by Carly J. Cais, Fashion Designers & ChicSteals blog
Although it is already five years old and known primarily for it's eco-chic focus, it's only been since 2007 that Portland Fashion Week has made the entire event earth-friendly and sustainable. From construction of the actual runway with eco-friendly materials like 100% recycled rubber balls (!), using eco-safe styling products on models, and sustainable-certified hotels for our guests, whenever possible, the city is leading by example. And unlike the $150,000 minimum to participate in New York Fashion Week, Portland keeps it low key and locally-focused, charging a much more down-to-earth $1500. As a result, up-and-coming designers can actually afford to show, infusing the usual commercial bent of most Fashion Weeks with an interesting indie element - such as eco-champion Lizzie Parker, and Project Runway winner Leanne Marshall of Leanimal, who is known for her support of sustainability and eco friendliness.
Overall, the look for Spring/Summer 2009 was about drapey tops over tailored shorts and pants, dominated by black, cream, and hot pink, accented with brightly printed breezy organic cotton dresses reminiscent of nature. Here are some of the highlights:
Standouts from this year's collections included the breezily casual printed tees, structured shorts, and surprisingly intricate crocheted tops of Sameunderneath. Opening with a vignette starring two models (including Cloudy October, pictured at top), the line was inspired by the Cuban Revolution, and gave off a distinctly travel-themed look. Shades of cream, olive, and hot pink dominated, and at the end, founder Ryan Joseph Davis Christensen walked the runway, proudly displaying his "VOTE HOPE" t-shirt. (Sameunderneath.com)
Saffrona Classics was an entire collection fashioned from a revolutionary new blended fabric developed in Germany made from wood-pulp fibers and seaweed. Vitamin- and mineral-rich, Seacell also has a microscopic silver content, rendering it antifungal, antimicrobial, and antibacterial - none of which diminish even after repeated trips through the washing machine. This fabric not only "breathes", but is lightweight and soft, which translated into flowing gowns and dresses. Since Seacell is only manufactured in black and white, to create other colors designer Sarabeth Chambers used everything from beets to Kool-Aid to impart her clothes with a bright pop of color. (Saffrona.com)
Like a mishmash of vintage and Dior, Rivivall Clothing mixed ecletic prints, lacework, plaid, Victorian flowers, and corsetry. The models dripped with pheasant feathers and draped gold chains, set off by the dusky denim blues and golden lace palette of the clothes. Paired with Western-style cowboy boots, the whole look lived up to its self-described "burlesque hilly-billy." By piecing together secondhand fabrics, designer Laura Lee Laroux produced less waste in fashioning distinctive one-of-a-kind pieces. (RevivallClothing.com)
Lucia showcased fun prints and chic workwear, while Sofada by Alice Dobson featured tailored suits, funky swimwear, and printed dresses. Seattle-based Lizzie Parker showed her line of drapey dresses and fluid bamboo jersey tops, and Idom showed cute dresses made of silk and handmade cotton lace imported from the designer's native Thailand.
A re-imagining of the Little Black Dress by the Art Institute of Portland produced an array of insightful and interesting student work; though not necessarily commercially viable, the pieces were nonetheless thought-provoking and chic. The particularly Balenciaga-esque silhouette (far left) was created from a puffy ski parka fabric (!), but somehow completely worked.
And finally, these Papier Couture dresses were fabulous, made completely out of paper - folded, cut, glued, sewn, molded - and insanely gorgeous, with touches like origami cranes decorating the hem. The dresses were shown on Day 1 of the shows, and then placed on display in the entrance foyer for the rest of the week. Read more about the line and designer Lia Griffith at Papier-Couture.com.
An interesting constraint on the designers was that the same models were being used in each show, so with no time for a full makeup redo between shows, the look had to coordinate with all the various collections. Lead Makeup Artist Sunny Fire chose to channel the 60s, with a black cat-eye, matte satin skin, and a reddish-tinted lip from Fire's eponymous line, Alima Pure, and M.A.C. (in particular, their Nourishing Lipbalm in Cranberry, and Viva Glam 1 lipstick). For one particular model who only walked in the Sameunderneath show on Day 3, Fire added a peacock feather eye to coordinate with the boho theme. All three makeup lines use recyclable containers, and Alima Pure is made from 100% certified natural minerals.
In keeping with the makeup, the hair similarly channeled the sexy 60's. To vary the look from night to night, Lead Hairstylist Eric Alan Nelson, founder of Portland-based Sidlab, relied on Sidlab's Pacifica Salt Water Spray for natural, beachy texture and a work-in spray called Chic which delivers flexible hold that can easily (and quickly) be restyled - all the while retaining "monster" body. The final day of the shows had a more L.A. rocker vibe, which Nelson matched with Ultra, a piecing paste which adds both shine and texture. Not only are all of Sidlanb's products paraben- and SLS-free, but they are recyclably packagd, and manufactured using sustainable practices. (Available at Edward Wadsworth)
For complete day-to-day coverage of Portland Fashion Week, be sure to check out the Chic Steals blog.
-Carly J. Cais
(runway photography: ThePhotographers.us; Art Institute of Portland runway - Pete Kim)
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