Michelle Lesniak JEFF WONG

On a recent swelteringly hot Saturday afternoon I found myself in a fancy house high in the West Hills for the debut of Michelle Lesniak’s Thornebird—a capsule collection designed as a fundraiser for dance company White Bird. The collection was based, as Lesniak described it, “on the story of a bird that searches its entire life to find the perfect thorn. Once the thorn is found it impales itself on the thorn and sings the most beautiful song ever heard.” As I chatted with Lesniak before the presentation started she said, “This is the prettiest work I have ever done. It’s art, not fashion. It’s my best collection.” As someone who has seen every single collection she has ever done, this statement definitely piqued my interest. Needless to say, my hopes were sky-high.

After Lesniak described the inspiration and process for this collection, the show started with a hauntingly beautiful electric guitar solo played by Lesniak’s husband Seth Montfort, who composed the music for this event. One by one, models made their way through the packed house, stopping intermittently at strategically placed risers where they posed and performed interpretive dance movements. The palette of the collection was comprised of white, black, and yellow, and the fabrics included spacer and scuba. Lesniak is no stranger to safety pins—most notably used in the “Pin Me / Pierce Me” collection from 2015—but Thornebird took it to a whole new level. Over 16,000 safety pins were used, taking the forms of both birds and thorns, winding and soaring their way across the fabric. Another major design element: Each piece was air-brushed, then hand-painted with abstract, monochromatic images of birds and thorns—techniques Lesniak employed for the first time with this collection. Silhouettes were kept simple, ranging from straight to trapeze, making the pieces wearable for a number of different sizes.

I agree with Lesniak that the collection is very artistic—but it’s also extremely wearable. Each piece would easily be the best in the room at a cocktail party or upscale event. I also can’t say whether it’s her best collection, because it’s really hard to compare. Lesniak’s collections are so emotionally driven and inspired by radically different things, they stand alone and are hard to qualify. I will say the collection was insanely beautiful and she really outdid herself, as she does with all of her collections. I can’t wait for Thornebird to be set free in the real world, because anyone who gets any of this collection will truly own a piece of wearable art.

And now, a summer fashion show!

The Alley 33 Fashion Event, an annual runway show in the heart of the historic SE Hawthorne district, will move locations to a much bigger spot in the parking lot of the East Portland Eagles Lodge. The outdoor runway show will feature 19 ready-to-wear designers including MOORE, One Imaginary Girl, EcoVibe Apparel, Copper Union, and the triumphant return of Alyson Clair, who has been absent from the fashion show circuit for a couple of years. Clair recently re-branded her line from Clair Vintage Inspired, and when asked about the change she said, “2016 was a year that I went through some major life changes and cut loose a bunch of dead weight.”

“I never liked the name of the line,” she continued, “and had been planning a re-brand/launch for a while now. The Alyson Clair line has more refined looks, and is strongly piece-based. Some old favorites will still be at the heart of the line, and the fit is something that will remain consistent.”

Along with the new venue, Alley 33 will feature over 20 vendors, many of them designers who are in the show, so you can literally shop the runway. (Full disclosure: I co-produce this event with fellow Mercury contributor Cassie Ridgway.)

East Portland Eagles Lodge 3256, 4904 SE Hawthorne, Sun July 30, 4:30 pm, $8-$15, all ages