Underneath the commercial titans Nike and Adidas, past the gleaming couture halls of Portland's numerous Project Runway winners, there lies a group of mostly younger and very hungry designers.
Some of them fall into the camp of "alternative fashion," a not always endearing term used to describe looks influenced by rock 'n' roll, punk, heavy metal and goth culture. Some are aspiring high-fashion designers, grinding away to make it to the big leagues. Some are men and women who just want to show off their clothes.
Fade to Light—a "Multidimensional Fashion Event" that mixes film, music and performance art into the traditional fashion-show structure—has been quietly showcasing some of Portland's best, lesser-known designers twice a year at the Crystal Ballroom since 2012. It's back tonight, with a showcase of eight new collections.
Following up successful shows at last fall's Fade to Light are Rogue Minx and Altar PDX, two designers who lead the charge in upscale women's streetwear. Rogue Minx's Anna-Marie Cooper infuses a delicate Southern gothic aesthetic into classic rock-'n'-roll fashion—sleeveless shirts, mesh tops and (vegan) leather bottoms—to create airy, minimalist garments that retain their cigarettes-and-beer badassery. Last year, Altar PDX's Cassie Ridgway was running hot off a line of custom-made swimwear and jewelry that used crystals, bone, silver and nature imagery to a distinctly Northwest gloom effect.
If Rogue Minx is AC/DC and Altar PDX is Bauhaus, then Laurs Kemp is Lana Del Rey. Kemp, resident designer for the new-to-downtown boutique Backtalk, brings a rainy L.A. day vibe to her boob-print crop tops and loose, floral jackets. That might mean West Daily's ultra-minimalist collection of sustainable sweatshirts, unisex jackets and T-shirts is Mac DeMarco.
If you are still squirming in your seat after watching Yeezy Season 3 for the 15th time, or want to get the lowdown on what Portland's coolest are wearing (the crowd is its own show), Fade to Light is your introduction to the city's fashion scene. Wear your nice T-shirt, the one without the hole in the armpit.
SEE IT: Fade to Light: A Multidimensional Fashion Event is at Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W Burnside St., 225-0047. 8 pm Wednesday, Feb. 24. $15-$55. All ages.