Oh, it's that time again: Project Runway is looking for its next star, with applications to
throw yourselves into the lions' den participate due by September 9. And even though I have what the beleaguered casting director calls "(ahem) mixed feelings about the show," I'll admit that when there is a local contestant it's a lovely excuse to drink too much wine on a Thursday night and exchange bitchy witticisms with the narrow population of my friends who still consent to watch it. And I have always given it props for being one of the rare instances of reality TV that showcases an actual, tangible skill. So there you are. At your own peril. Check out this motley crew currently residing on the show's home page:
Best of luck to you. I mean that.
Yo to aspiring apparel designers looking to break into the local scene: FASHIONxt is bringing back its Emerging Designers' Competition after a brief hiatus last year! (They're calling it "Up/NXT," which kind of burns my eyes, but whatever.) Say what you will about the sometimes weird Swan Island scene (I do), but there's little not to love about getting a first look at previously undiscovered talent, and the prize package is pretty sweet, especially for someone serious about pursuing a design career (in addition to showing free of charge in the always beautifully produced runway show next year, the winner gets the promise of a feature in The Oregonian, boutique representation at Anne Bocci, business consultancy, and a "state of the art computer system" from Intel).
As has been emerging as a theme, the emphasis here is on designers who are "producing a collection of apparel that is marketable." In other words, they're not looking for designers making the one-off artisanal looks... which I adore, but for these purposes we're talking size runs (but not mass production).
Open auditions are being held on Sunday, August 18 (email them to reserve a time slot by August 15) at the Courtyard Marriott (550 SW Oak), and the finalists will show on October 10. Oh and surprise! I'm one of the judges—a complete list of all the others plus submission details are hiding right behind this cut...
It always makes me a little sad to hear when an independent Portland retailer closes, but sometimes that is just the way things go. The latest is NE Alberta Street's abrahams&duffy. They explained eloquently why they decided to close:
After two amazing and wonderful years on NE Alberta Street, abrahams&duffy is closing.
This decision has been made out of love and respect - for each other, our families, our vendors, and our customers.
If the walls of 2215 NE Alberta could talk, they would tell about how the boutique started by two great friends quickly became a second home and a source of connectivity for our friends and neighbors.
Looking back, we are so proud to have held strong in our decision to support lines made domestically and/or sustainably. We strove to bring you garments that were both beautifully designed and ethically produced. We built relationships with artists, designers, tourists, grandmothers, neighbors, and the countless passersby who wandered into the shop.
To each of you who helped us make our boutique dreams come true, thank you, we loved every minute of it.
So, why close? For us, it’s simply time for a shift in priorities to accommodate growing families and new ventures. Going forward, Daisy will dedicate more time to her two daughters and event-based floral design business, Wildwood Flowers. Marissa has already returned to her food and beverage industry roots and is enjoying having weekends free to spend with her family.
The always present silver lining whenever a retailer closes is the massive sale to move out all of the merchandise, and the ladies of abrahams&duffy have supplied us with a handy little calender:
July 26th-28th - 30% off
July 29th - Closed
July 30th-Aug. 2nd - 40% off
Aug 3rd & 4th - 50% off
Aug 5th - Closed
Aug 6th-8th - 70% off
Aug 9th - Closed
Saturday, Aug 10th - Last day of business! (This is also the day of the Alberta Street Fair. Bring cash and be ready to make a deal. Everything must go!)
Discounts apply to all merchandise. Put these dates in your calender stat!
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.
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!"
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.
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.
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.
In the feast or famine world of retail we're in the middle of famine, with the long post-holiday winter slog upon us. And while the idea makes me uncomfortable, Emily Baker of Sword + Fern is opting out this year, with plans to remain shut until the end of February or thereabouts. Says Baker, "I have some fun tricks up my sleeve, YES.
Really really excited for 2013. I am turning some super hot irons and very happy about it. Store is TEMPORARILY closed from today until late ish Feb-ish March-ish first-ish. No confirmations yet. Main reason is that i am remodeling the interior of the shop in much needed ways cosmetically—mostly for efficiency of the space and to usher in a new vibe for S+F."
Phew. Baker's shop is one of the most inspired businesses in the city for accessories, home goods, apothecary, and assorted vintage finds. Sit tight and look forward to the reopening party.
The long-running Bargain Hunting 101 brought together independent retailers and vendors from Portland and beyond, who offloaded samples and limited run clothing, art supplies, gardening accessories, and more at clearance prices. Traditionally held on Super Bowl Sunday, with a summer installment to supplement, organizers Angie Heiney, Julz Nally, and Jen Neitzel announced today that they are calling it quits, with no event planned for next month. (No apparent drama, just the usual "moving in a new direction" stuff). However, they have a proposal for you:
We will no longer be running the sale, but are interested and willing to sell some of the intellectual properties of this sale and at an affordable price: this would include, our mailing list, our contacts, the business name, the website, all of the information on the site and we'd even advise others on how to run the sale- answering questions and advising along the way and more.
This sale could be a great supplemental income source for anyone, but especially for an artist or business with product, because you can generate income by selling at the sale and you can also receive revenue as a sale organizer, as well. If there's anyone out there, either a former vendor or shopper who is interested in purchasing all or parts of our intellectual properties, please let us know and then we'll let you, the public, know what we find out.
In the meantime if you're looking for a big sale featuring local retailers, the PDX Collective Sale is still going strong.
Starting the new year off with a bit of retail musical chairs: Firstly, Palace of Industry, the vintage retailer/bar on N Gay, is starting over as a bar/bar, called the Lost and Found—today is the last day of business, in fact. Meanwhile, PoI's Cristin Hinesley, along with Sara Kolp, are taking over Flutter so that Flutter founder Cindy Rokoff can focus on her newer, west side shop, Eden. And: Eden is soon to feature "Eve in Eden: A Bohemian Bridal Salon," a trove of vintage bridal gowns and accessories as well as collaborative pieces with Portland designers.
The Baltimore Fishbowl recently had an interview with Hannah Brancato and Rebecca Nagle, the women behind a Baltimore radical feminist group that put up their own consent-driven underwear campaign, cleverly disguised as the Victoria's Secret website.
Young female VS shoppers were all over social media, writing messages like "I love VSPink's new #consent line," and "Apparently VSPink doesn't have a #consentline. #disappointed." Of course, Victoria's Secret decided to "shut that whole thing down." If you'd like to request underwear from the "Love Consent" line, feel free to do so here.
The fancy fashion website Business of Fashion, called “The Economist of Fashion,” just posted a piece about the buzzworthy new shop Table of Contents, in which the reporter refers to us as a “a hub for urban American cool” (amongst other things.. will the term grunge ever go away?). I personally haven’t popped by to visit Table of Contents yet, but have heard good things from my fashion friends who have. I was quite interested to see the newcomer getting mahjor street cred on such a powerful site, and I guess other Portlanders were as well. Scope the comments sections for some sass regarding the similarities between longtime fave Stand Up Comedy and Table of Contents and read the entire article here.
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