THE 2015 iteration of FashioNXT had its highs and lows, but overall it was one of the best in the event's history.
Internationally, the event reconfirmed its relationship as a venue for designers from Shenzhen, China, kicking off with a showcase of three young designers' lines: CC, With Song, and Song Hong. Closer to home, former Portland and current Seattle designer Devon Yan of Devonation wowed the audience with high drama and the week's most intriguing fabric choices. There was also ballet on the runway courtesy of Los Angeles designer Walter Mendez, and a wearable technology contest that needs work in the arena of what is—let's be real—more about live entertainment than industry.
The final half of the series was dominated by names and faces recognizable to fans of the Project Runway franchise. One of the show's biggest stars, Mondo Guerra, defied expectations by abandoning his signature use of color and print in favor of an all-white collection that seemed to serve as a creative palate cleanser for the designer. Portland's Michelle Lesniak also turned out one of the week's most well-conceived collections, a reaction to a breakup in her personal life. Lesniak's vocal in her identity as an artist who creates as a reaction to her emotional state, and her collection, "Pin Me, Pierce Me," featured tears, dramatic clusters of safety pins, an unusual haunting color palette (forest green, ochre, violet), and clothing that looked like it had been gathered by the fistful. It will be interesting to see how many of these dramatic details survive in the finished, produced clothing, but as Lesniak continues to prove, her storytelling skills in the realm of apparel are uniquely suited to the task.
An annual highlight is the Up/NXT emerging designer contest (I'm a longtime judge), which this year yielded four remarkable contestants, including Seattle's Varsha and BBD Designs, as well as Portland designers Shea Wilcox and German Madrigal, whose modern, androgynous shapes ultimately won the night. Closing things out on the final night was Vancouver, Washington's Seth Aaron working in signature graphic black and white, featuring tailoring skills that were the equivalent of a week-capping mic drop.
Judge for yourself with the photos seen here, as well as on blogtown.portlandmercury.com.