Between Alley 33, Fade to Light, Projections, and Modified Style, this summer has packed more local designs into a single season than ever before. In addition to stunning work from veteran Portland lines, we’re seeing extremely promising new companies. This is thanks to resources like the Portland Fashion Institute, the Art Institute of Portland’s apparel program, and Portland Apparel Lab, which are incubating and inspiring a new league of emerging designers.
This season also marks the 19th year of the Art Institute’s annual fashion show and scholarship fundraising event, which showcases the senior collections of graduates from the fashion program. The training these students are receiving and the design sensibilities they’re developing are a proud reflection of our city. There are hundreds of designers in Portland who credit AI’s fashion department director Sue Bonde with providing a foundation for their companies, and this cycle of graduates showcased more of that same talent and drive.
The show opened with a line called Arturo that was sleek, textured, and focused on beautiful style lines. The knit maxi dress with a gorgeous cowl into capelet at the neckline was my favorite.
Next we saw Nancy L. Simon, a well-known Portland designer who has taken time to rework her line—not surprisingly, it was beautiful. A blend of ready-to-wear elements with pops of avant-garde showed a range of vision, and it had everything I look for in a collection. My personal favorite was this asymmetrical tunic-and-skirt combo.
The next line was an outerwear-focused collection called Ty Sobol. The well-executed employment of tech fabrics and hardware showcased skilled attention to construction, and the looks were stylish and wearable. It was hard to pick a favorite, as they were all beautifully made and each represented a different function. I’d say this look speaks to a lot of Portland residents and the color is on point.
In the vein of activewear, KSF apparel by Kenya Sarabia Figueroa showcased a strong development in silhouette, function, and construction. My favorite look was definitely the sport jacket and leggings combo, which had a beautiful use of gathering through the princess seams on the jacket. I loved the lines it created!
A textile-driven collection, the NB line by Nanette Berg had a balance of ready-to-wear knits bumped into evening looks with leather appliqué and fringe. This fringe skirt and pink boat-neck blouse combo had the right amount of early-’90s vibes. Very wearable and stylish.
Tailored and sophisticated, designer Kelsey Schmitz showed one of my favorite lines of the night. The textile choices were tasteful, the style lines feminine and strong, and the tailored women’s suit was really sexy. I look forward to seeing big things from this designer!
My other favorite was Zongtxoujh. Some garments from this collection had an updated approach to classic separates, and the color story and textiles were super refreshing. It’s hard to pick a favorite because I loved everything, but this stunning lilac velvet flounce blouse and palazzo pants were to die for. I’ll follow up with this designer because I think she’ll go far!
I’m pleased to see another great menswear line in James Hunt apparel, with a beautiful use of tailoring, hardware, and sophisticated style lines. The textile choices also felt like a nice departure from common men’s outerwear and gave some new life to classic pieces. This beautiful white trench had the right amount of translucency. I loved this line.
Jordan Kendrick showed decadent florals and luscious jumpsuits. With a sort of resort-vibe ready-to-wear collection, we saw pieces that were retail-friendly and would probably do well in warm regions. The plunging neckline was working!
The couture line from Rosalena Winkler emerged with Victorian-inspired pieces that used luscious silk, satin, brocade, and lace. I was impressed with the bold necklines and architecture developed in these pieces. Though conceptual, they had just the right amount of grounding to make them relatable.
My favorite use of textile surely goes to the Jesse Lee line. With bold, innovative use of structure and sculptural silhouettes, Lee gave these shapes wearability with a tasteful color story and sparkle. This asymmetrical dress with structured shoulders is absolutely beautiful.