These are exciting times for those of us who've been advocating support of localized apparel production. As mentioned last week, the May 2 City Club of Portland is taking as its focus "Moving Fashion Forward in Portland."

Portland is home to an abundance of boutiques, designers, and 5 Project Runway winners. Since we are home to hot designers, why aren’t we cool enough to keep them around? A panel of voices in from fashion, investment and economic development will discuss Portland’s fashion scene, and leave us with innovative solutions to put Portland higher on the fashion map—for our closet and local fashion industry.

Barriers to a feasible career in regional apparel production have been a topic of concern among designers, shops, and their patrons for well over a decade, as business models have been reinvented and innovative small-batch production houses have risen up to meet some of the demand, but there's not much in the way of institutional support for this industry; there's only so much independent designers (most of whom are quite far from getting rich off the endeavor) can do without a leg up. How that shakes out or who steps up is anyone's guess—maybe it's city or state government, maybe it's one of the outdoor-wear giants who at once keep the strongest foothold in the industry at large while keeping themselves almost wholly isolated from the un-corporatized efforts of their neighbors.

Any which way, it's heartening to see attention being given to a movement that I've long been convinced deserves it, and while panelists include a variety of industry professionals, perhaps the most hope is being pinned on Seth Friedermann, Director of Designer Relations at Manufacture New York, which "is a hybrid fashion incubator and factory dedicated to providing independent fashion designers with the resources and skills to streamline their process, from concept to customer." We locals have been knocking around ideas for ages, but I'm most excited to hear a fresh POV from someone knowledgeable and looking at our situation from an outside, objective perspective.

This of course dovetails with the opening of the huge "Fashioning Cascadia" exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Craft debuting on May 9 and running through October 11, as well as our own 10th annual Open Season series of local fashion shows (May 12-14), making next month maybe the biggest one I've ever seen for Portland's fashion industry yet.

A lookbook image from Mag-Big, featured in both the MoCC exhibit and Open Season.
  • Mag-Big
  • A lookbook image from Mag-Big, featured in both the MoCC exhibit and Open Season.