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I'll tell you what: My favorite dress—my absolute FAVORITE dress—was designed and made by Portland dressmaker Amelia Blakeman. I bought it over two years ago, and it still makes me feel like a million dollars. Over the years, I've seen everything this incredible designer has produced, and I watched her business grow to what it is now: a clothing company and boutique located on Alberta Street. Not surprisingly, she now owns one of the cutest dress shops in all of Portland, featuring designers like Quick Study, Carolyn Hart, Hubris, Clair Vintage Inspired, and of course, her amazing in-house line, Amelia.
I asked Amelia to tell us a little about her boutique, her clothing, and the exciting events she'll have coming up.
When did you open the boutique Amelia?
I opened my store in March of 2013. I’m coming up on my year anniversary and it’s hard to believe it’s been so long!
How did you come to open a boutique? How did you begin your career?
I’ve always been attracted to the idea of having a boutique and designing clothing, but for a long time it didn’t seem like a realistic career option for me. Despite that, for years I kept a running list of my favorite products and brands. I was always on the hunt for independent, stylish, and well made clothing and jewelry. I started screen printing and selling t-shirts in local boutiques as a teenager in Denver and continued when I moved to Oregon for college. While getting my degree in psychology I spent all my free time making clothing and selling at craft fairs (I got my sea legs, so to speak, at Crafty Wonderland back when it was at the Doug Fir).
Fast forward a few years, a cubicle job, and a stint living in Istanbul, and I found myself sewing dresses and loving it. I sold my line in a handful of Portland boutiques (who I still am so grateful to for their support!!) and worked part time on the side, like so many artists. I was actually at a little bar in west Texas during a road trip with my husband when I had the epiphany that I needed to just quit my jobs and open my own store.
What do you like about the Alberta District?
I love the small, neighborhood feeling of Alberta. I live nearby and am often hanging out on the street when I’m not at the shop. I like the quirkiness of the area, and while a lot of things have changed (and are changing) I think it still retains some of the artistic, non traditional qualities that set it apart from some of the other neighborhoods in town.
How would you describe your boutique's aesthetic?
Feminine, nostalgic and vintage inspired with a modern sensibility. I like to imagine an attic with a large wooden chest passed down from some eccentric aunt—inside are dresses, jewels, and mementos from a lifetime of adventures. I want every piece to be special, to have the potential to become the item that holds a happy memory, or to be the dress, or scent, or jewelry that makes them feel beautiful and powerful and good. I think that uniqueness and that potential are the thread that connects everything in the shop.
Can you tell us a little about your newest collection?
A lot of what I’ve got coming out right now is very light and sweet for the spring. Sheers, florals, tailored shapes, and light movement. Then, in contrast, I’ve got some darker, abstract patterns and flowing silhouettes coming mid summer and into the fall.
How big is your production team right now?
Right now there are three of us: me, Adrianna (part time seamstress and idea maker extraordinaire), and Isabel (fabulous intern and creative thinker).
Do you have any exciting events coming up?
My shop will be turning one year old in March, so I’ll definitely have a party and some fun events happening around that time. I’m also currently working on a photo project with my favorite photographer Jenny Hannah Roche (http://jennyhannahroche.com). I’ve made a handful of one of a kind garments for it and we’re collaborating with some dear friends to make some magic! The clothing I made for this is something of a departure from my usual style and it felt so good to flex my creative muscles! Sneak peeks and details will be coming soon! We’ll probably throw a party for that too!
What else should we know about your boutique?
Everything I carry is made in the U.S. My shop dog Bambi is basically a part time model and dutifully comes to work five days a week. She greets people half the day and snoozes the rest since she is basically a glamorous old lady incarnate.
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