Photos by Jeff Wong

I love February—not for the weather, but for all the fashion weeks (Milan, London, New York, and Paris). Locally we don’t get a week, but we do get one great night of entertainment at Fade to Light: a multidimensional fashion show where designers are challenged to create a video to go along with the theme of their collection or brand. It has since grown into a platform where the designers are always trying to out-do themselves. And really it’s Portland’s greatest fashion show—for its quality, yes, but also because it’s not stuffy. It’s true to Portland in that way.

First up: Liza Rietz and the budding talents of the Portland Fashion Institute. Students of the “Innovative Design Class” were challenged to explore fabric manipulation techniques to design a single look for the runway. There were some beautiful surprises, like a mauve chiffon dress with flounces cascading from the sleeves to the floor, and a pale-blue dress with methodical tucks and pleats that gave easy movement.

Altar Houseline (curated by the Mercury’s own Cassie Ridgway) was all about the knit dresses—as in 11 out of a 14-look collection. It seemed like Altar sent out its best sellers, which is fine for a lookbook, but for a fashion show you need variety. Knowing this brand very well, I would’ve liked to have seen more risk, as was demonstrated in early February’s Unmentionable fashion show. However, the dresses did highlight the amazing jewelry designs; exaggerated black leather tassels and chain necklaces that made for chic statement pieces.

One Imaginary Girl

Never one to shy away from lively prints and color combinations, One Imaginary Girl calls upon designs of the past. I guarantee designer Sarah Donofrio loves to rifle through vintage stores and old Vogues for inspiration. One minute there were metallic shift dresses and bomber jackets, the next, a power clash of mod prints and extra-large resin earrings. I especially loved the yellow dress with bishop sleeves and matching socks. Though the color palette was all over the place, Donofrio successfully pulled the collection together though silhouette and styling. One criticism: The video needed to pair with collection. The video depicted Donofrio “imagining” the collection, then sketching. This was information we could have guessed on our own, and a missed opportunity to tie the clothing to the brand.

Easily one of the most memorable collections of the night, Moirai garments were effortlessly draped in luxurious fabrics and creative silhouettes. I loved the juxtaposition of the dolman-sleeved tops with soft voluminous tulle skirts. The drapery was exquisite and relaxed; it just fell from the body in knots and pleats. Elements that would normally work against each other found harmony.

When Sarah Bibb for Folly hit the runway, I was thrilled to see lots of color, but at times it was a punch in the face. The collection had more great moments than bad—like the wide-leg pants with a matching hot pink easy-fit T-shirt—but there were two offenders I can’t get out of my mind: the white-cropped bloomer pants with matching top, and florescent pink and green dress. The bloomers looked like the model was wearing 19th century underwear in heels, while the dress gave your eyes no safe place to rest.

Colty

Fräulein Couture’s collection had some fun ideas, but lacked an editing eye and modern touch. When it comes to styling, the hair and makeup was worthy of the Oregon State Fair (butterflies and all). The fabric combinations felt heavy, leaning a bit on the costume side. Mostly I saw the growing pains of a new designer who has ideas, but isn’t sure how to refine them.

That said, I don’t know if any of the designers could’ve come close to what COLTY gave the Fade to Light crowd. The video collaboration with local music artist ESO.XO.SUPREME was like Blow meets Suicide Squad, with sex, drugs, and cash. As the video ended, ESO.XO.SUPREME walked onto the runway performing the original song in a pink leather moto-jacket emblazoned with the COLTY logo. The collection had a playful bondage theme, equipped with leather tassels, body harnesses, and muzzles (everything one needs for a light spanking). My favorite moment was the model strapped into a COLTY harness, carrying a model wearing a full-body latex mermaid bondage suit. The collection was cohesive, provided a strong viewpoint, and the performance aspect was fun as well, providing surprise after surprise.

It’s impossible not to be proud of our local talent, and I encourage you all to catch the next Fade to Light (coming in August).