Portland's fashion industry feels growing pains

| Print |  Email
Articles - December 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
1210_Fashion06
1210_Fashion04
1210_Fashion05
1210_Fashion07
1210_Fashion08
1210_Fashion09
1210_Fashion10
1210_Fashion11
Designers talk with buyers at Portland Fashion Week’s first-ever Industry Showroom, where boutique owners were able to meet with designers, browse samples and place orders. The event was aimed at driving business for designers showing at PFW. (Top to bottom): Jonathan Joseph Peters with stylist and fashion writer Christina K. Pierce and Rosanna Ortiz-Sinel, founder of fashion week StyleWeek Providence; Peters’ designs and display table; a shopper looks through racks; Rana Ghezelayagh of anaR Couture with her collection; designer Alicia Wood talks with buyer Anne Bocci, owner of a boutique in Multnomah Village; Bocci shops for clothing while talking with Leslie Leroux of Ethos Paris; a detail of Alicia Wood’s event booth.
What Portland lacks are basic fashion resources and local support. Finding fabric and other materials at a competitive cost and in large enough quantities for a line is difficult, if not impossible, designers say. Getting a line manufactured locally can be costly since the few manufacturers based here are smaller and don’t mass-produce items like factories in other U.S. cities or in Asia.

Celeste Sipes, a designer and owner of Radish Underground, a boutique that sells clothes from independent designers, said it can cost as much as $45 to get a skirt made locally. Adding to that the cost of material, and a $10 to $15 profit for the designer, can alone push the wholesale price up to $65 or $70.

Retailers then mark up the price as much as double what they pay wholesale.

Runway’s Ceccanti said after retail markups her T-shirts generally sell in stores for $95, while her jackets can run as high as $700. After subtracting material costs, the money she makes for the time spent designing and sewing can make it a below-minimum-wage job. Finding consumers willing to spend that much for a no-name local designer is difficult.

“The market really isn’t here,” she says. “My ideal customer here is poor, like me. Everyone kind of works trade and that’s really great because it means everyone is really supportive of each other, but you can’t trade for your groceries.”

Designers who are able to sell a full collection to boutiques buy materials in Los Angeles or other places and often manufacture their lines there as well. But even those designers have hit a ceiling on success in Portland.

Anna Cohen ran her own eponymous fashion line from here for three years. Her clothes were featured in spreads in Vogue and Elle magazines and were sold in boutiques across the country. But she was unable to find local investors to grow her business, forcing her to run it with interns and borrowed money.

“When Vogue is calling, what do you do? You just have to say yes, at least that’s what I thought,” she says. “I kept having to take out money and borrow money and live very frugally for a long time.”

Each new fashion magazine spread brought more orders, which required more money. The way fashion works, it can take 18 months to earn back money from sales. Cohen’s breaking point came in March 2008, after fabric came back from her L.A. manufacturer with seams unraveling, forcing her to cancel orders. She folded the same month her clothes were featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, a glaring example of the disconnect between image and business reality.

 



 

Comments   

 
Elizabeth Rohloff
0 #1 Fashion Industry Growing painsElizabeth Rohloff 2010-11-23 13:28:51
Thank you for highlighting a so Sad, but true reality! As a designer of 20 years living and loving Portland, I have always delayed opening a boutique, working instead from a home studio and wholesaling and direct selling to my clients. Constantly pursuing out of state venues and selling online(wasn't online visibility supposed to profit us all!) The music industry faces the same challenges.
We do what we love and where we love to live, but the state and delayed economy crisis is hitting small businesses hard.
Quote | Report to administrator
 
 
Will Levenson
0 #2 Well written articleWill Levenson 2010-11-24 08:17:04
Wow, nice job on the story - one of the best peaks into the realities of owning a clothing line in Pottland. Love your voice and the comprehensivene ss.
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

Corner Office: Marv LaPorte

January-Powerbook 2015
Saturday, December 13, 2014

The president of LaPorte & Associates lets us in on his day-to-day life.


Read more...

4 married couples who work together

The Latest
Thursday, January 22, 2015
IMG 0020BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

They say maintaining a healthy marriage takes work. So does running a business with your spouse.


Read more...

Transportation Fairness Alliance holds demonstration in Pioneer Square

The Latest
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
IMG 3367BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Portland's cab companies urged city hall for consideration as officials weigh new rules for Uber and other ridesharing companies.


Read more...

A legislative preview — and celebration

News
Friday, January 23, 2015
012315-speaker-thumbBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

The Northwest Environmental Business Council previews the 2015 legislative agenda as Hatch Oregon celebrates Oregon's new community crowdfunding rules.


Read more...

The city as startup

Guest Blog
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
011415 citystartup-thumbBY NISHANT BHAJARIA | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Startups in the growth phase are associated with a fresh infusion of capital — human and financial — a curiosity factor and products to disrupt the market and drive demand. Portland’s economy gives off the same aroma.


Read more...

Playoffs pay off for the Ducks

The Latest
Friday, January 02, 2015
oregon-ducks-logo-helmet-thumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

The University of Oregon football team looked unstoppable on the field Jan. 1 — and the university is reaping the benefits of the new postseason format.


Read more...

Ski traffic

News
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
0121-skiway-thumbBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

A place-based multimodal transportation plan for Mt. Hood is long overdue.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS