Portland Design Beyond ‘Put a Bird on It’
By STEPHEN HEYMAN | SEPTEMBER 29, 2011
In 2009, an alternative fashion week event, Content, was held at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Ore., to expose the work of that city’s remarkable but somewhat isolated crop of independent designers. Each designer was given a room in the hotel, with free rein to transform it into a kind of fashion installation and only one rule: Nothing was for sale. Clothes hung from the shower curtains above the Ace’s claw-foot bathtubs; one designer carted in a half-dozen birch tree trunks to drive home a sylvan theme; another concocted a gruesome murder scene with three bloodied (yet impeccably dressed) victims strewn about the floor.
This Saturday, Content returns to Portland, in expanded form. Shops across Stumptown represented in the show will stay open late; there will be a beer garden and food; and the festivities are planned to spill out of the hotel and onto Stark Street. “Portland is the main artery for American independent fashion design,” proclaims Gretchen Jones, the “Project Runway” victor and former Portland resident, who is presenting the event with the Ace. The city’s “hybrid of urban naturalism,” she says, produces a “unified aesthetic … Portland designers incubate to the beat of their own drum.”