We’re in the sixth year of the beloved, semiannual Fade to Light fashion show, which will be presenting a two-day fashion event on August 21 and 22. For the Portland apparel design scene, this is the runway show to premier new collections via a creative platform that supports multimedia and performance art. Fade to Light earns its enthusiastic popularity because it is focused on giving designers an audible voice for their brands—and that adventurous and artistic element is palpable to the audience.

With its biggest lineup yet, Fade to Light has plenty of surprises in store. We will see collections from the graduating class of Portland Fashion Institute (PFI), always one of my favorite showcases of emerging talent. PFI is known for continually turning out designers who receive a comprehensive education in design, production, manufacture, and marketing for their brands.

I’m also excited to see the new collection from designer Sara Bergman. She’s been one of my favorite ready-to-wear designers in Portland for years, and every time she releases a new collection, it delivers. 

Another emerging designer debuting her first collection at Fade to Light is Holy Voids. From what I’ve seen of this line so far, it will be dark, moody, and make luscious use of textile—three of my favorite elements for fall/winter fashion. 

Additionally, the lineup will include Carolyn Hart, Linea, One Imaginary Girl, Sarah Bibb for Folly, Ale O, and the collaborative PFI Collection, designed by PFI owner Sharon Blair and operations manager (and former Physical Element owner) Jo Carter.

I caught up with producer Elizabeth Mollo to get a little more backstory behind Fade to Light and find out what she’s looking forward to. (Full disclosure: Mollo is also a contributor to the Portland Mercury’s fashion column.)

MERCURY: What’s the origin story of Fade to Light? 

MOLLO: We need to go all the way back to 2004—this was the year I co-produced the rock ’n’ roll fashion show Doom Town for the first time at the Crystal Ballroom with Erin Cry, and on the McMenamins side of producing was Jimi Biron. We did that show for a few years, and it ultimately ran its course and we ended it.

Fast-forward to the end of 2011 and Jimi asked me to come back and produce another fashion show for the Crystal Ballroom, still keeping with a kind of rock ’n’ roll theme but making it more mature. (I was in my early and mid-20s when I produced Doom Town.) My husband Greg (AKA DJ Gregarious) and I ended up at a Cut Copy show shortly after that and BOOM! The idea of Fade to Light was born. The idea was to produce a fashion show with all of the excitement, lights, and multimedia of a modern rock show, but still keep it within the confines of a runway show to display the clothing in the best way possible.

The first show, in February 2012, was fairly small. We had a raised runway with one lonely spotlight serving as the only light source. A few models later said they couldn’t see very well with a spotlight shining in their eyes, and they almost walked right off the edge of the runway! All things considered though, it was a great first show.

For the next show, in February 2013, we put the runway on the floor and added better lighting, and then we added a second show in August to make it a biannual event. The 2013 shows were when designers really started to become inspired and do creative and different things, and I think for every subsequent show designers have pushed the boundaries more and more, which I absolutely love. The crazier the better!

Are there any collections you’ll be showing that are particularly exciting to you? 

Of course I am excited about ALL of the collections! I really love to see debut collections from brand new designers, and I am excited to see what Sharon Blair and Jo Carter come up with for the PFI Collection. Their personal styles are so different, and it will be interesting to see how they meld the two together.