that made everyone gasp. 

Next up was Fräulein Couture, who did a stunningly versatile collection of men and women’s wear that showcased a serious adeptness with patterning, tailoring, and hardware. The garments felt like they strolled out of a rooftop party in London, each with their own memorable elements. My personal favorite was a ready-to-wear look with a sheer skirt and bell sleeve blouse in a stunning midnight blue. 

One Imaginary Girl has been a consistent showstopper. Employing continuity of textile, print story, and unapologetically vibrant color, this company doesn’t mind balancing bombastic prints with very chic, elegant silhouettes. Everything reads as wearable, even for the subdued sensibilities of the Northwestern shopper. You’d do well to follow this company and check out her boutique in Northwest. My favorite look was this fabulous splashy jumpsuit. 

Next up were the preview collections from the graduating class of the Portland Fashion Institute. From my previous articles, you can find out more about PFI and their incredible director, Sharon Blair, whose contributions to Portland’s fashion scene have become a boundless source of REAL useful information, viable business startups, and a fast track into manufacturing. Unsurprisingly, every season the graduating classes seems more innovative and interesting. I loved each of these collections for different reasons: 

Wilfred Apparel had a delicate sense of drape and popped a bold mint into their color story. 

Woodville went for a highly wearable use of knitwear with a soft color story that felt precious. 

Alton Oak had a stunningly strong command of construction as well as overall company concept: garments for women of any age. This was a crowd favorite. 

Valtinsdottir Apparel also employed garments that focused on broader age demographics. The apparel had a well-executed ’60s leisure vibe. 

Suburban Buddha purported to have mega stoner vibes, but also featured some beautiful tailoring amid the intentional pattern clashing. Really beautiful construction. 

Coming back to the runway after a brief hiatus, local household brand Carolyn Hart gave us her classic sensibilities, beautiful sewing, and sheer elegance. This is clothing for every kind of classy babe, and it always employs great fabric. 

Headlining Fade to Light in all her glory, Sonia Kasparian dropped yet another shocking collection of garments. To say this designer is in a league of her own is an understatement. Every piece is poetry. Kasparian’s designs are one of the crowning jewels of Portland’s fashion scene past, present, and future.