Walter Mendez debuted a sleek and sexy line of women's gowns at Friday night's FashioNXT designer showcase. And no other designer could touch the high bar he set as the opener.

IMG_4389Mendez, along with Project Runway winner and fellow Friday headliner Michele Lesniak, is one of the top names at Portland's Official Fashion Week—he dressed Ciara for her visit to the White House with Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. His collection was the biggest yet, filled with elegant and body-conscious mermaid gowns. He started with chartreuses, then deep emeralds, bombshell nudes and gold, Barbie doll pinks and purples and one cut-out mermaid halter that looked like liquid silver. Details stayed in the ballpark of tasteful patterning or simple, unobtrusive lacework and sequins, with most of the flourish coming from trumpeted hemlines that Mendez lined with boning so that they kept their fluted shape.

IMG_4370Though mostly playing it safe, one scandalous Grecian number in the collection made a girl in the back row throw up two Rock-on signs and a man in the front row basically drooling—we're not sure whether that was befuddlement or lust.

The other highlight of the evening was Portland native and Project Runway season 11-winner Michelle Lesniak's Pin Me, Pierce Me collection. Closing the show with her heroin chic twist on 60's-style preppiness, Lesniak's collection looked like Jackie Kennedy with a punk rock twist. Her collection of mixed plaids, sheer skirts, crumpled silks and contrasting purples and greens was mostly knee length dresses and two-piece outfits aggressively accented with gold safety pins and brooches.

Basically the opposite of Mendez's red carpet collection, Pin Me, Pierce Me was assertive, high-concept fashion. It was the most avant-garde line of the night, but completely unforced and authentic to Lesniak's inspiration—she recently suffered through a broken engagement. Her ripped trenches and off-kilter gowns excellently conveyed a sense of couture heartbreak without veering into garish melancholy.

Highlights from the rest of Friday's collections included:

South-Dakotan designer Lenzanita's windowpane patterned-dresses, tops and skirts.


UpNXT 2014 finalist Wendy Ohlendorf's sheer evening gowns.


A stunning, elaborately veiled wedding dress from Dream Dresses by P.M.N.


FashioNXT 2015 wraps up tonight with collections from Project Runway Allstars winners Mondo Guerra, Viktor Luna, and Seth Aaron.