Home Back Issues December 2010 Portland's fashion industry feels growing pains

Portland's fashion industry feels growing pains

| Print |  Email
Articles - December 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Article Index
Portland's fashion industry feels growing pains
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4; Reader comments
Like many Portland designers, Portland Fashion Week has made eco-friendly fashion its niche, setting the industry here apart from other cities. It has helped organizers attract sponsors such as German airline Lufthansa, which doesn’t even fly through PDX, hair-care line Pureology and SolarWorld. (And it hasn’t gone unnoticed by Project Runway producers.)

Meanwhile, the city and local designers have started their own efforts to make business sustainable for designers.

1210_Fashion14
Seth Aaron Henderson walks the runway after his show headlining Portland Fashion Week in October. “The Northwest has been very supportive of me,” Henderson says. // Photo by Shaun Strickland

Earlier this year, the Portland Development Commission considered creating a fashion incubator to support designers with low-cost retail space downtown but ultimately abandoned efforts because of the “limiting conditions with the real estate we were considering and the substantial financial investment it would have required,” says spokeswoman Katherine Krajnak. Last year, local designers started Portland Fashion Synergy, a nonprofit geared at building the local industry, which plans to roll out education initiatives for designers next year.

New businesses catering to designers have also sprung up. The Portland Garment Factory started as a side project for Portland designer Britt Howard after she couldn’t find a manufacturer for her children’s line. Howard and partner Rosemary Robinson now employ five sewers and are moving into a 5,000-square-foot space in Southeast Portland to accommodate the growing number of mostly local designer clients.

Designer Alice Dobson is expanding her manufacturing business Alice Inc., which manufactures her Sofada line and clothes for Jet, Lisa Reitz, Ipseity and other local designers.

Dobson also consults with local designers. She herself has been one of the city’s most successful, becoming the first to go to New York Fashion Week in 2006 and supporting herself through sales of her clothes through her own boutique on East Burnside and to other stores along the West Coast. She credits her success partly to Portland.

“Being in Portland was the best thing for my business,” she says, noting that she spent two years as a designer in Los Angeles. “I think it’s way harder than somewhere else. Maybe people don’t realize it.”

She and others point out that fashion itself is a tough business. Dobson, in fact, is closing her boutique after eight years because it’s no longer viable. But she plans to build on Alice Inc. and wholesale sales of her Sofada line. She’s also considering auditioning for Project Runway after producers contacted her, encouraging her to try out.

Project Runway may not automatically translate into success, but it does offer the possibility.

“I think what Seth Aaron really did is make high fashion seem possible for Portlanders,” says Karen Vitt, editor of the Neat Sheet, a growing Portland fashion site. “He has made the whole local fashion scene seem more glamorous and exciting and rich with possibility. The reality may not be quite so glamorous, but then again, when was fashion about 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

Fuel's gold

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
BY SOPHIA BENNETT

The coastal town of Coos Bay appears poised to land every economic development director’s dream: a single employer that will bring hundreds of family-wage jobs and millions in tax revenue. 


Read more...

The more they change, the more they stay the same

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
100-best-collageBY BRANDON SAWYER

The 100 Best Companies get more creative with perks and more generous with benefits; employees seek empowering relations with management and coworkers.


Read more...

Spring thaw

News
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Spring ThawBY JASON NORRIS | OB BLOGGER

The “polar vortex” of 2014 seems to have finally thawed and we believe this change in weather will bring more sunshine to the U.S. economy as well.


Read more...

Making faces

News
Thursday, February 20, 2014
02.20.14 Thumbnail ModelsBY VIVIAN MCINERNY | OB BLOGGER

As retailers consolidate and newspapers fold, the business of modeling shifts to ad agencies, apparel companies and new media.


Read more...

Why I became an educator

News
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
03.04.14 thumbnail teachBY DEBRA RINGOLD | GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

How can we strengthen the performance of institutions charged with teaching what Francis Fukuyama calls the social virtues (reciprocity, moral obligation, duty toward community, and trust) necessary for successful markets and democracy itself?


Read more...

Branching out

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
DSC04185BY LINDA BAKER

A blueberry bush is a blueberry bush — except when it’s a blueberry tree.


Read more...

How to help your staff solve their own problems

Contributed Blogs
Friday, March 21, 2014
03.21.14 thumb coxcoffeeTOM COX | OB BLOGGER

During a recent talk to HR Directors, I asked if they saw leaders trying to solve every problem, instead of delegating to and empowering staff. Every head nodded. Every single one.


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