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Portland's fashion industry feels growing pains

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Articles - December 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Jonathan Joseph Peters waves to the crowd after presenting his first collection since his Project Runway run at Portland Fashion Week.
Project Runway finalist Jay Sario takes a bow as he heads off the runway after presenting his denim-heavy spring collection at PFW. // Photos by Shaun Strickland
Supermodel Heidi Klum reminds competitors on each episode of  Project Runway that, “In fashion, one day you’re in, next you’re out.” Henderson’s strategy is to capitalize on his buzz while he’s still in, building a business foundation. Not only is he now a name, Project Runway has given him access to top designers and industry insiders that he wouldn’t have otherwise, but he also says ultimately it comes down to “how hard do you want to work for it.”

Henderson wants to be a fashion icon as recognizable as Christian Dior or Alexander McQueen with his Seth Aaron label carried in high-end stores such as Neiman Marcus on down to mass market retailer H&M.

“It all comes down to doing the work and putting yourself out there,” he says. “You’ve got to put yourself out there.”

He’s also been happy to use his profile to benefit the rest of Portland fashion.

Since his run, there have been more shoppers coming through Anne Bocci, which has carried his dresses for the last three years and where he’s made frequent appearances. Most come to browse dresses hand-sewn by the Project Runway winner that sell for as much as $395; more popular sellers have been autographed $49 skull pins from his accessories line. “We can’t keep them in stock,” Bocci says.

Other local stores that carry clothes from Project Runway designers say they’ve had some customers seek them out for the clothes, but most leave without a purchase.

Portland Fashion Week, which featured the 30-year-old Leanne Marshall before her Project Runway win and has helped identify other up-and-coming designers here, capitalized on Henderson’s success for this year’s show. Organizers reached out to Henderson and his fellow Runway finalists Jay Sario and Jonathan Joseph Peters for a show featuring the Runway designers.

Executive director Chris Cone said they saw it as a way to draw in wholesale buyers and national press for the first time, part of a bid to move Portland Fashion Week from being a “local entertainment” to a show that buyers will look to when placing orders.

“It all comes together for me into a picture where we can build kernels of an industry here so that designers, when they start getting those bites of success, don’t feel like they need to leave to let their business grow,” Cone says.

For this year’s show, organizers added an industry showroom for designers to meet with buyers and a public showroom where designers could sell clothes. Most buyers who attended were from local boutiques, rather than national chains or boutiques from other cities.




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.
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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.
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