Thursday marked the second, and most Portland-centric night of the newly conceived FASHIONxt, and with all the focus this year on former Project Runway contestants and other out-of-state designers, it was nice to see a strong line-up mostly consisting of Catapult contestants and winners from past Portland Fashion Weeks (even if show organizer Tito Chowdhury has decided to abandon the emerging designer competition going forward).
The night kicked off with a fun, well curated presentation by last year's winner, Amanda Grisham, who used Pendleton fabrics and scrap leather from Danner to create a collection that felt like The Portland Collection's more upbeat, boho sister.
I loved the cheerful color palate, and the sense playfulness that was infused into every look. My only slight critique was that because of the stiffness of wool used, some of the looser, poncho-like tops would not be flattering on many body types.
Second up was Lizz Basinger (Catapult 2011 contestant), whose vintage Western inspired collection consisted of many hand dyed pieces with pearl snaps. The whole Western theme can often feel tired and overdone, but Basinger put a fresh spin on it with sleek, wearable pieces made using men's tailoring techniques, many of which were appropriate for the office without feeling at all stuffy.
I only wish she had used a little more color, as her palate primarily consisted of black, white, grey and some blue.
Catapult 2011 contestant Mihaela Ciupei's stated desire is "to end discomfort and frustration for all women" with her swimwear line Moontess. Mihaela certainly has a strong vision as a designer, and she sent some really original, fashion-forward looks down the runway, but I wonder if some of her skimpier pieces could really end frustration with swimwear for that many women, as you kinda have to have the body of Kate Upton to pull them off.
Now I usually like to be able to say at least one nice thing about everyone I review, but the one note I wrote down for Long Beach based Raylene Designs was "ugh!!!" (underlined twice). The collection centered around a series of ill-fitting cheap looking jumpsuits, and I could actually see flaws in the stitching from my seat in the audience.
Catapult 2009 contestant Nelli Millard showed the flashiest collections of the night, beginning her segment with a white ruffled coat over a sequined blouse and satin pants.
Another highlight was the shiny silver jeans that she paired with a leopard print top.
Millard's style certainly isn't for everyone, there wasn't a lot that you'll want to wear if you don't believe "more is more is more," but I think there's a place for her Ab Fab meets The Nanny aesthetic. For the girl who loves this style and can pull it off, Millard is the designer to go to.
The final designer to show, Becky Ross, was the sole PR designer of the night, and as an Ai allumn and a Catapult 2011 contestant, she qualifies as a genuine Portland designer in my book. Ross juxtaposed hard-edged military influence with soft femininity with one of the strongest collections of the night. She paired a lot of really well-tailored jackets and tops with light, flouncy skirts, not something that's never been done, but always wearable and chic when done right.
She had some very original pieces, like a silk white dress with a canvas apron front that felt innovative but still accessible.
Ross wrapped her show up with some eveningwear, like this exquisitely crafted taffeta gown that was, in my opinion, the show-stopper of the night.
What made this collection work so well was the clarity of Ross' vision. The woman Ross is trying to dress is strong, feminine, practical and stylish, and Ross gave her a great range of looks to wear for every occasion. Designers like Becky are always needed in this industry, and I believe she's going places.