Portland's fashion scene is lurching into 2009 with all the uncertainty of the rest of the world. After the unexpected snowstorms brought Portland to a virtual halt in the thick of holiday shopping, stores alternately suffered or persevered, largely depending on location and niche. For instance, Lille Boutique on East Burnside reported surprisingly good numbers after a day or two of inactivity, perhaps due to their unique inventory of chic, independent lingerie, while just down the street, relative newcomer Frank James had less luck. They, like virtually every other retail outlet, are marking merchandise way down in January and February, even more so than in normal post-holidays. Similarly, Union Rose on NE MLK sent out an email announcing a "rent" sale, including the lines to a ditty about, well, needing to make rent.
It's not surprising, then, that word of store closures is beginning to spread. Sameunderneath is shuttering their second location on NW 23rd (but maintaining the original location at 915 N Shaver). Meanwhile Imp, an underrated treasure trove of eclecticism at 1422 NE Alberta, is shutting its doors, and on the other end of that strip, Foundation Garments (2712 NE Alberta) announced that it too was closing up shop at the end of February. "It wasn't like we had to close," explained Foundation's Heidi Carlson, "but if we do now, we can get most of our initial investment back and maybe be able to use it to do something else in the future."
Carlson and her brother-in-law and partner Nate Carlson had meticulously tracked the amount of traffic coming into the store, making spreadsheets and graphs of the trends, and had already been scouting more heavily visited neighborhoods before the recession began slowing things across the board. They eventually realized that reinvesting in a new space might not be worth the gamble. Instead, items will be marked lower and lower until—hopefully—everything is gone.
Meanwhile, one solution to taking the sting out of things is tapping the support of your fellow designers. After John Blasioli vacated the retail/studio space he originally co-founded with Liza Rietz at 2305 NW Savier, she has found an exciting replacement. Emily Ryan, one of Portland's most respected and sought-after designers, is getting settled in the shop with Rietz. It makes perfect sense: The two have co-produced their fashion shows for years, and both have been vital to the definition of Portland fashion's look as early contributors to Seaplane, and have continued to evolve in quality and complexity of design. Look for an official re-opening in mid-February, and yet another revision of the store signage.