By Charity Heller.
Photo: Ann Akre by James Borst
Portland style: We celebrate style here, as elsewhere, for looking forward and looking back, for making statements and being comfortable, for being original and paying homage. And above all, for letting our selves shine through.
And what that shining says about us.
Coming up on October 26, the Portland Fashion and Style Awards caps off a series of Stumptown-centric style events, including Portland Fashion Week (September 12-14) and FashioNXT (October 9-12).
The Portland Fashion and Style Awards (PFSA) is a one-day annual awards show, now in its second year. PFSA has a panel of judges who curate a best-of selection of designers; boutiques; male female, and plus models; fashion, wardrobe and make-up stylists; accessory designers; women’s and men’s wear designers; and men’s and women’s evening wear designers—plus a fabulous gala at the end. It’s an homage to the thriving local industry, an opportunity to recognize the best of our own fashion leaders—and strut our unique style down the catwalk of the national arena.
PFSA is the brainchild of Ann Akre, aesthetician and owner of the beautiful and avant-garde Venus Allure Salon and Spa at 811 SE Belmont. She moved to Portland several years ago, experienced the temporary disorientation many transplants do, and wanted to connect.
“I got lucky,” she explains. “I met people in the industry who welcomed me. It can be very competitive, but people helped me. And I like the idea of helping pull the community together.”
The awards themselves are selected by a panel of industry-insider judges—in addition to a popular-vote nominee in each of the fourteen categories.
She describes exporting Portland style and bringing PFSA to Seattle, to LA, some day.
“Fashion is about expressing the beautiful individual in ourselves,” she says. “And we have so many different cultural and individual people in Portland, and we all contribute to that. We look at other styles, other individuals, and we piece those all together. We all take little pieces of beauty from each other, play with it, make it our own.”
Ann’s own Venus Allure is a beautiful high-end spa, with a winding staircase, all glass and sleek marble. She is pleased by the amount of glitter and glam that showed up on the red carpet in 2012—and the seriousness of our industry that the sophisticated reception represents. (She nevertheless insists that the actual pieces on the runway will reflect a decidedly non-glittery, more accessible Belle Époque of Portland.)
A few blocks to the south, Cassie Ridgway—designer and owner of Mag-Big, a boutique on 32nd and Hawthorne and contestant in PSFA’s awards queue—also envisions an inevitable Belle Époque of fashion and surrounding culture in Portland. Mag-Big’s space is draped with bold and delicate, new and retro prints with flowing and asymmetrical lines, with tiny gold chains and dried-fruit gems; the young entrepreneur and recent PSU poetry program grad uses her shop to emphasize designer manufacturing: People generally have two options for fashion, she says. “It’s great to find beautiful, structured couture pieces in high-end boutiques… Or alternately, going to a big-box store and buying a piece of clothing that could have come from anywhere, it shipped across the ocean and anyone could have one just like it… But the days of arbitrarily buying garments and not caring where they came from are over.” She goes on to describe a movement of locally sourced, low-impact, ready-to-wear, manufacturer-designed couture.
A woman and her daughter come in the shop. Cassie’s assistant Becca Price hurries over happily to help and strikes up a conversation about the chemicals in commercial glow-in-the-dark textile prints.
Cassie draws inspiration for her designs from her customers and the retail shop itself. “The girls that shop on Hawthorne, the vintage-store folks that are constantly checking in and keep up on trends, they have innovative ways of styling themselves. We pull a lot of inspiration from babes on Hawthorne.” When pressed for details about what that style looks like, Cassie imagines a strong, smiling girl on a bike pedaling around top of the bell curve. There’s no mention of glitter.
“We don’t have a very competitive spirit,” Cassie explains, leaning back on a stool behind the cash register. “We have a collaborative spirit. Shoppers want to stay on trend, keep current, quickly move from one style to the next. That’s a challenge for manufacturers, and we have to work together to get there… And that means making designs that are accessible to everyone.
“The high tide raises us all.”
A major key to Portland fashion is inclusivity, says Jeremy Monlux, a veteran interview coach whose young mentees—including his fourteen-year-old daughter, Madeline, who is modeling during Portland Fashion Week—are learning how to present themselves and communicate with judges and other audiences. Being fashion-forward requires confidence in, and knowledge of, one’s self, and that starts young. This is a tall order for anyone, and an exceptional challenge for younger models. “Being here, you get the total package,” he says. “It’s about being well-spoken, intelligent, prepared. Engaging in community service. Our industry, here in Portland, it draws that kind of individual… The models, the companies, the make-up artists… there are no egos. The people who show up work as a team. That’s one of the draws of our city, we’re collaborative. We’re just that cool.”
Not all of the big, glittery names of the PFSA hail from our damp valley, and we hope they’ll keep our unique, shining style in mind.
TV personality David Palmer will present the 2013 Portland Fashion and Style Awards. The charismatic veteran of the ABC series True Beauty, the Style Network, the Dish and the Soup will be supported by co-host and Honorary Presenter Michelle Lesniak Franklin, 2013 winner of Lifetime’s Project Runway. Perhaps our style permits a bit of glitter after all.
When: October 26, 2013
Tickets: Awards ceremony tickets available at pfsa2013.com (seating is limited); tickets for the after-party also available for an additional $5.