THIS THURSDAY, July 29, at 9 pm, Portland will once again take a turn on reality design show Project Runway. Gretchen Jones (MothLove) is the fourth such contestant (last season's winner Seth Aaron Henderson is technically from Vancouver, but we give him a pass), but you won't see her throwing any viewing parties around town. In fact, she says she's probably not even going to watch it. (Is that a bad sign?)
Having flown back to Portland just a week before the premiere episode, when I spoke to Jones she seemed tired but reflective. "And I'm completely broke," she said, admitting that as of September she's leaving Portland to stay with family while she regroups and decompresses after the show, and formulates her strategy—and the girl's always had good strategy. Jones rose fairly quickly to prominence on the Portland apparel scene with increasingly focused collections based on principles of sustainability in design as well as production and material. Her last two collections offered sometimes lingerie-inspired pieces that could easily integrate into the wardrobes of women in a wide range of ages and personalities—though the styling in her recent presentations has had a distinct point of view.
"I think what really surprised me is how I was able to adapt," she says of coping with the show's bizarre challenges that one can imagine were at odds with the clean lines and quiet beauty of Jones' recent work. "Obviously I couldn't maintain my practice of having everything be sustainable, but I was able to apply my philosophy." The upcoming season is also a landmark because Lifetime has decided to extend episode lengths from an hour to 90 minutes. Jones couldn't decipher how the extra time would be used, but said she hoped it would allow the audience to get to know the designers better. For much of Portland, though, hello will be goodbye.
"Sometimes dreaming big means having to let go of some of the things you love. You just have to think of the greater good. And that doesn't mean I won't be back," Jones says of her impending relocation, emphasizing the love and pride she has for Portland, which she credits for shaping her into the designer she is today. Still, it's more likely she'll follow past Portland contestant Leanne Marshall to New York once she's on her feet, rather than returning here.
Jones is also leaving behind Content, the event she originally founded and conceived, stepping down on both an organizational level and demurring to participate, citing the degree to which she's going to be wrapped up in her contractual obligations to the show. Could one of those obligations be a runway collection for New York? We'll all have to tune in to see.