It's just an idea at this point, really, but Crispin Argento (designer of PINO and networker/idea man/talker/doer extraordinaire) just might be on to something. Long an advocate and agitator for sustainable reform in the apparel industry—the only consumer sector without a clear path into the future, ironically—Argento has been floating the idea of something he calls The Cascadia Sustainable Apparel Initiative. Basically, it would unite the Pacific Northwest's three major cities (Vancouver, Seattle, Portland) with a semiannual sustainable fashion week and, ideally, a joint education program for design students specifically interested in sustainable innovation in apparel design (which our region is already kicking ass at in an athletic/performance context).
Unlike every other major consumer sector, there is no clear road map for apparel to transition into the future. It's not that nothing is changing—it is, but it's decentralized. Given the size of the talent pool in the three major Cascadian cities combined, and their governments' and communities' commitments to sustainable achievements, Argento makes the argument that we should assert and invest ourselves as a destination for this movement.
"There's no global home for sustainable fashion," he says, likening it to New York as a capital of high fashion and Tokyo as the standard-bearer of street fashion. The Pacific Northwest boasts companies like Lululemon, Nike, Adidas, and Columbia Sportswear, who are already leading the innovations that fashion needs—they're just doing it in the context of athletic and performance wear.
Read the whole thing here.
I was a little bummed when Red Cap—the queer bar across the street from the Ace/Clyde Common—went out of business, and I didn't blink an eye when Aura slipped permanently into my well of unconsciousness. Now that both are gone, it's been officially revealed (-ish) what will be taking its place: Union Way is set to be a compound of shopping, eating and drinking that will either certify the West End of downtown's crushing dominance or be the breaking point at which it becomes clear that this city can't support our own grand ambition. Either way, this description is pretty exciting:
Portland calls for a new kind of shopping experience. Its climate and culture lead us to an urban indoor/outdoor space for eating, drinking, and shopping. Union Way finds its origins in the streets and alleyways of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and serves as a counterpoint to the typical urban retail block or the suburban festival marketplace. The public promenade draws people through the building, which is bookended by Powell’s Books, a major retail destination and The Ace Hotel, an iconic contemporary hotel. Union Way houses a collection of carefully curated shops and restaurants providing an authentic and unique shopping experience while adding energy and momentum to the West End neighborhood. Since the Alley is a private walkway through the block, new types of ways to eat, drink and shop will emerge and end in an exciting symbiosis between merchants and their customers.
The photos published in the Daily Journal of Commerce help paint a picture of what the finalized space will look like and at least one of the restaurants involved, Micah Camden's Boxer Ramen, has been confirmed. As for retail, the unconfirmed rumor has it that Steven Alan is coming to town, but I'll believe it when I see it (or when they respond to my emails, which they so far have not). Another clue: Steven Alan is one of only 11 things that Union Way "likes" on Facebook. Yep. If that indicates what I think it does you might also want to keep an eye on Bridgeport vegan restaurant Morso and San Francisco clothing store Self Edge, since everything else on their "like" list already exists in the surrounding neighborhood.
Sad news: R.A.W. Textiles, a longtimer in the Portland design scene, will no longer be producing lingerie. Things aren't all bad, though. R.A.W. will continue to produce hand-dyed textiles, the focus of this being on custom yardage and accessories and creating patterns for sale and licensing. R.A.W. will also continue to release collections, with the upcoming Fall/Winter collection featuring scarves and two styles of shawls.
And of course the silver lining in all of this is a huge sale to clear out inventory hosted at the R.A.W. Textiles showroom May 9-11 from noon-5 pm. There will be deep price cuts on their one-of-a-kind pieces and samples from the 2009-2012 collections. For those who can’t wait until May 9 there is an online preview sale starting today where you can save on specially selected items in their e-store.
So maybe my excitement led me to get a little out of hand with the subject tags of this post, but that's only because Sword + Fern—the gem of a shop helmed by Emily Baker, who makes jewelry but also stocks local apothecary, art, clothing, vintage nicknacks, books, and more—just keeps becoming a better and more rounded nexus of all these things.
After closing for a few months for renovations, Sword + Fern will be back in the First Friday swing of it this week, debuting the first in their new series of curatorial collaborations/art installations, "DISCOVERe'verer," with Plane/Air, to be followed by a roster of participants that includes Claudia Meza, Anna Korte, Helmy Membreno, Valentine Freeman, and more. Plus they've just announced that S+F will be the pickup spot for produce from Thistle Top Farm, and a forthcoming clothing line collaboration with Portland Garment Factory(!!). Swing by this Friday from 6-9 for a look at the reconfigured space and a high five for Baker's expanded venture.
The new Portland Fashion Week—not the one that former producer Tito Chowdhury built up before starting his own FASHIONxt alternative event, but a new beast being helmed by original founder Tod Foulk and his new partners (yes this is all terribly confusing indeed)—has finally announced its location.
Its website has long touted that it was bringing PFW back to the heart of the city "where it belongs"—presumably a dig at the previous incarnation and FASHIONxt's longtime home on the shipyards. For a while the talk was that it would be located somewhere on the waterfront, but today the announced that it will be... at the convention center, where, as a certain colleague put it, "fun goes to die." Burn! But really, if they dress it up enough, this could be okay. It certainly is in the heart of the city, positioned near the confluence of its quadrants.
All in all, though, PFW 2.0 is still a mystery. The application process to show at the event is still open, so it's anybody's guess whose talent is actually going to be showcased. PFWs of the past sometimes struggled to fill its time slots with qualified designers, bringing down overall standards of curatorial quality control, and now that, with FASHIONxt and PFW, there are two large fall fashion events, it raises the question of how many good designers there will be to go around. It may help that PFW is not charging designers a production fee. They are also inviting retailers to participate, which—while my pride in Portland retail is well documented—seems a less vital thing to showcase. Either way, the proof will be in the pudding.
If you swung by the 811 E Burnside hub over the weekend, you may have noticed something different. Multidisciplinary designer/artist/perfumer/performer Julia Barbee's tiny studio/shop had its last day on Saturday, a move Barbee describes as "a quick decision."
The closure comes hot on the heels of an artist's residency at the Sou'wester Lodge on the southern Washington coast, where, among other things, she developed a signature room fragrance for them. Now that she's back she's still active as always, if a little less accessible than I prefer. Her hidden little shop was always a reliably fascinating jumble of sculpture, eccentrically selected vintage, crystals, and mind blowingly unique designs.
Luckily she's not holing up entirely, though. "I'm going to be treating the Portland Flea like a pop-up shop once a month (third Sundays), and I have spaces in Stars & Splendid and also in Monticello Antique mall in Montavilla," she says. "I'm selling jewelry and perfume through Haunt and Backtalk, and I have jewelry at Demimonde also. I'll keep updates about designs online and Instagram, (julia_barbee) and I'll certainly let you know if/when I open a new location of my own!"
After months—months!—of teasing, that charmed swath of SW Portland that even people who call it by its new name usually use air quotes, the West End, has gotten another get. Bridge & Burn is finally ready for the big reveal of its first brick 'n' mortar store at 1122 SW Morrison, throwing a party this Friday from 6-10 pm, going so far as to have their own beer brewed for the occasion: Deschutes Brewery's “Bridge Burner IPA.” They'll also be debuting the spring '13 line, offering 10% off retail sales and DJ Hostile Tapeover will be on the tape decks, too. Plus 10% of purchases at the shop on Friday and Saturday will go to The Right Brain Initiative.
H&M recently published its sustainability report, and more importantly, its supplier list, in an attempt to be more transparent and negate the negative press it has received. Highlights from the sustainability report include that H&M is the first fashion company to collect and recycle clothing from any brand in any condition, they are the world's number one user of organic cotton, they saved 450 million liters of water by applying water-saving production techniques, and their use of recycled polyester in 2012 rescued 7.9 million plastic bottles from ending up in landfills. They are also working to raise wages in factories in Bangladesh, as well as teach sustainability practices to the factories they work with. This is all fine and good, but they are still clearly lacking in humane treatment of their workers, as shown in the Unconscious Collapses from Clean Clothes Campaign, highlighting that workers in H&M's Asian factories often faint from malnourishment due to poverty wages.
I like that H&M is at least trying to be more socially responsible, but it seems they are more focused on the environmental aspect than the human aspect, which should both be paid equal attention, NOW. With the company making over 2 billion Euros in 2012, I think they can afford to pay their factory workers living wages, even if their prices have to go up just a little. Again, I applaud their transparency, but until factory standards improve, I will continue to not shop there.
Awhile back I mentioned Portland Made, a collaboration between Supportland and ADX that Supportland's Katrina Scotto di Carlo described to me as an "ecosystem" for products manufactured in Portland. It finally launched yesterday. The official lowdown:
Portland Made is a collective of Portland-based designers, manufacturers, and local goods retailers. We connect consumers to high quality, locally made goods and designers to Portland-area contract manufacturers who can fabricate their products.
Portland Made’s aim is to promote grassroots job creation, by the people and for the people. By collecting and sharing knowledge and resources, we’ll build the local manufacturing base, create more local manufacturing jobs, and help export Portland Made goods to the world.
The public-facing website, www.portlandmade.com, features written and video profiles of Portland makers (designers who craft in wood, metal, leather, and other materials), the contract manufacturers who produce their designs, and the retailers who carry their goods. The site’s members-only portal allows participants in Portland’s manufacturing economy to network, collaborate, and discuss issues of design, production, and business development.
Sounds promising, and it will be interesting to see how well this is embraced, especially by maker members. I like the idea of a centralized online source for local products, but versions of the concept have been done before and the networking/resource tool for members seems like more of a concept that's currently missing. Regardless, I'm very intrigued—Supportland and ADX don't fuck around. If you are too, you're invited to the Portland Made official launch party scheduled for April 18 (7-10) at ADX, replete with introductory remarks by Mayor Charlie Hales and State Representative Jules Bailey, DJ Leftovers food from Salt, Fire & Time, beer by F.H. Steinbart Co., and Merit Badge on cocktail duty with—of course—liquor from local distillers.
Oh! And a video:
There's been a hole in Portland's boutique world while Emily Baker's Sword + Fern—beloved by natives and tourists for its intelligent jumble of unique jewelry, small home goods, locally produced apothecary, and assorted treasures—has been closed for renovations. There's still about a month to go before the doors re-open, but today Baker is launching a new web site with expanded e-commerce capabilities, and has also announced a monthly art event, curiously titled "DISCOVERe'verer."
Perhaps taking a lead from 811 E Burnside neighbor Nationale, which routinely blurs the line between shop and art space, DISCOVERe'verer will launch "a blend of guest curating and art installation" by a selected artist every First Friday, to remain up through the month. Her list of committed participants is pretty baller; another reason to anticipate the re-opening later this month:
—Claudia Meza, Musician/Composer (Stay Calm, ex-Explode Into Colors)
—Anna Korte, AK VIntage
—Jason Rens, Supermaker
—Kati Von Lehman, PLANE/Air
—Jen Oleson, ex-booker for Valentine's, AIKA music curator
—Helmy Membreno, PICA
—Valentine Freeman, Ace Hotel Creative Director/Blogger
Not long ago there was speculation that Anna Wintour—the editor of American Vogue and probably the most widely recognizable person in the fashion world—might become the president's ambassador to the UK (where she is originally from). That didn't quite pan out, but her new gig, announced last night, is arguably even more influential. Conde Nast created her the position of Creative Director for the entire company (that's not only Vogue but Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, GQ, so many more) in order to prevent her from ditching the company. Basically virtually any mainstream glossy you pick up will bear her influence, which is kind of awesome. I'm not a big fan of American Vogue (it's boring), but Wintour is a genius (some might say an evil one), and it certainly is successful. It will be interesting to see how her power plays out across the CN catalog. This could be a cush way to pad out her path to retirement, or it could signal a sea change. Then again, Wintour has already basically set the tone for the modern lifestyle magazine, so it could also end up being business as usual. After having read her biography and watching the excellent September Issue, though, I'm gonna bet that kicking back isn't on the agenda.
Physical Element has moved just a few blocks from it's former location to a new roomier space at 416 NW 12th Avenue in the Pearl District. Check out their new digs, and while you're at it check out the new collections for Spring from Isabel de Pedro, Bobkova, Trippen shoes, Desigual, Elsewhere Amsterdam, and jewelry from Melle Finelli and Iris Guy.
West End District shop Alder & Co. is moving, but don’t worry they will only be a ½ block down the street! Currently situated in a small space next to Gruner, Alder & Co. has outgrown their location and opted for brand new space just around the corner at 616 SW 12th Ave. With the resurgence of interest and new businesses on that block (Tasty N’ Alder, Bridge & Burn, etc.) It’s super exciting to see the West End become a true destination for tourists and locals alike. Alder & Co. will be throwing a fabulous grand re-opening party with details to be announced.
Yesterday the HQ of Fashion's Night Out—a global event founded in 2009 by Vogue editor Anna Wintour in order to bolster flagging retail sales in the wake of the economic crash—announced it was shuttering, or at least on hiatus, until further notice "in order to enable retailers to channel their resources towards strategies more in keeping with their current priorities," (read: becoming more trouble than it's worth) saying that the event will still take place in some of its locations outside the US. Portland had been participating in FNO since 2010, with retail happenings and runway shows in Director Park. I've got a call in to Lisa Frisch of the Portland Business Alliance to find out what this means for plans in Portland this year, but it's very likely that, if there is a retail-related happening in the works, it will be flying under a different flag.
Alright, I finally caved and decided to take on the responsibility of a second Twitter feed outside of my personal one (baby Twitters being somewhat like rambunctious young puppies, requiring a certain degree of supervision) just for MOD. This way you won't have to look for your local style-related news in between photos of my pet cats and late-night musings. Just straight, unadulterated daily updates on all the sales, fashion shows, store openings, and lookbooks, and gossip you could need, plus live commentary from the shows and the streets. Follow @MercuryFashion, and fly on, little birdie.
Failing government entity United States Postal Service has just released a statement saying it has signed a licensing deal with Cleveland-based apparel company Wahconah Group, Inc. to produce a line of clothing aptly titled “Rain Heat & Snow” to be launched in 2014. This is fresh off the heels of their other most recent statement stating that they will no longer be delivering mail on Saturdays. The line will include "wearable electronics", like a control built into a sleeve that will control your iPod, as well as all-weather, all-season clothing ranging from headgear, footwear, jackets, coats and shirts. Right now the line is just for men, but they hope to eventually include a line for women. What do we think about this? Is it just a ploy for the USPS to make money, or do they really have a good concept going here? After all, USPS uniforms do have to stand up to the elements. I am really not so sure if people will want USPS logos all over themselves though, we'll just have to wait and see how this turns out.
With the recent news of Blackbird closing its doors, we were sad to hear neighboring shop Dunderdon is moving out as well. Specializing in high-end menswear, outdoorsy type gear, small goods, and a small run of women's clothing, Dunderdon was a great addition to the ever expanding West End shopping district. I chatted with store manager Jessie DeSue yesterday, who told me Dunderdon's last day will be March 31st—or when all of the merchandise is gone. Stop by to save with 50-70% off current items. No official word on who will be filling Dunderdon's space, but I have spied Reveille's peeps workin' hard to get their new home ready.
Here's what longtime sales associate Philippe Bronchtein had to say about the situation:
It's sad to see the store close due to such unfortunate circumstances. There was a really special and enthusiastic community that evolved around our shop and the design of the clothes seemed to lend themselves particularly well to the city of Portland. It's been a joy working for Dunderdon and I'll miss standing beneath that awesome Corey Arnold print every weekend.
As for the future tenent of the Blackbox space, it's rumored that Portland's own Poler is set to take over. With remaining neighbors Tanner Goods, Yo Vintage!, and Solestruck, only time will tell how the new kids in Blackbox shake out.
Even though I am not a straight edge vegan like I was in high school, I have remained a staunch supporter of using beauty products that are not tested on animals and make a conscious effort to put my money where my mouth is. Recently Europe, who has always been on the forefront regarding these types of issues, has stated that they will be banning the sale of animal tested cosmetic products and ingredients on March 11th, 2013. This comes has a huge victory for animal rights advocates everywhere, and hopefully they will set an example and other countries will soon follow suit. One country that will be harder to crack will be China, however, as they actually require animal testing on all of their products, even ones that are manufactured in other countries. While there are some Chinese scientists who are taking steps to remove this requirement, setting up ethical regulations in China in general is pretty hard (remember the fire that no one noticed for three hours because their air quality is so bad?).
In the meantime, we can make sure to buy products from companies that don't test on animals, and write to the companies that do and state you are boycotting them until they change their ways. For a comprehensive list of companies that do and don't test on animals click here.
Alas, you can't win them, and when the Portland location of Seattle men's clothing stalwart Blackbird quietly closed its doors at the end of December, it chipped away at what has been a recent (and arguably overdue) surge in men's-focused boutiques. It also freed up a spot in the primo Black Box building, which perfectly straddles the downtown/West End and Pearl District shopping districts, so it's no surprise that there's already a new neighbor moving in: Reveille! I think this is a great move for the store, whose mix of serious vintage and chic lines like Opening Ceremony and Alice by Temperley was perhaps a little too cool for NW 23rd. (Plus if their customers follow them down the road, they might sprinkle a little more of that West Hills money on the rest of their Black Box brethren.) Many times I've been asked by visitors from out of town where else they should check out while standing in places like Frances May or Yo Vintage!, and Reveille is always the one I mention that isn't wildly convenient. Happily, that's about to change, with move-in slated for mid-February. Huzzah.
It's always heartening to see people working in different areas of design in Portland join forces, and there seems to be some promise in the air of that happening with increasing frequency thanks to energizing forces like Design Week Portland. I'm mostly stumping for the apparel/jewelry crowd here, who seems to have less muscle behind them in terms of community organizing and networking than, say, the legion of sundry "creatives" filling the offices of agencies throughout the city, but are their natural brethren.
The latest coupling is a collaboration between branding/design firm OMFG Co. and apparel company Bridge & Burn. The full collection is set to drop "soon," but OMFG Co. dropped a few sneak peeks on their blog yesterday.
I'm going to make the assumption that everything worn here is part of the collaboration, which means a foray into shop gear in the form of Fritz's apron, which should be a hit with the ADX crowd (Is it just me or is shop gear having kind of a moment? PINO x Hand-Eye Supply, anyone?), but the other sneak photo provided is in familiar Bridge & Burn territory: a button up:
In the latest "WTF???" news, Dolce & Gabbana has just released a new fragrance, and the intended customer is not even able to walk yet. Baby perfume? REALLY?!?! I thought that designer baby clothes were dumb, but this one takes the cake. Anyone who buys this is an asshole and they don't deserve to be that rich. Not only is buying baby perfume a complete waste of money, why would anyone want to cover up the magnificent smell of a baby? Yes, they do tend to emit less than favorable odors, but the solution is as easy as changing a diaper or giving the baby a bath, after which the naturally fresh baby scent is restored. PLUS, the scent is actually supposed to mimic the smell of baby. So, they are trying to cover up the natural scent of an infant with an artificial version of the scent of an infant? This makes no sense. I guess it's just another case of companies coming up with stupid luxury items that they know stupid rich people will buy.
This week in Sold Out, I tackle the sticky icky situation that the name "Portland Fashion Week" is in. It's under new management, which, curiously, is the old management. It's complicated. Portland Fashion Week has made the news in other countries, and to any reasonable outsider that name should by all rights represent the best of what this town's disproportionately active, ground breakingly progressive, economically relevant, attention-deserving apparel industry has to offer. And let's just say that I fear it may not.
That is all.
You are probably already familiar with Supportland (if not you can read up here—don't skip the comments, which both raise and answer questions that didn't make it into the main article). Up until now it has largely functioned as a local business-specific rewards card, but its potential has always held more. In the next few months the first phase of Portland Made will launch, a joint effort between Supportland and ADX, who aim to create what Supportland's Katrina Scotto di Carlo describes as an "ecosystem" for products manufactured in Portland, from clothing to beer to mattresses and beyond. This will take shape at first in small ways: a new edition of the Supportland card branded with the Portland Made logo, a search function on the Supportland site that allows users to find businesses that sell locally produced products, small business-building workshops and classes, and so forth. But ultimately there are goals like creating a collective online shopping site where users can shop locally made products, see which stores have them, and buy it from the location of their choosing. Even better, and something that Supportland already does with its retail clients, is the ability to create metrics, which really don't exist for micro-manufacturers. As Scotto di Carlo points out, in the political world you can't get anywhere without numbers to back you up. By generating useful numbers (read: accountable job creation), Portland Made will have the power to begin political lobbying on behalf of the wide but relatively disparate community of small manufacturers.
I'll be keeping a close eye on this as it develops because it's pretty damn exciting, so stay tuned for more as things roll out.
We saw it coming, but now it's official: Michelle Lesniak Franklin of Garnish Apparel's team and her own Michelle Is Well line (which debuted at the 2011 Portland Fashion Week as part of the Emerging Designers Competition—I was a judge and she was one of the lead contenders to win), will be one of the Season 11 contestants on Project Runway, which debuts January 24 on Lifetime.
Yet again the show's producers have wound up with someone whose work I have seen but am not intimately familiar with, and a relatively unknown name among Portland's industry watchers. As bullshitty-at-best and destructive-at-worst as I think this show is, I have to admit I'm kind of looking forward to this. Maybe I'm getting soft, but it's a guilty pleasure that I and my one friend who still watches it have come to enjoy when we have the excuse of a local contestant, kinda like eating Cheetos—but only on road trips. In the meantime, you can brush up on her here, with Q&As and videos like this one:
I don't supposed they'll let her bring the jogging chihuahua, though. :(
Remember how last year Portland Fashion Week re-branded itself as FASHIONxt? And how everyone everyone kept forgetting and calling it PFW anyway and/or mispronouncing it as "Fashion X.T." instead of the intended "Fashion Next" because creative spelling and capitalization ruin everything? Well shit just got even more confusing. Ye olde Portland Fashion Week has risen from the grave,
sold [Correction: No money was exchanged. into the hands that brought you highly questionable events such as the Portland Fashion and Style Awards. This makes me... a little consterned.
PFW has had a rough go of it. Helmed primarily by Tito Chowdhury, he's faced a long, uphill battle to gain the trust of Portland designers, who seemed to perceive him as coming out of nowhere with a proposal that they spend hundreds of dollars to participate in his slick, professionally produced shows. And while some of them were never in the game for that sort of thing, a measure of peace has been achieved over the past years, with PFW and now FASHIONxt finding the designers who see the value in it. It's never been perfect, of course, and many still regard it with suspicion and distaste, but it's finding its groove.
Now that PFW has been sold into new management—including Tod Foulk of Semper Fashion, who was involved in the early incarnations of PFW, along with plus size style blogger Jessica Kane and Saffrona designer Sarabeth Chambers, both of whom appear to be more closely associated with Vancouver than Portland—there will essentially be two PFWs fishing out of the same shallow pool of talented Portland designers interested in participating. This is not good for quality. According to the site PFW is preparing for a five-day affair (Sept 25-29), and assuming FASHIONxt maintains itself at four nights, that's a grand total of nine days. To understate things, that's spreading it too thin.
Now maybe I'm paranoid, but I maintain my position that anyone involved in Portland's fashion industry should be concerned about PFW. To an outsider looking in, it appears by virtue of title and prominence to be the standard bearer of what's happening in the city. Obviously it's more complicated than that, but the fact remains that it's representing you, us… the entire metro area, arguably. And this comes right on the heels of a Time magazine shout out that placed Portland's fashion week atop a list of non-NYC fashion weeks. In fact all the progress PFW made with the outside press was included in the
purchase price restructuring.
So please be careful with what you do with it, PFW 2.0. Please.
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