The Portland fashion show season is about to come to a close with two events before all the holiday commotion sets in. It’s also the time of year I like to reflect on all that’s happened within the Portland fashion community in the last few months, and compare that to what’s happened in the last few years. I produced five shows this year, including two Fade to Lights, the Unmentionable and Bodies Empowered lingerie fashion shows, and the outdoor Alley 33 Fashion Event, and from working with upwards of almost 50 designers just this year alone I have to say that Portland designers are in it to win it.
When I first started producing shows more than 13 years ago, most designers would design a collection just for the event and not necessarily sell the pieces anywhere. All that hard work for a few minutes of glory, with the pieces ending up in the back of a closet never to see the light of day again! Thankfully this is not the case anymore. Increasingly all the designers I work with will create a collection for a show, then immediately start production on most of the pieces, selling them through their own online channels and flagship stores, or through one of Portland’s many independent boutiques, thus capitalizing on the money spent and promotion from the fashion show.
Why the change? The Portland fashion industry is growing in a lot of the right ways. There are more resources available to designers, like business classes offered by the Portland Fashion Institute and community spaces like the Portland Apparel Lab. There’s also another positive component that some might not want to hear: the influx of people moving to Portland from other parts of the country is beneficial... in some ways.
Designers and shop owners who moved here after having worked at big apparel companies in places like Los Angeles and New York are applying their experiences to running successful businesses in Portland. Another component—albeit an infuriating one, and a cause for the current housing crisis—is people moving here who simply have more money. Some (not all) are rightfully choosing to spend all that extra dough on pieces from local designers and local boutiques, which of course directly benefits our Portland artists and business owners. But it can also be frustrating to those very same artists and owners who have lived here a long time and are getting priced out of the city they helped build.
Needless to say, this is a complicated problem with no easy solution and just a part of the growing pains a burgeoning city always experiences. All this said, I’m truly excited for the next phase of growth within the Portland fashion industry, a phase that will hopefully be beneficial to everyone.
Now, for those two aforementioned fashion events:
FashioNXT will close out the 2017 fashion show season with a four-day event to show Portland “what’s next in fashion.” The first day will open with the anticipated UpNXT emerging designer competition, featuring collections from five different hopefuls. The next three days will see new collections from local designers Michelle Lesniak, Myriam Marcella, MOORE, COLTY, and a 3D-printed shoe collection from Seth Aaron, as well as collections from designers from Seattle, Austin, Kansas City, and Dubai. See the complete schedule at fashionxt.net. Wed Oct 11-Sat Oct 14, doors 6 pm, seating 8 pm, 2204 N Randolph, $25-185
Acting as the bookend to 2017 are the Portland Fashion and Style Awards. In its sixth year, this event “strives to recognize exceptional local talent and showcase Portland’s unique style with a commitment to bring together the city’s creative culture to build an event of sustainability, passion, and collaboration.” Among the categories are Best Women’s Wear Designer, Best Men’s Wear Designer, Best Boutique, and Best Fashion Publication, which the Portland Mercury is also nominated for. (Full disclosure, I’m on the judging panel, and no, I can’t vote for myself. Rats.) Sun Nov 5, doors at 4:30 pm, show at 6 pm, Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park, $35-$150