The second night of Portland Fashion Week (Friday) was the most lively of the trio, with a somewhat needlessly stated emphasis on "ready to wear." As previously stated, the production levels of these shows was nice, but at this point we're out of the student category and the quality of designs varied pretty wildly from awful to (overwhelmingly) okay, with just a few shining moments.
But first, the evening opened with a Bollywood dance number that made sense if you knew that earlier that afternoon an importer of Indian fashions had contributed to the bridal/wedding showcase. Even if it was a little rando, it was kind of goofy to see the male models who had been enlisted for the task. (The one in the middle seemed to be particularly enjoying it.)
Seattle designer Kate Mensah opened the show with some strong leather pieces, but the momentum got wobbly from there, with some shlumpy dresses and awkward styling. Her strong suit certainly seems to be in outerwear, with some good wool pieces mixed in too, but most of the rest of the pieces in the collection were forgettable.
As a completely different change of pace, Mensah was followed by the loud, clubby designs of local Hello Eliza, all neon and sheer fabrics and outrageousness. The neo-raver vibe seems a little Solestruck-lookbook circa last year, but you could pick these looks apart to find individual pieces that work; the head-to-toe ensembles were, at least, a good display of showmanship (the sheer back of a dress certainly got a reaction). One cool detail is that all of the shoes were hand painted in loud colors. Footwear consistency is something rarely seen in local fashion presentations, and it was a nice, polished touch.
Stepping to one fantasy to another came Nelli Millard, who over the years has demonstrated herself to be a skilled dressmaker with a rich imagination, but she still does not seem to have harnessed her talents into something cohesive. Her looks veered wildly from quiet, unremarkable day looks to over-the-top ballgowns that are almost Trekkie... which might be cool if the material was a little richer, but as it stands it's hard to imagine who this is being designed for and where they might go.
PFW—whose new director, Jessica Kane, is fairly well known plus-size fashion writer (she created SKORCH Magazine)—made a point to scatter some subtly plus-size models into the mix throughout the shows, but Youtheary Khmer was the only dedicated plus size designer. Designer Theary Sim is plus-size herself (and a former model), so it was surprising to see a preponderance of thin, clingy jersey material that let show every dimple and pantyline from the five-or-so feet away I was sitting. Those that did flow around the body tended toward fusty draping and ruffling that in many cases lost the women's shape completely. Plus-size womenswear is a market that could certainly use some attention and innovation, and while these may look fine from the front, and at a bit of distance, this collection only served to underscore that need.
Brady Lange brought up the rear with his nicely tailored casualwear for men and women, this time in a palette that borrowed from the recent craze for combining camo with neon. At first glance in a runway setting it's kind of underwhelming, but it's packed with the kind of well-made everyday pieces that you'd wear on constant rotation (including the camo maxi dress).