Origami paper ballroom dresses, 5-inch high stilettos, urban fireman couture and neck tattoos all found their way inside the high-ceilinged and unfinished warehouse space of 14 Square's Pearlized front lobby (1330 NW 14th Ave.) as tonight marked a very long day one (out of five) of Portland Fashion Week 2008
Down the river from the industrial Swan Island setting of last year's PFW, 14 Square is surrounded by industrial train tracks and freeway overpasses outside and tonight, was swathed inside with gauzy white window (eco-friendly, of course) drapes, sponsorship booths and pretty people dressed sharply in all black (and walkie talkie headsets). The pre-party kick-off reception began at 6:30 pm and within the hour, about 200 of Portland's fashion forwards were sipping Rock Star and red wine and rehashing Tuesday's presidential debate.
Dressed in a silver bolo tie, black Wranglers and cowboy boots and hat, Tod Foulk,
one of PFW's titan trio of organizers (along with Tito Chowdhry
and Christopher Cone
) was calm and attentive, giving high-fives and "How are you?'"
to all of the staff and volunteers of the event. Spotted in the crowd and filling in for her husband, Portland Mayor Tom Potter
, who was home sick, Karin Hansen
mingled with friends and Voodoo Doughnuts owner Tres Shannon
, one of our town's most loved and eclectic dressers. "I've gone to the Ebony Fashion Shows for the past several years and this is my first Portland Fashion Week show", he said as he turned to show off his hand-beaded shirt. "I think it's amusing and amazing that Portland has a fashion week. People should look pretty. It's a pretty city.
After audience members were seated (organization for which was much improved from last year's chaos), high-tempo house music conducted by DJ G-Mo faded and Mayor-elect Sam Adams
(who was wearing a tee with "Portland" etched across the front in large white letters) led a Fashion Week introduction by saying that he "wanted to make Portland the center of eco-fashion" and shouted out Leanne Marshall
, the local designer who used to go by "Leanimal" but changed it after appearing on the Season 5 of Project Runway
(Marshall kicked ass on last night's episode and is the definite front runner to win the whole thing
). He also mentioned the always fashionable Katrina Wheeler
(wife of Multnomah Chair Ted Wheeler and a bit of a fashion plate herself) she was joined by former KATU broadcaster, Julia Radlick
Following an energetic dance movement performance by Body Vox
, the runway show began. Out from behind stark white walls and through hazy multi-colored beams of light, leggy, dewy-skinned models were sent stomping down the runway, wrapped in clever couture by over twenty young local designers from Portland's Art Institute
. The students (or recent graduates) of AI undoubtedly melted Icebreaker
—the New Zealand sportswears giant and known for its usage of hand-picked Merino—who opened the runway set with barefooted models wearing bland yogi-like sports bras and stretch pants.
The AI portion was broken up into three acts - and a halftime performance an urban dance troupe Groove Nation
, a group of five high school students who popped and neck-snapped to Cassie and Janet Jackson remixes - as explained by Alanna Baker, PR for AI:
Act 1: Paper Couture
: Seven dresses made entirely out of paper products by 7 AI students, the inspiration of which came from Lia Griffith, owner of Papier Couture - who also showed her outrageously innovative paper dress line on the runway and received a standing ovation for it.
Act 2: Project Re-Fab
: The Little Black Dress; A mock "Project Runway". Nine of AI's grad students were each given one week to refashion their black satin graduation dresses into a "little black dress" vision. The dresses were scored by a panel of judges (Adam Arnold, Lisa Radon with UltraPDX, Marjorie Skinner with the Portland Mercury, Janet McIntyre and Melonie Risner who Baker told me, "is our Heidi Klum"). The winner - who incidentally was not publicly announced this evening - would be given $500 to help begin a clothing line.
Act 3: Making the grade:
A (stunning) student showcase. 20 AI students each showed three to five pieces of a Spring/Summer 2009 collection they are working on at school. The ensembles ran the gamut from tailored solid-colored satin cocktail dresses and plush purple velvet Victorian garb to corduroy pin-striped trousers and Comme des Garcons and Junta Watanabe-inspired couture from New York's recent fashion week.
Executive Producer Tod Foulk was pleased with the evening, which ended in the wee hours with an after-party at the nearby ever-so-cool Bay 13. "Tito's name is always in the papers", he denoted amicably. "I just want to make sure that this year, our volunteers get recognized and thanked too."
Tomorrow, day two of WW's wall-to-wall Fashion Week coverage
, continues with designers MEWV, In Harmony, dir Desgins, Revivall, Bon'Lou and Studio SKB. See you at the show!
for more info
Tres Shannon, Karin Hansen and friends:
Origami paper dress by Lia Griffith:
Runway paper dresses by Griffith and AI students:
AI grad students' take on the little black dress:
AI student collections:
Fashionable PDX Fashion Week attendees:
All photos by Sara Moskovitz