I know it’s only October, but this time of year is when the 2016 Portland fashion season basically comes to an end—so instead of waiting until the end of the year to reflect on things, I’m choosing to reflect now before all the holiday bullshit starts. (So smart!)


This year saw many strides in the Portland fashion community. I’m pretty sure there were more fashion events than ever this year. (And as an event coordinator, I should know, right?) With many of the events continuing on for their third, fourth, or even fifth year, production values have improved and things are more polished overall. We’ve seen many new boutiques and talented designers come on to the scene. Of course, you can’t have a conversation about local fashion growing and evolving without also talking about development and change in Portland as a whole. You’d think that with all these new people (and their money) flooding into town, our fashion scene would be benefiting—but that’s not necessarily the case.

Every year we see boutiques shutting down, as Mabel & Zora and Physical Element’s will this year. In both instances these businesses are throwing in the towel by choice rather than necessity, but one can’t help but think that maybe their decisions were partly influenced by changes happening within this city. Mabel & Zora, which has been in business for over 10 years, owner Tiffany Bean decided to close shop to focus on her eponymous clothing line. From her announcement: “Designing a clothing line is something I’ve done on the side for many years, and I’m so excited to finally be taking it on full time! So, as I feel sad saying goodbye to my sweet little boutique, I’m so excited and optimistic about what the future holds for the Tiffany Bean label.” The shop’s official last day is October 31 and all inventory is discounted—but be alert! They might close earlier if smart shoppers snap up all their merchandise. (Hint, hint.)


Physical Element owner Jo Carter also has solid reasons for closing her boutique after nearly 14 years. “I do feel that independent retail in Portland is in danger,” she says. “The industry is in turmoil, and at the rate rents are rising, the city will be pricing out the small, unique boutiques. And with online shopping habits growing, it’s a perfect storm that could see the demise of our eclectic scene. Luckily, my closure is a choice. Something else is capturing my passion and I’m so excited to pursue it.” Physical Element’s last day will be November 27.

So we’re kind of in a bittersweet moment right now. Portland is growing and changing along with the city’s fashion—but we need to manage that growth and change in a responsible way to make sure we don’t abandon the people and businesses that made Portland such a desirable place to live in the first place. If they all disappear, we’ll end up living in a city that none of us recognize. (There’s something BIG currently in the works that will illustrate this possibility, but that’s as much as I can say right now. Stay tuned.)


With that, there are not many fashion events to write about at this point, since everyone is saving their energy for the aforementioned holiday bullshit. But there is one event that goes along with the end of fashion season, and that’s the Portland Fashion and Style Awards. In its fifth year, this event, according to its promoters, “strives to recognize exceptional local talent and showcase Portland’s unique style with a commitment to bring together the city’s creative culture to build an event of sustainability, passion, and collaboration.” Among the categories are Best Women’s Wear Designer, Best Men’s Wear Designer, Best Boutique, and Best Fashion Publisher, for which the Portland Mercury has been nominated and is the People’s Choice nominee to boot. (Yay, us!) This event is a great way to end the 2016 season, as well as to honor those who have done exceptional work this year. (Full disclosure, I’m on the judging panel, and therefore not allowed to vote in any category for which I’m nominated or involved. )

There are way more events this month, so as always be sure to visit our fashion events page for complete weekly style event updates. Got a fashion event? Drop us a line at