RIGHT UP THERE with Stumptown Coffee and surprisingly awesome summers, Souchi cashmere should be considered nothing short of a local treasure. It's only reasonable that Portland would have a soft spot for the natural fibers and luxe comfort of a versatile line of cashmere, what with the rain clouds hovering over our heads, but designer Suzi Johnson has always gone well beyond the call for sweater-and-scarf comfort. Souchi designs vary infinitely in shape, weight, color, and season. In Johnson's hands, cashmere makes sense as a bikini, leggings, hot pants, coat, and hair wrap, to name just a few of the guises in which Souchi cashmere flourishes. This week marks the official debut of the spring 2011 collection, so we tracked down Johnson for the lowdown.

MERCURY: What's new and exciting for spring?

SUZI JOHNSON: I'm excited by the 100 percent slub silk yarn by Loro Piana! Drapey silhouettes, sheer, sexy, and cool. We are known for our sweaters, so we will always be "top heavy," but this season we've added tons of tube skirts in silk, bamboo, and superfine cashmere. Also, loving the Jade Luxe Pant: slouchy, sexy silk!

What was your design strategy with this collection?

[The] design process is usually the same: What do I want to wear? I do a ton of traveling for work, lugging 100 pounds of Souchi, so I usually have to fit my personal stuff in a carry-on. So this collection was everything I need for a weeklong trip that could fit in an overnight bag. I love it.

How has Souchi evolved over the past 14 years?

When I started, things were shorter, tighter, and all about abs—it was 1997! Now, I'm 14 years older and not sporting a crop sweater. Well, I will be for fall 2011, but with layers!

What's your current approach with the Souchi flagship store?

The focus has always been Souchi pieces, but so often we're asked, "What do I wear with it?" Or you hear people outside the store saying, "That's the beautiful sweater store." Or, "That's the beautiful spendy store." Yes, we have sweaters, some things are expensive, but there are many things under $100, and even under $50! Our customers are often surprised when they find a Souchi hand-loomed sweater, machine washable, and made five miles away retailing—not on sale—for $140. Yes, they will fall in love with the eight-ply cashmere coat for $950, but that's considered an investment piece. However, so is the $140, because it's going to last you, too.

Spring 2011 trunk show Thursday, Souchi, 807 NW 23rd, 4-8 pm