AT THE 2012 edition of Content (an event where designers of clothing and other stylish things are each given a room at the Ace Hotel to transform into an art installation, and which—full disclosure—I've helped produce more years than not), Kate Towers hit a home run. The idea was simple but brilliant: Towers made outfits out of a green floral-print fabric for two models, and situated them in a room that she also completely covered in the same fabric. The irresistibility of repetition won the day, and Towers' room became one of the most photographed, iconic rooms in the event's history.
Now, nearly three years later, Towers has an installation and pop-up shop called Soft Serve at Nationale, which has begun dabbling more and more in apparel-related projects (also see: the Portland Garment Factory installation earlier this year). It's in part a re-creation of the Content room, featuring a lightweight flannel cloth with hand-painted brush strokes in a muted palette. Some of the material is used as a backdrop, and the shop is hosting a (quickly dwindling) rack of garments made of the same, so that visitors to the shop can pose against the wall and recreate the concept themselves. (And if you don't feel like trying on one of the loose-cut, raw-edged jumpers or dresses, there's also a two-headed animal costume you can use with a buddy for a goofier rendition.)
At last week's opening, the pieces in the Soft Serve signature fabric were going quickly, but Towers has also included a selection of her pre-existing studio work to complement it, as well as the season—don't miss the loose, lovely simple caftans and a killer white canvas jacket before they're gone. Nationale, 3360 SE Division, through July 18
Meanwhile, if you were hoping for some history to go with your garment perusal, you are in luck. The Pittock Mansion is unveiling a new exhibit this week called Ball Gowns to Bloomers, which takes a look at what clothing from the late 1800s and early 1900s said about its wearer. Using displays of antique clothing and accessories, it will include representations of what was worn by the upper classes to denote their status (lots of fragile finery) and the working class theirs (not so much). Pittock Mansion, 3229 NW Pittock, July 18-Nov 15, $10 admission, pittockmansion.org
In retails news, Portland continues to boom, with three openings coming in the next few months: Lovely Montavilla boutique Branch Birdie has announced the opening of a second location at 820 NW 23rd in September. Le Souk Le Souk will be a "fancy" sister store to the original, and will take its inspiration from the famous souk marketplaces of Marrakech. Meanwhile, Tender Loving Empire is also hitting Nob Hill with their third location, slated to take up residence at 525 NW 23rd in August. Finally, Detroit powerhouse brand Shinola is joining the party in the West End at 415 SW 13th, due to arrive in early fall.