Once the Pearl loses its luster and Nob Hill becomes over the hill, you might want to focus your eyes on that other Northwest district: the Bucket.
Never heard of it? Well, this not-quite-Pearl-District and barely Northwest swath of shopworn streets, bounded by Northwest 15th and 19th avenues, prides itself on being everything those fancy-shiny shopping districts are not. Called Slabtown for years (the funereal moniker was slapped onto this working-class area in reference to the slabwood that lined the streets in front of the area's homes during the latter part of the 19th century), as of late it has played home to slouching vets like the Mission Theatre and louche lounges like Cal-Sport and Yur's. But only after Le Happy owner (and Pink Martini manager) John Brodie chose to locate his lovely lo-fi crêperie in the fall of 2000 on Northwest 16th Avenue, in the part of town he called "the Bucket," was the underachieving nickname born.
Taking a cue from other trailblazing tenants like the Oddball Shoe Co. (the super-sized men's shoe shop moved to its current crib at 1639 NW Marshall St. in the fall of 2000, too), like-minded spirits have swarmed into the Bucket like bees into a clover field. They're mining the area for vacant garages, comparatively cheap westside studio space (ActivSpace rent-a-studio has locations on both Northwest Lovejoy and Quimby streets) and the area's deliciously down-at-heel vibe.
One such neighborhood newcomer is Jessie Whipple (graphic designer by day, and sibling to Pinball Press principal Austin Whipple). Her indie design line, Cameron, just found a home in a former art gallery on Northwest 18th Avenue. Having rechristened it the Cameron Showroom, here Whipple creates playful, '80s-inspired designs (horizontal stripes, puffed sleeves, and stretch pieces that bring to mind roller rinks and Bonne Bell lip gloss). Available for purchase in her spacious space, her blouses and dresses also show up at area boutiques like Odessa and Seaplane.
And, since opening in June, Whipple's space has played host to a handful of word-of-mouth events like Rachel Donaldson's "Zip and Sip" parties. Donaldson, a visual artist (and Aalto Lounge server), spent most of last year raking Goodwill's bins for gorgeous '80s garb. At a typical Zip and Sip event, patrons pawed the $1 pile, stocked up on metallic poly blouses or casually walked away with an Issey Miyake jacket for dimes on the dollar.
Self-anointed neighborhood anchor Le Happy has gone into the fashion game, too, and now opens its doors to restaurant trunk shows. On Thursday, Aug. 8, from 7 to 10 pm, look for a reception and sample sale by don't-call-me-a-designer Christine Alfomila Fruehling. Fruehling, who daylights as a Sowelu Theater costumer, Nike dresser, and rock-show merch maven, has somehow found enough time in her busy schedule to crochet shoulder bags and button-studded scarves from thrift-store yarn and--here's the genius--cassette tape. (Since you asked, she takes a narrow-gauge hook and feeds the unspooled tape in with the wool.) The bags, which run about $95 and can take 8 hours to make, have cheeky details--vintage buttons, shells from a dismantled necklace, furry mohair florets. The cassette technique gives them an odd durability and a pleasing, crushable crinkle. Eschewing regular retail rigamarole for more hands-on customer contact because "I like to talk to people about what I'm making," Fruehling strives for unserious artwork with a DIY, cockeyed appeal. "I try to avoid anything too hip!" she says.
Apparently, that philosophy doesn't rule out the Bucket--yet.
723 NW 18th Ave., 248-6701,
By appointment only.
1011 NW 16th Ave., 226-1258
It's That Time Again
Nordstrom Designer Preview time, that is.
6:30 pm Thursday, Aug. 8. Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Ave., 276-4296. $150 patron /
$75 general seating.