By Leela Ginelle, PQ Monthly
Portland fashionistas don’t need to jet to Paris or Milan to enjoy the Fashion Week experience. Instead they can go to the Memorial Coliseum during the weekend of April 25-27 for Portland Fashion Week’s Spring show.
Now in its eleventh year, PFW is the nation’s third longest running week, behind only New York and Los Angeles. This year, for the first time, Portland Fashion Week will be partnering with Basic Rights Oregon by donating 10% of its ticket sales from its Friday April 25th show, as well as the proceeds from a raffle that evening, which will take place during the program.
Portland Fashion Week was founded in 2002 by philanthropist and indie fashion figure Tod Hunter Foulk, and fashion designer SaraBeth Chambers. Their aim was to create platforms to showcase Portland’s designers and retailers.
The two guided Portland Fashion Week through ten successful years before transferring control of the program in 2013 to the Portland Fashion Council, an organization they helped found, and of which they are co-owners.
Foulk and Chambers are joined on the Portland Fashion Council by Jessica Kane, who’s both a co-owner and the Executive Director.
The Portland Fashion Council was founded by the three of them to produce Portland Fashion Week, as well as to serve a higher purpose in the years to come as it develops further,” says Portland Fashion Week’s marketing director Megan Graves. “Ultimately, Portland Fashion Council will produce multiple shows per year ranging from Portland Fashion Week-sized events to smaller, more independent ones, all reaching toward our mission.”
That mission is to broadcast Portland’s fashion talent to a national and international audience, with the hopes of, in Graves words, “making style-savvy Portland a must visit for buyers, editors and fashion connoisseurs the world over.”
Portland is becoming well known as a breeding ground for fashion designers. The city has spawned multiple winners of the show “Project Runway.” Graves says that that success is just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of the city’s fashion depth, and that the size and diversity of the city’s fashion scene is the key to Portland Fashion Week’s longevity.
“The Portland design community is a constant,” she says. “It’s always been here, and once you’re involved, you’re kind of hooked. The types of shows here vary from small, independent ones to large-scale events like Portland Fashion Week, and you’ll never see the same show twice.”
The main attractions, of course, for Fashion Week attendees are the runway shows. Those who attend on the 25th to support Basic Rights Oregon, will see shows by Columbia Sportswear, UnderU4Men, and Revolution Couture, a local, Native American inspired line.
These companies weren’t selected specifically to pair with Basic Rights’ presence, but Graves sees a nice symmetry stemming from the eclecticism of the exhibitors.
“Diversity and celebrating it, of course, is a huge part of the Basic Rights Oregon platform and is key for Portland Fashion Week, as well,” she says.
In addition to the runway shows, those attending fashion week will have ample opportunities to make fashionable purchases, as local boutiques will be setting up “pop-up shops” in the coliseum. They can, likewise, stop off to pamper themselves at the show’s Beauty Lounge. Finally, if they stick around, they can attend the after parties, sponsored each night by Red Bull, where they can rub shoulders with the designers, models, and the Portland Fashion Week staff.
It’s an event that Basic Rights Oregon is glad to be involved with, says Development Director Juan Martinez.
“Basic Rights Oregon is excited about partnering with events that are innovative, align with our mission and also that grab the attention of the community,” he says. “And Portland Fashion Week does exactly that.”
The partnership stems from the Portland Fashion Council’s executive director’s longstanding support of the advocacy group’s work, Martinez says.
“Jessica Kane has been a longtime contributor to Basic Rights Oregon and is always looking for new ways to support our work for LGBT equality,” he says. “When her team talked about which organizations Portland Fashion Week should support in 2014, she advocated to include Basic Rights Oregon and to have our partnership kick off this year’s exciting schedule of events.”
Graves says the partnership fits with the Portland Fashion Council greater vision of building lasting relationships with “local businesses, residents and influencers,” in order to truly showcase the city. In this way, fashion and advocacy go hand in hand.
“As much as we want to celebrate Portland designers and the design community, we very much believe in the Basic Rights Oregon platform and want to see their campaign be successful—it’s a no-brainer for us,” she says.
If you come to Portland Fashion Week on the 25th, you can help Basic Rights Oregon challenge stereotypes and open minds about our state’s LGBTQ population, and you can also let the Portland Fashion Council challenge your ideas, perhaps, about our region’s style habits and personas.
For, as Graves says, “Pacific Northwesterners may have the REI, socks and sandals kind of reputation, but the truth is that individual style in Portland is hardly in such neat categories. Style in Portland is so varied, and we never seem afraid to push the envelope on our outfits, accessories, tattoos, piercings . . . you name it. Portlanders are creative and open-minded in style and Portland Fashion Week is an opportunity to celebrate this truth about our city.”