The most surprising thing about last Saturday's annual Art Institute fashion show? It wasn't dominated by statement pieces. In a student show, I expect looks that lean toward showmanship. Instead, this show was full of many simple, well-constructed, wearable items. The kind of looks that demonstrate not only skill, but also restraint and an understanding (and acceptance) of the retail market.
Personally, I think it takes a lot more imagination and talent to make a black bolero jacket look fresh and modern than it does to create an elaborate gown, so when someone does it, as did Janeane Marie Ceccanti, I'm impressed.
I was similarly caught by Allison Silvis' '70s-style career collection. It was fun, fresh, and relevant—there really isn't a place for power suits in the modern office, but a plum V-neck jumper paired with a ruffled blouse? Totally appropriate, especially in Portland.
Not quite as easy, but still completely wearable (by a certain kind of confident girl), was Emily Kathryn Carol's collection. A subdued neutral palette—gray, black, and brown with touches of gold—added a bit of austerity to her playful silhouettes. A little contradiction always makes things more interesting.
One of the prettiest and, judging by the amount of applause it garnered, most popular was Althee Smith's expertly detailed collection. Her fitted, soft gray trench had just enough delicate touches to make it special, without going over the top.
I was psyched that two of the designers made forays into serious outerwear. Kara Eisenbraun made warm, quilted jackets that managed to look kicky and young; David Rafn showed a glorious, glossy full-length men's raincoat that would protect one from a monsoon, let alone a Portland winter. I hope both of them stay here—this is exactly the kind of daring practicality we've been lacking.
Now, I'm not saying there weren't statement pieces, or that I didn't appreciate them. Any good show should have its share of outlandish or intellectual items. I adored the red-and-white striped ruffle-front playsuit that led Sarah Vale Rapp's excellent collection, even if it's not exactly street friendly. Similarly, I might not be able to pull off Joshua Buck's tunic coat, but I appreciate how that piece in particular brought up so many images—from Logan's Run to ancient Mesopotamia.
I wish I had room to give every student their due—honestly, this was one of the best shows I've seen in a while. Visit mod.portlandmercury.com to see photos from every collection!