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Why We All Need to Support Portland’s Fashion Scene

Monday, October 13, 2014


Sonia Kasparian designs at FashionNXT

It would be hard to argue that Portland doesn’t play a significant role in the world of fashion lately. I’m not talking about Nike and Adidas and Columbia Sportswear. I’m not even talking about flannel. 

Unless you have been living under a rock lately and don’t know, Project Runway, a tremendously popular global TV show, has made a splash with multiple fashion designers and winners from Portland, Ore.

That’s us! Who knew?

Leanne Marshall, Gretchen Jones, Bryce Black, Becky Ross, Seth Aaron Henderson, Janeane Marie, Michelle Lesniak Franklin, Korina Emmerich.

And last, but not least, Michael Costello, who recently outfitted Beyonce at the Grammys.

Most have really worked the runway well and with that exposure made the best of their 15 minutes. That’s the good news.

So what about Portland and the part we played in their success. And why should we care?

First off, Portland is arguably one of the coolest cities in the country right now and globally recognized as a curiosity at least. 

And why not? This stump town has really gone through a metamorphosis over the last 30 or 40 years. I remember the city closing down at 6:30 p.m. after all the lawyers, accountants and lumber brokers went home for the day.

The point is, back then the city was dead.

No one thought that Portland would become a fashion icon or a good place to invest or cultivate it as a fashion business hub.

Portland's Play in Fasion 

And why not? There is a potential bonanza of financial rewards in this space. Milan, Paris, Tokyo, Portland? 

Having owned a production and marketing agency in town, I know the tremendous challenges one faces trying to get something off the ground in Portland; we all talk about it. It seemed that we had to always rely on a small handful of the same companies to raise the money to make things happen.

As I write this, FashioNXT is in the middle of its run. They have attracted the brightest and best. A few sponsors have stepped up.

Still, after speaking with Tito Chowdhury in the week approaching the big event, he seemed frustrated. He and his team of dedicated volunteers work all year to make something special happen for our city, and it’s still like pulling teeth getting sponsors. 

Yet, watching all the who’s who of PDX come and dress up and people watch, I wonder if they know this costs money to produce?

Where is the Money?

Charlie Hales, our mayor, proudly proclaimed that FashioNXT was the official fashion week of the city of roses.

That’s great but show me the money, Mr Mayor. Or PDC. Or Travel Portland. Anybody? 

Here’s another issue. Another guy started a competing fashion show. So now we have two. 

I recently spoke with Michael Fox, the VP of marketing at About Face Magazine, about this fashion business. About Face is a media supporter of these events.

Fox said that there should be less worry about separating all these events and more about working together if possible, to create a special week of events highlighting individuals and their talents, as well as the quickly growing fashion and design scene unique to Portland. 

I have to agree with Fox and hope that these two “Weeks” can find common ground and put fashion first.

Thanks to Chowdhury for dreaming and doing the heavy lifting. Thanks to the designers and supporters of Portland that got out there first and made it all happen. 

But how about you, whoever you are?

Someone who moved here from somewhere to enjoy what makes this city tick? Some new company with an opportunity to help put this city on the map? 

We need to participate actively, collectively, equally to support these endeavors. It’s good business and it’s good for Portland.

Great fashion, hot models, and a kick-ass party at the end.

And not a flannel shirt in sight. 


Originally from New York, Scott Taylor moved to Portland in 1996. He's an entrepreneur, Internet millionaire, former MadMan, author, eco-industrialist and disruptive force. 

Banner Photo Credit: iStock 


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