Here on MOD, we've had a few of our contributors fly the coop. One moved to San Francisco, and another's got two new jobs and plans to move to London. So! I'm looking for some fresh voices to help chronicle all the bustling activity happening in this city on the independent design and style front, because there is so much to keep track of. (Including attending and reviewing fashion shows, profiling new designers and retailers, testing products and fitness endeavors, tracking street style...)
Interested in helping out? Ideal candidates will have a strong interest in promoting local design and independent business (and at least a general indifference toward big-box retailers), good writing skills, and a critical eye. If this sounds like fun, email me a resume, some samples of your writing, and a general idea of what sorts of contributions you'd be interested in making.
I spent a chunk of the day on Friday on the city's annual media tour of what's new in downtown retail. In concert with a variety of institutions (Portland Development Commission, Portland Business Alliance, etc), there has been a big effort over the past five or so years to strengthen downtown's shopping corridors, and one of the ways that's manifested has been through annual, sponsored pop-up shops, wherein local retailers take over unoccupied retail spaces for a month or two leading up to the end of the year—even better, they tended toward concepts that sold products made locally, too. This year there weren't any pop-ups to show us (though we visited two former pop-up success stories, Crafty Wonderland and Boys Fort), but I did finally go inside City Target and learn about some interesting acquisitions coming to Pioneer Place (Kitson, Camper, Scotch & Soda).
I've always loved the pop-up tradition, but their absence this year is actually good news; downtown just doesn't have enough vacancies to justify it anymore. That said, the program is shifting focus for 2014, when the pop-ups are expected to return, but relocate to Old Town, where they'll join permanent locals like Hand Eye Supply, Compound, and Orox. As much as I'll miss the spirit of the pop-ups, the past year's boom of new shops in the area—from Japanese outdoor brand Mont Bell's recent arrival at the corner of Director Park to Nashville-based denim heads Imogene + Willie in the Black Box, to the entire crew over at Union Way—should keep you entertained, and the constant flow of new announcements for local-focused holiday shopping events should keep your access to variety pretty well unfettered.
Skip the big box bustle this Black Friday and head down to Black Magic, taking place at The Cleaners catch a carefully curated selection of Portland’s finest independent designers / shopkeeps. The gang is all here:
Sale vibes are going down Friday, November 29th from 11am-6pm. Come one, come all! More info here.
Remember a few years ago when the Design*Sponge-associated Portland Bazaar first came to Portland and a bunch of people got all freaked out and protective because it was scheduled on the same weekend as Crafty Wonderland? Ha! That was embarrassing. Anyway, in keeping with my vow to only bring special attention to the very most exciting holiday-season pop-ups, the Bazaar is worth mentioning, and noting in one's calendar device of choice:
This year it will be held December 6, 7, and 8, with the evening of the 6th (5-9 pm) doubling as a VIP preview. You can go, but you will need to pay $10 (which includes a drink ticket for a House Spirits cocktail) for the privilege of first dibs and an uncrowded shopping environment. Or you can join the hoi polloi from 9 am-4 pm on Saturday and Sunday for a mostly-local array of vendors (OLO, Bridge & Burn, Boys Fort, Pendleton... peep the whole long list here. If you are looking for that all-in-one opportunity tp cross everything off your list, this is a good one.
If you want to kick off the weekend with a little (literal) flair, stop by Grayling's new flagship store in the Bindery this evening (5-9 pm) for a grand opening celebration complete with live music by La La Pomp, a $500 jewelry shopping spree, Pendleton Whiskey cocktails, gifts with every purchase, and the debut of a new apothecary section. Some current-favorite Grayling bling things:
Here's a treasure by one of my favorite Portland poster artists, Chris Bigalke of Showdeer Presents. Per the youszh, it looks fantastic.
I'm taking poster handouts for next week. Email me!
It seemed like all of Portland's fashion set attended Content last Saturday. If you were one of the few that were unable to, here is the second half of our re-cap of the event. (You can read the first half by Toby Robboy here.)
Crazy Wind's room was quite striking. Their line is very textile based, with their silhouettes staying simple and the fabric (a Japanese textile called kasuri) being the focus, so naturally the room was full of the fabric. Some of it was hung up as flags on posts, while designer Chiyo Takahashi held a box full of small strips leftover from production that guests were invited to keep or tie onto one of the posts.
The room by TBA struck me right in my 15 year old self's heart, as it took it's inspiration from the Baz Luhrmann-directed Romeo + Juliet and included a male and a female model lounging in bed surrounded by shoes and candles.
In this week's Sold Out, there are three topics of note, all of which pertain to your old friends wool and denim. It includes a big win for Oregon's Imperial Stock Ranch (they're going to the Olympics!); the hire of Project Runway winner Gretchen Jones at Pendleton; and the arrival of neo-Americana denim company Imogene + Willie. You know, in case you wonder what's going on behind the scenes of the textiles you swaddle yourself in daily.
Cocktail attire is required, slackers, for Mabel & Zora's holiday party coming up on Thursday, December 5 (5-8 pm). For the occasion they're offering beer and champagne, chocolate, and free samples of La Mer skincare (ooh lala!). Additionally, there'll e a spend more/save more ladder-style deal that goes like this: "spend $50 and save $10, spend $100 and save $20, spend $250 and save $50!"
If you're gonna spend those dollars, you may as well do so in a way that's constructively beneficial to your local community, eh? Let's do this:
—From now until the 20th, Lille Boutique is taking 20% off their entire accessory collection, including bath/body products, jewelry, and cozy, cozy socks. Lille Boutique, 1007 E Burnside
—Danner is returning with their film The Trembling Giant, which is about hunting and the title already makes me sad, but they assure me it's not a horror show. But if you like hunting? And boots (Danner boots)? Maybe you would like this. They have two screenings going down this week. Wednesday, Nov 13 (today!) & Thursday, Nov 14, Edgefield, 2126 SW Halsey, 6:30 pm, $6-8
—This evening marks a fresh new episode of NE Fremont's Shop the Block, with discounts and trunk shows up and down the street at businesses like Shop Adorn, Gazelle, and Amenity Shoes. Wednesday, Nov 13 (today!), NE Fremont between 41st & 42nd, 4-8 pm
—In an effort to promote downtown retail (or something), mayor Charlie Hales will introduce the downtown area's new outfit for the season: "Downtown sculptures will get into the spirit with holiday-themed ugly sweaters. The sculptures will be 'yarn bombed' by a local fiber-arts collective, bringing some additional festive fun to Downtown’s shopping core." So look forward to that! An come here his official remarks if you want, during which he promises to wear an ugly sweater of his own. : / Thursday, Nov 14, Pioneer Square, 1:30 pm
—And another thing about Danner: They are releasing a collaborative collection with fellow heritage brand Woolrich, called "Old Growth," which they are launching this week with live music from the Lonesome Billies and whiskey from the Multnomah Whiskey Library. Thursday, Nov 14, Danner, 1022 W Burnside, 6 pm
—And the week continues to come up heritage: Pendleton is also launching its new Thomas Kay collection, an homage to the company's founder, with 15% off Pendleton products during the event and 5% of proceeds benefiting the Fisher House Program. Thursday, Nov 14, Lizard Lounge, 1323 NW Irving, 4 pm
—Grayling jewelry debuts as one of the new Bindery building's retail tenants, with a proper party featuring a $500 giveaway, live music, and... whiskey. Friday, Nov 15, 3115 NE Sandy, 5-9 pm
—New Vintage Beauty is holding a customer appreciation sale with up to 50% off on haircare, skincare, and other products from lines like Oribe, Kevin Murphy, and Sachajuan. Oh, and champagne. Duh. Friday, Nov 15, New Vintage Beauty, 3864 N Mississippi, 6 pm
We're about to get smacked with a storm of holiday-season shopping events, and they're all cool and virtuous indie-supportive ways to do whatever style of holiday shopping you do. However, there are simply too many of them to delve into exhaustively; I'll be posting weekly digests of what's coming up, but there are also a few standouts that have been announced that might be worth penciling into your schedule before your dance card fills up:
—The Makery's First Annual Winter Market: The Makery is a collective studio space that houses a variety of home goods-focused small manufacturers like Pigeon Toe Ceramics and Studio Olivine letterpress paper goods. They're inviting guest vendors like jewelers Demimonde, Better Late Than Never, and Betsy & Iya, apparel from Make it Good and Reif, leather goods by Sara Barner, and knits by Laura Irwin, and more—two dozen in total. Plus drinkables from Dig A Pony, Widmer, Drink Think, and Portland Roasting, food carts, DJ Bad Wizard, a photobooth, and a mobile hot tub station (!), so bring your suit. December 14 & 15, 10 am-5 pm, The Makery, 424 N Tillamook
—Give Good Gift is returning to Union/Pine, with a huge, impressive list of vendors, including AK Vintage, Backtalk, Boys Fort Branch Birdie, Fieldwork Flowers, Hand Eye Supply, Imogene + Willie, Lowell... and so. many. more. Plus refreshments from New Deal, Stumptown, the Sugar Cube, and Bunk. December 6, 6-10 pm & December 7, 10 am-3 pm, Union/Pine, 525 SE Pine
In case you really haven't been paying attention to this blog in the past two weeks or so,
Jewelry line Honeyfox used a striking black/white (read: evil/good) color palate in their room, which contrasted nicely with the turquoise, gold, and silver of their jewelry. The concept was pretty straightforward—models sitting on a bed sipping red wine in a room full of candles and rose petals—but it was put together beautifully, with a romantic, slightly haunting effect.
The Portland Garment Factory's room was another simple concept that was turned into something dramatic and memorable: With a sign on the wall stating "keep your eyes open," the room was filled with pillow cases and balloons covered in eyeballs. I can't say I 100% got what it meant in relation to the brand, but it was cool nonetheless.
Handbag line SEAECHO has made a name for itself by combining great style with a sense of whimsy. This was reflected perfectly in designer Sarah Vale Rapp's cathedral-themed room, which was dedicated to four newly invented patron saints: the Patron Saint of Puppies, of champagne, of pizza, and, of course, of Seaecho. Photos of the patron saints were plastered on the walls and on postcards for guests to take. In the middle of the bed, there was a sort of shrine featuring some of the brand's super-popular bags. As an added bonus, Rapp gave away all the candles decorating the room at the end of the night.
Finally, among the barrage of local apparel companies' flurry of seasonal lookbooks comes one just for men courtesy of Black Manufacturing:
Before Content starts tomorrow, we have one more designer to spotlight: Sarah Vale Rapp of SEAECHO. Vale launched her handbag line just last year, starting with a few simple yet super-chic bags made using Pendleton fabrics. Since then, her label's popularity has exploded, and the product selection has expanded to a wider range of prints and fabrics that still includes her trademark Pendleton wool.
A Vancouver, Washington native, Rapp was taught to sew by her mother at a young age. As she explains, "She and my father always encouraged me to draw, sew, paint and everything else a kid can do but sing... NO SINGING ALLOWED!" She adds "I am seriously tone deaf." After attending an art-focused middle and high school, she enrolled at the Art Institute of Portland, where she graduated with a degree in Apparel Design.
Rapp says she ended up launching SEAECHO "by accident, really." As she explains, "I was at the fabric store getting material for Christmas presents, and found a piece of Pendleton that was beautiful, and my husband bought it for me." She used the fabric to make herself a laptop bag, which ended up turning into a clutch. People started asking where she got it, and pretty soon "I started making bags for friends, friends of friends, and before you knew it I was sewing like crazy for some of my favorite boutiques in town."
Rapp says that "daily life dictates a lot of my inspiration." As she explains, "I have a very challenging, fun, fashion-focused day job [project manager at Solestruck] that pushes me in new directions every day. I am constantly picking up little bits from here and there, and storing them away for nights and weekends, when SEAECHO gets my attention." She adds that "I am also very curious by nature, and always end up digging a little more, a little deeper; then eventually get dropped into a rabbit hole where you never know what you will find/see/experience next."
As for what to expect from her Content installation, Rapp says "I don't even know what to expect! I am hoping all my pieces come together and that the story I'm telling translates... or at the very least I hope it's fun and people enjoy seeing a different side of SEAECHO."
It's interesting to be a journalist in a tight-knit industry like Portland's fashion scene. You get to know people, and then you hear things, and that generally works out great, but when there's a larger company involved it becomes a game of contracts and secrets, ignored confirmation requests and official announcements, and it's usually not worth risking relationships just to say "first" on a gossipy news item that most people only care about on a superficial level, if at all.
That said, Pendleton has announced that Gretchen Jones—who you may remember from her notoriously controversial Project Runway win, after which she moved to New York to make waves with her eponymous line—has returned to Portland to work for them "primarily on the company’s apparel collections." Aaaaand, that's as specific as it gets, but it raises additional questions, like the rumor that her position will include work on the brand's Portland Collection. If not, her aesthetic might lend itself to another, more contemporary line aimed at the boutique crowd (just a thought).
It appears, however, that Pendleton wants to mete out the confirmation of its secrets. We're asking for more information but for now we can definitely say that Gretchen Jones works for Pendleton.
In 2005, longtime Portland apparel designer Elizabeth Dye opened the English Dept. boutique on NW 23rd. It quickly evolved to become a groundbreaking bridal boutique that catered to the sensibilities of a modern, down-to-earth, independent bride, featuring Dye's own designs and known for its annual "A Novel Romance" bridal runway show at the head of wedding planning season. Yesterday, she posted an announcement on her Facebook wall saying that the shop "is passing to a new owner, so that I can design full time... Thank you to anyone who ever asked me to design her wedding dress. Still doing that. Keep asking."
The new owner is Liz Gross, whose Xtabay vintage clothing boutique and bridal salon boasts some of the most impressive finds in a city that loves its vintage. In a FB status update posted to her own page by an employee (FB is the new press release), it was stated that the Xtabay would now "also give contemporary bridal options at our newly acquired English Department!," suggesting that they plan to keep the current model at least somewhat intact, but I have a message out to Gross for more details on her plans.
Dye shared with me a longer statement to be released later today, which you can read after the cut, including the location of her new HQ, and a hint at designs beyond bridal.
Gee, have we mentioned that Content is happening tomorrow? I'm part of the crew that produces it, so you know what? I'm not going to say anything about it. Instead, I'll direct you toward this week's Sold Out column, guest written by Toby Robboy:
Since it was first launched in 2009, Content has evolved considerably, and designers have increasingly tapped into the possibilities that the unique format presents. As jewelry designer and perfumer Julia Barbee explains: "Last year's Content included multiple rooms that involved more than one sensory experience. Installations that have scented, edible, and auditory elements help to expand the idea of what fashion, or wearable work, really is." Designer Lindsey Reif, who's known for her line Reif (and super-popular turban headbands), adds that, "The first year none of us really knew what to expect. Over the past few years I've seen some amazingly creative installations that make me really proud to be a part of the event."
In our never-ending quest to keep inundating you with posts about Content (we wouldn't do it unless it was a really awesome event!) our next one comes to inform you about the pop-up shop that will be taking place at The Cleaners during the event itself, as well as on Sunday from 12-5 pm. The pop-up will exclusively sell wares from the designers that are participating in Content, and if you have taken a gander at the line-up you'll see that there is a very eclectic mix of mediums that these designers employ. Everything from clothing (women's and men's) to jewelry, fragrances, to home items. I dare you NOT to buy something at this thing.
Our Content Designer Spotlight series continues, and for this segment we turn our attention to Julia Barbee. Born and raised in Lake Oswego, Barbee has been a presence in the Portland design scene for over a decade. Having started out designing apparel, Barbee's interests have evolved greatly over the years, as she's shifted her focus toward jewelry, and these days, increasingly toward fragrances.
Having originally studied sculpture at Biola University in LA, Barbee started making clothing while still an undergrad, at the time "treating it more like sculpture." After she graduated and moved back to Portland, her interest in apparel continued, and she ended up launching her line "kind of more by accident than anything." As she explains, "I was sewing, and my friend mentioned Seaplane (the now-closed boutique that helped put the Portland fashion industry on the map) from when it was on Belmont." Barbee went to the boutique and showed them the collection she was working on and "they took everything, and they kind of took me under their wing and helped me learn how to design."
When she was designing apparel, Barbee drew inspiration from avant garde fashion of the sort that came from designers like Alexander McQueen. Now that she is doing fragrances, Barbee says "I'm inspired by the idea of attraction/repulsion, and pheromones." She explains that she does research online "regarding how people talk about scents, and how they represent these ideas through language and image." She adds that "I'm also personally inspired by performance artists like Ana Mendieta and Marina Abramovic, and the idea of using the human body to carry this work into culture; perfume is a powerful non-verbal communicator." As for what to expect from her installation at this year's Content show, Barbee simply says "hopefully it will smell nice."
People who say Literary Arts is old-fashioned, stuffy, and elitist are about to get taken down a notch. Or maybe they're about to be given more firepower. It's hard to tell, honestly, because at 7pm tonight at Literary Arts, Portland Poetry Press Week kicks off. Five local poets will present new poetry via reader "models," to an audience of industry professionals, journalists, and literary tastemakers.
If it sounds suspiciously like high fashion, that's by design (haha). Literary Arts says the event "will borrow from the fashion industry’s biannual showcase, Fashion Week." It's unprecedented, as far as I know, to present poetry like this: through a conduit other than the poet, to an audience of agents and publishers that seems to make readers and listeners secondary.
The poets are decidedly not stuffy, elitist, or old-fashioned. Matthew Dickman, Carl Adamshick, Britta Ameel, Zachary Schomburg, and Ashley Toliver are some of the top young poets in Portland. The readers who will be "modeling" their work haven't been announced, but that's part of the mysterious fun of this show. You have to start imagining a world where celebrities recite poetry on red carpets and frothing paparazzi ask, "Who are you reading?"
I asked Matthew Dickman for a preview of his new Winter '14 line of poetry. Since neither of us are really versed in discussing poetry in fashion terms, it got a little weird: "Um... my pieces are a mix of "obsessive list" poems that have come out of therapy and some 'Event Scores' which are pieces written to be performed by dancers, performers, and regular people."
Hey, that sounds fun! (And actually, providing Event Scores rather than easily publishable material seems like a great way to subvert the strangely commercial tone of the event.) Although, I think you're supposed to have like a muse or something in the fashion world. I guess Dickman's is his therapist.
As I understand it, there will be standing room for an audience of readers and listeners, but they do seem secondary to the industry. Or maybe Literary Arts is trying to make the industry a part of the show. It's unclear how well situated Literary Arts' tongue is in its cheek. I'll be there as the Mercury's representative in the press area to find out. Check back here tomorrow for a full report.
It promises to be an interesting night, so if you want to stand around and watch people read other people's poetry to people who might buy that poetry and later sell it to you, hit up Literary Arts tonight at 7 pm. It's free!
Newish downtown addition Mojave just released their new fall lookbook, with witchy, cutout dresses, cozy everyday sweaters, leather shorts, and a little mesh:
If this shitty grey weather is seriously bumming you out Solestruck might have just the thing to snap you out of your funk. They are teaming up with 24HRS for their next pop up shop at their flagship store that will be going through November, and the kick-off party is TONIGHT from 7-10PM. 24HRS describes themselves as "Apparel for the 22nd century Tokyo Drift RaveKids, Anti-Establishment Alien Popstars, and the disenchanted Mutant Angels of the World Wide Web," or in other words, tons of neon and bright colors. Add in Jell-O shots, alcohol soaked gummy worms, and a hula hoop contest where whoever hulas the longest gets $100 store credit and you will surely be vibrating all the way home, albeit damply.
Fade to Light founder (and Mercury contributor) Elizabeth Mollo is the definition of "on it." Her now twice-yearly fashion showcase's next installment has been announced, so sharpen your favorite calendaring utensil and mark it: February 26 at the Crystal Ballroom, 8 pm. And, the lineup:
Bad Wolf Clothier
The Ladies of Nashionland
(Clair Vintage Inpired, Carolyn Hart, Hubris Apparel)
Plan (ahead) accordingly!
The next Content Designer Spotlight focuses on Lift Label. We have been hearing a lot about Lift Label lately, most notably its showing in the FashioNXT emerging designer competition, and while Lift Label did not bring home the grand prize, the collection that was shown still made a lasting impression and was, in my opinion, one of the strongest collections of the entire week.
Lift Label designer Bobby Bonaparte basically really knows his shit. He has a strong grasp of his customer and knows how to market his brand, as is evidenced by the rising popularity of his signature Pendleton-pocketed tees and sweatshirts. Lift Label designs are driven by two things, Japanese aesthetics and the cultures of Portland and the Pacific Northwest, and of course his space at Content will reflect that. Here Bonaparte goes into detail:
LiFT's theme for room 207 is "Portland Tea Ceremony". The concept is a hybrid of the traditions of Japan and the Northwest. Some of the best feedback I received last year was that the LiFT room was a spot that people wanted to return to. So, this year I will be evolving the tradition of communal space imbibed with spirit, play and context. The size of the room lends itself perfectly to curate a sophisticated, intimate environment.
As I've evolved as a designer, I'm discovering my voice. Taking inspiration/lessons from my past, I'm creating durable pieces in minimal, original and wearable silhouettes with comfortable material.
On display will include our Jyosho Kimono (featured and sold in the Portland Design Auction by the Good Mod), an insulated vest that is half rain-proof fabric half Boro, Boro pocket tees and shirts, collaborations with Jason Rens, explorations of pants, knit hats with Pony Hair triangles and, of course, our sweatshirts with Pendleton pockets!
The pocket wall of last year is evolving into a patchwork Pendleton wall hanging. A combination of the ideas of Japanese Boro (reusing scrap material) and the storytelling aspects of Native American prints.
I've partnered again with some amazing friends to bring some of Portland's favorite energy to the room. Visitors will be treated to Stumptown coffee, vegan Missionary Chocolates and green tea from T Project. Sounds of the future courtesy of HalfDeaf.
Matt Jay and I are working on a video installation that conceptually explores LiFT's past/present/future through the combustion and manifestation. The project will transform/welcome the viewer upon arrival. Please come to LiFT LABEL's room 207 for your moment of NW Zen.
Sounds like a great place to chill out if respite is needed from the often crowded halls of Content.
If more persuasion is needed to attend Content (although at this point I feel like we must have substantially piqued your interest) watch the following video made by Bonaparte of last year's event, which features his room for much of the beginning as well as footage of many of the other rooms.
Time for another Content Designer Spotlight, this time on Liza Rietz. A veteran and pillar in the local design scene, Rietz came to Portland in 1996 to attend Lewis & Clark college. After graduation with a degree in sociology and anthropology, she wound up launching her eponymous line in 2001 and has been making waves ever since.
As a completely self-taught designer, Rietz describes her introduction to creating fashion as "a very lovely, fateful experience." She started sewing while taking care of her mother, who was sick with cancer. As she explains, "I taught myself to sew very artistic, simple skirts at first, and I brought my stuff to Seaplane back in 2002, on Belmont when that store first opened." She showed them a couple pieces she had done, and "they were like 'cool, we'll sell them.' It just kind of took off from there." Rietz notes that the timing was perfect, as the local fashion industry was just starting to burgeon. "There were a lot of fashion shows and fashion installations. I just started feverishly getting into designing."
Over the years, as Rietz's brand has grown, and her business model has evolved considerably. In the early days, while her relationship with Seaplane was growing, she began wholesaling to boutiques in Seattle and on the East Coast. Then in 2007, she stopped doing wholesale and re-branded her line by opening her own Nob Hill store front, which she has to this day. As she explains, "that was to focus primarily on clothes made-to-fit." Rietz says this decision was made to stay in line with her core vision of "keeping clothing artistic, more one-of-a-kind and smaller production scale." While Rietz's main focus continues to be on custom fit, made-to-order, she does also offer some off-the-rack pieces at her store, and notes that "the only way I'm able to do that is to have some contract sewing help."
When it comes to her design inspirations, Rietz points to Japanese design as a major one, and says "I love classic shapes that are architectural, so I like things that focus on structure and shape rather than a patterned fabric. I like a very bold color palate, like black and white." She also points to mod fashion as a design influence. As for what to expect from her Content installation: "Secret! But I will say that I am trying to stay connected to the feeling and the process I would tap into when I very first started designing, 12 years ago. My modus operandi then? Do it if it's fun and work hard in the process."
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