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Elegance and Edge: Fall 2012 Fashion Designers
With the last hot days of summer in our wake, Fall fashion season calls out with an eclectic preview of textures, prints, patterns, and fun. A season soon to be enveloping us in an array of creative expression, Portland’s local designers are at the head of the line for showing us what’s in store. From culturally influenced prints and silhouettes, to vintage inspired designs, 2012’s fall fashions act as an endless opportunity for unique palates to emerge, and self-expression to thrive.
Speaking truthfully to the diversity of the Northwest, we collected some of this season’s top designer lines to share in an original story of authentic variety blending together to unite as a common thread. From the runway to the street, these 5 Portland designer lines breathe new life into what it means to keep Portland fashion fresh, innovative, and always moving forward. –Jillian Rabe
Amanda Grisham – Grishley
A recent graduate of Oregon State University with degrees in Apparel Design and Merchandising Management, Amanda Grisham debuted her Pendleton-inspired line, Grishley, at last year’s Portland Fashion Week to much acclaim, winning the 2011 Emerging Designer Competition. Her Spring/Summer 2013 collection will be shown at Portland Fashion Week in October.
Tell me about the Grishley Collection. What do you hope to accomplish with the line?
Mostly the line serves as an artistic outlet for me. I don’t necessarily think of mass production when I’m doing it. Finding the blend between being very functional and approachable, but also giving people the fashion they deserve—that’s where I try to balance my designs. It very much represents who I am as an Oregonian and I definitely try to pull from our local resources.
Pendleton fabrics played a large role in your first collection. How does living in the Northwest motivate your designs?
I’ve lived in Oregon my entire life. I love being in the Northwest, I love the people. We have huge metropolitan areas and at the same time, we take pride in our rural areas. We live between high fashion and street style and that’s what our climate dictates. There’s such diversity to what it is that Oregon does, and an appreciation for quality. I’m proud to be a part of that.
Can we expect another Pendleton-focused collection for Spring/Summer 2013?
I think when the newer collection comes down the runway, it will be very recognizable that it is mine. At the same time, I learned so much through the 2011 Fashion Week experience and being in school, that I’ve really tried to boil down what I found to be effective. The newer collection is going to have a wider range of materials used, but I’m still working with Pendleton so it will be in reference to the first collection, but will also be something new. I would say it will be the same girl with a difference closet that she’s into.
Describe your line in three words.
Feminine, focused, and above that, adventurous.
What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?
I’m excited to expand my fabrics and look into different ways of expressing the Northwest without being as literal as I have been. It is an insurmountable gift that Pendleton has given me as far as fabric. Being able to use some of the highest quality fabrics on the planet has been something that has really geared me toward looking at fabrics from a different perspective and making sure that quality above all else is the most important.
Paloma Soledad – Paloma Soledad Corsets, MYTHAUS, LoPocket
Paloma Soledad knows a bit about multitasking. Soledad is currently based in San Francisco, serving as assistant costume designer on director Henry Selick’s new movie, having worked with him in Portland on his previous film, Coraline. She also has her own line of couture corsets, is collaborating with fine artist Robb Kramer on a line of hand-painted garments, and is the creator of the LoPocket, an alternative to the purse.
Tell me about your design experience. How did you get into costume design?
I didn’t go into designing right away. I went to school for photography, but when I was in school I realized it was the girls in the photos I wanted to dress. I wasn’t as interested in taking those photos. So right after college, I got a job at a costume company designing costumes. Everything I’ve learned I’ve just picked up through jobs.
You vacillate between the worlds of costume design and fashion. How do the two complement each other?
My passion is equally costume and fashion. I love getting into the mind of the character and figuring out everything about how they would think, how they would dress, how they would move—and that’s really where my passion lies. With my corsets, I lean more towards couture, one of a kind. For me, couture really verges on costuming. I’m not very interested in ready-to-wear because it doesn’t lend itself to being as creative.
MYTHAUS is your line with Robb Kramer. Can you tell more about your collaboration?
For MYTHAUS, I’ve been designing silk items and Rob has been hand painting them. We decided to collaborate because his paintings were so inspiring that we wanted to make garments like his paintings. They are very psychedelic, abstract. They inspired me to leave narrative behind and just kind of deal with pure color and movement of brushstrokes.
Aside from your corset line and MYTHAUS, you also are the creator of the LoPocket. How did you come up with the idea?
I wanted a fashion-forward, hands-free alternative to carrying a purse. Every time I had mine on, random women would freak out, wanting to know where I bought it. So in 2009, after some further encouragement from my business partner, we decided to manufacture it. They’re available at Sock Dreams in Portland.
How did living in the Northwest inspire your designs?
I really loved living in the Northwest and I’m definitely going to return. My heart lies there. It’s just the nature, the colors, and the textures. The Portland fashion scene is a very embracing, loving scene. I’m really happy to have had that experience and I hope to come back one day.
Alia Lux – Adah Lux
A third generation seamstress, Alia Lux was inspired to start Adah Lux, her women’s ready-to-wear line, after visiting family in Ghana. The Adah Lux collection is currently available online and Lux sells the collection at several Portland festivals and events as well.
How did you get started designing clothes?
I started making my own clothes when I was a teenager. I would reconstruct denim jeans into cool skirts and add other textiles to them. From there, I did custom pieces for people because they liked my clothes. And then I started going to Ghana because I had some family ties over there. I was just so inspired by all of the different textiles that I was surrounded with that I just kind of went crazy.
What influences your designs?
I’m definitely influenced by authentic culture. I like to use ethnic prints. That’s usually how I start my process. I find my textiles first, and then from those I get inspired for the pieces that come out of them.
I also definitely take feedback that I get and try to incorporate it into the line. For example, I have a lot of plus-sized women out here who have been crying for me to do a plus-sized line, so I have incorporated that into my clothing line this year.
Adah Lux provides employment opportunities for seamstresses in Ghana. Can you tell me more about that?
I go to Ghana every year and that’s where I find my fabric. In Ghana, a big part of their industry is tailors and seamstresses. A lot of the schools offer training in that, and there are so many talented people. I got together a group of women who were all seamstresses. I would make dress designs and they would basically just copy them from me. That’s how I’ve been producing my line. I’m paying living wages, and there are also a couple of other designers in Ghana that I’m helping out to build their own line as well. I would love to continue to open the door for more talented designers.
Describe your line in three words.
Worldly, classy, and chic.
What can we expect to see from Adah Lux in the future?
The first thing I’m doing for 2013 is incorporating a men’s line. I’ve had a lot of requests for men’s stuff so I’m working on that. I’ve also been drafting and working on a swimsuit line for 2013.
Seyta Selter – Duchess, Clothier
Seyta Selter was designing vintage reproduction clothing for women when she noticed that male friends and boyfriends of her female customers where just as interested in vintage designs. She decided it was time to start creating custom pieces for men too, and within a year, the focus of her shop had shifted entirely to custom and off-the-rack suits. Today, Duchess, Clothier has showrooms in Portland and San Francisco, and will be launching its first-ever seasonal inspirational line with two new suit designs this fall.
Where do you and the other ladies of Duchess get your inspiration for your suit designs?
Well, suits haven’t changed very much in the time that they’ve existed. Sometimes it’s just seeing a vintage style that is really cool and offers some inspiration that we can use as a starting point. We also have the ability to be inspired by the people we’re working with and what they’re looking for. We don’t really ever commit to a specific style or trend.
Walk me through your custom suit design process.
We start by getting you in for a two-hour appointment. We spend some time getting to know you and figuring out what’s going to work for you. We show you different photos and look at fabric selections. Then we get your measurements. Then you have a painful waiting process of eight to twelve weeks before you come back in for a fitting and we do any fine-tuning that’s needed.
How has Portland reacted to your suits?
We do a large amount of wedding suits, and in Portland, a lot of them are for men or women who don’t own any suits, so it’s also like their first grown-up outfit. They often don’t know what to expect, but then they leave really happy. We love seeing their transformation at the fitting. Watching a client put on the suit and look at themselves for the first time is really neat.
How experimental do you get with your designs? Have you had any especially unique requests?
It really just depends on the client. We do a lot of really classic suits for people looking for a go-to suit that they can wear for years to come. That’s more about the fit and the shade of fabric that’s going to look best on them. But then we also have clients who are just really going for it. They’re the ones getting custom suits because the things that they want just don’t exist. For example, earlier this year one of our clients requested a white-based, large-plaid suit for summer. I just went and looked for really cool giant, white plaid fabric. Stuff like that is really fun. We also do a lot of vintage designs because sometimes people want to get really era-specific.
Alicia Wood – Ms. Wood
After graduating from Seattle Central’s Apparel Design Program and studying at Parsons in New York, AliciaWood worked as a designer at Tommy Bahama before moving to Portland. For Wood, designing her line of Asian-inspired clothing and accessories is truly a family affair. Here, she started her Ms. Wood label with the help of her woodworker husband Ben. The duo continues to collaborate with the goal of expanding the label outside of the Northwest.
Tell me about your Ms. Wood collection. How did it come about?
I started out designing simple cotton robes with really unique Asian-style prints and kimono sleeves. We were selling those online, and any time I put out any kind of item that had a kimono sleeve but was not a robe, it would get a really good response. I decided to start steering in that direction. The idea for jewelry came about from my husband. He is a woodworker and he wanted to make something smaller and more artistic. I also couldn’t find a pair of shoes that I liked to go with my looks. I really wanted something chunky and wooden, so he offered to make a pair. It’s just been growing and evolving from there.
What inspires your designs?
I usually draw inspiration from what’s going on in my life at the time and what I really wish I had. I’ll start with that one piece that I really want in my own wardrobe and kind of build around that. And it always has the Asian twist.
How does living in the Northwest influence your line?
I like the outdoorsy vibe of the Northwest and that’s where we get our earthy undertones, with the wood and the washable fabrics. But we want to kick it up a notch and also give it a high fashion feel. That kind of takes it out of the Northwest, while still retaining some of the flavor.
What types of materials do you use in your line?
I try to use sustainable products whenever possible, so I use bamboo, organic cotton, and hemp. Ben uses reclaimed wood whenever possible for his jewelry.
Describe your line in three words.
Chic, simple, and flattering.
Do you have any favorite pieces from your Fall 2012 line?
There’s a dress called the Kokeshi dress that I wear all the time. It’s just really comfortable and flattering. It feels like a sweatshirt, but I also feel like I’m actually dressing up when I wear it, so I get the best of both worlds. And then the leather Osaka messenger bag is another one that I’m excited about.