Field Trip: The Local Runway

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Portland Fashion Week - Souchi

Portland Fashion Week – Souchi: A model shows the latest collection from Portland’s Souchi

The bass is booming. Fuschia glows on white curtains lining the room while the smartly-dressed crowd anticipates what is coming. Jess and I sit, clutching our programs. We are about to witness our very first runway show.

In honor of our Fall fashion theme, Jess and I set out to experience something very fashion-y. Luckily for us, Portland’s Fall Fashion Week happened to be perfectly timed to our fall theme and so, not knowing what to expect, we ventured out to our very first runway last Sunday evening.
In stark contrast to the glitz and glamour of the operation, this year’s Fashion Week was staged on Portland’s industrial Swan Island. We drove up amongst cranes and shipping containers, ultimately parking under a hulking outdoor warehouse. Greeting us at the show’s entrance was this image, joining together both fashion and industry:
Portland Fashion Week Entrance
After navigating our way through heels, black, and hairspray, we snagged seats and watched the five designers’ collections proceed swiftly, one after the other. The runway music was loud and made it easy for audience members to sneak comments to their friends about each piece. As Jessica observed, the atmosphere in the room changed completely between collections. It was obvious which the audience preferred.
As someone who has watched shows like “Project Runway” and “America’s Next Top Model” for years, actually witnessing models stalking down the runway donning pieces of a cohesive collection turned me into a riveted, giddy girl.
The most nerve-wrecking step of the whole endeavor was deciding what to wear. Our solutions:
  • Jess: dark purple pencil skirt, grey sequin-collared top, black cardigan, mustard tights, and black flats.
  • Linz: dark fuschia mini-dress, black blazer, grandmother’s black beads, dark grey tights, and black flats.

Jess & Linz Runway

An artistic representation of what we wore (thanks to Polyvore)
This part gave us the most anxiety for the obvious reason of not wanting to unpleasantly stand out as the nerdy kids at a cool party, but I think it was an added pressure because I had kept wondering what kind of crowd is Portland Fashion week? Are they the type of people who might actually laugh and point if we looked out of our element, were they the type of people who would snicker behind our back or would they be too cool to even make eye contact with two ladies excited to s ee what this was all about.

It turns out Portland Fashion week is a seriously nice group of kind of relaxed people. Crazy, I know? Lindsey and I showed up late (not to be cool, but because we are always on some slower clock when together and those rich chocolate desserts we were eating before hand were very distracting). As it turns as being fashionably late to a fashion show means you are right on time. Already my kind of scene. Then the guy guiding us to park was all friendly smiles and reassuring, unlike many parking guides who seem bored and annoyed. This one actually told Lindsey he could not have parked the car better himself. My favorite friendly person of the nig ht was a 50 year old husband of one of the women who was working backstage. Lindsey thought he was a little strange and might be trying to hit on me. I think he was just giddy about the fashion show! He was shocked to learn this was our first time and was letting us know how the rest of the nights had turned out. He kept saying that it was a tough life having to go to all the fashions shows for his wife and it took me awhile to catch on he was being sarcastic and he loved it here.

For some reason I was expecting to feel very out of my element, to feel that people would look at me and think, “She knows nothing of fashion. What is she even doing here!” Instead people smiled and wer e polite, like anywhere else. It was fun to look at what people wore in the crowd, but I did not have feelings of inadequacy that can often come with products trying to be pushed by consumerism (fashion magazines, department stores, etc.). The fashion show felt more like art. This was not about who in the audience was wearing what or who you were talking to. Instead it was about what people wanted to create, what elements they wanted to use and how they wanted to display it.

As far as the c ollections go, Amelia Toro and Pendletonwere the stars of the evening. Columbian designer Amelia Toro blended the Kuna Indians’ traditional Mola technique with modern silhouettes. Each outfit featured bright colors in overall elegant, yet wearable designs.

My personal favorite was Oregon’s own Pendleton Woolen Mills. Founded in 1863, Pendleton is famous for its woolen blankets. Revealed to Shirley Bassey’s “History Repeating”, Pendleton’s fashion line was a fabulous mix of casual plaids, dressy prints, and business wear.
The oddest aspects of the night included:

  • Lenzanita’s designs composed of repurposed materials, such as scraps from a balloon manufacturer. Good idea, but some of the textiles did not fit well and required specific hand placement from models to ensure they didn’t ride up too much.
  • A plet hora of erect nipples distracting from Souchi’s knitwear.
  • Our personal favorite: a model who channeled her inner zombie, swinging her head back an forth with the best of the un-dead!

For as much anticipation we felt before the show, it was over in a strut and a flash. The whole fashion show experience was quite different from what we’ve ever experienced, but it was also a lot of fun!

Portland Fashion Week - The Finale!

Portland Fashion Week – The Finale! All of the night’s models strut their stuff in a variety of all the designers’ work.

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