Bryan Richardson Bryan Richardson
Forget Fall and Winter. It's time to think "Spring" and take advantage of the sassy fashion that's poised to flood the city's boutiques and clubs. The Second Annual Fashion Week starts Monday, August 16, bringing a wash of style and freshness to the regular haunts of window shoppers and smart collectors--and this year, they're taking on a "garden theme" to compliment the new Spring 2005 clothing lines.

Despite her best-laid plans, the event's organizer and founder of PDX fashion incubator (PFI), Stella Farina, recently found herself in the midst of a last minute crisis. Less than three weeks before the Fashion Garden Show--the week's main event--her venue fell through. Months of planning and coordinating designers, stylists, choreographers, and models culled from every agency in town teetered on the edge of waste--until the owner of the Roseland Theater swooped in to save the day... er, week. It was a show of community support that reflects the very essence of PFI's mission, and was thus karmatically deserved.

Less than two years ago, Farina's vision of an "incubator" for local design businesses was launched. After incorporating as a non-profit, it instantly created an even stronger community of mutual support and enthusiasm. Much of PFI's offerings come in the form of education. Designers who are actively producing, consigning, and even exporting their wares can find classes in marketing and business to better strategize their careers. Enthusiasts, hobbyists, and fledgling clothiers can take advantage of hands-on training in basics like sewing and pattern making, as well. The crown jewel of PFI's program is the r*evolving showroom, which gives designers experience in running their own boutique as well as being responsible for the creation of a cohesive, effective marketing strategy--even down to design details like postcards and emails. But perhaps the greatest of PFI's achievements is unifying and strengthening an artistic community that is as thriving and worthy as Portland's vibrant music and visual arts culture.

Fashion Week simultaneously spotlights up and coming designers, and serves as PFI's main fundraising event--though access to the events can be had for as little as the cost of a good martini. And if nothing else, it doesn't cost a penny to spend an afternoon window shopping, enjoying the displays of 30 local businesses across the city who have joined in on the creative fun.

Fashion Week kicks off on Monday, with the first of three mini shows--each with its own unique sampling of designs, models, staging, and music provided by the official soundtrack man of Fashion Week, DJ Stay in School. The shows will then culminate in the Fashion Garden Show, folding all of the smaller shows into one big, comprehensive enchilada.

For the most part, the apparel, jewelry, accessories, and handbags will be street-smart and wearable, so don't go spending your clothing allowance at department stores until you've seen what the latest crop of local designs are made of. Keep an eye out for Alicia Pipin, for instance, whose simple, sleek clothing boasts what Farina describes as, "really interesting color combinations, and fun details like dresses with cutouts or skirts with a bit of bustle." LeChar's funkier style "isn't deconstructed, but it has that feel, with unfinished hems and sheer contrasting fabrics."

Also pay attention to the details, as the shows will feature plenty of one-of-a-kind jewelry from the likes of Behnaz, a line that utilizes vintage pictures and metal work that's entirely hand done, even down to the clasps. Accents of Grace, another small jewelry design company, combines wiring in long earrings and necklaces with stone, while Array Designs offers cute, slouchy hats that Farina says "you can crumple up and stuff in your bag."

In addition to the runway shows, which might wet your whistle enough to order duds directly from the designers, fashion week offers opportunities for instant gratification. Three trunk shows will cover the main bases of clothing, accessories, and shoes. Saturday's "Fashion Under the Sun" invites designers from all over the city to lay out their clothing for perusal and purchase--an unbeatable opportunity to snatch up hard to find, original pieces without having to crisscross the city or face the sizing horror of internet shopping. The accessories trunk show will be held at Dana Lynn, a boutique that features local and indie designers aplenty, and--not to be left out--a shoe trunk show at pedX Shoe Shangri-la. At this rate, you'll be able to completely regenerate your wardrobe for, oh, at least a few months, all in the space of one immensely satisfying week.

You also won't be able to go anywhere this week without noticing the window displays. Although PFI originally offered to design the storefronts for them, most proprietors were so excited by the idea, they insisted on creative control. Thus, Farina gave them the working theme "fashion garden," and asked them to interpret the phrase however they saw fit. It promises to be an eclectic reflection of diversity; Tiffany & Co, for instance, is throwing down the gauntlet big time by bringing in their award-winning window stylist based out of Seattle. On the other end of the spectrum are funky spots like the Red Light and Magpie, whose contributions to the project are expected to be over the top. "I'm kind of scared," Farina jokes.

One of the best aspects of PFI and its activities are their accessibility; to the serious, business driven designer as well as the idle admirer or hobbyist. All classes are available to members and non-members alike, and it's always a good idea to scope out the ever-rotating retail showroom: In the unlikely event you don't find the clothes you're looking for during fashion week, you might be inspired to learn how to make them yourself.

The Fashion Shows: Monday, Aug 16th, XV, 15 SW 2nd, 8 pm, $5; Wednesday, Aug 18th, Aura, 1022 W Burnside, 8 pm, $5; Friday, Aug 20th, Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison, 9 pm, $8; MAIN EVENT: Fashion Garden Show, Sunday, Aug 22nd, Roseland Theater, 8 NW 6th, 5 pm, $15 ($10 VIP lounge access), all ages, attire: garden whites

The Trunk Shows: Tuesday, Aug 17th, Dana Lynn, 720 NW 23rd, 2-6 pm; Thursday, Aug 19th, pedX Shoe Shangri-la, 5018 NE 22nd, 2-6 pm; Saturday, Aug 20th, "Fashion Under the Sun," 1600 SW 5th (parking lot)

Window displays: everywhere

For more information on PDX fashion incubator, including classes and membership, see