Our city straddles two realities: Portland is both a beacon of the independent maker community and a place where it's increasingly difficult to find affordable storefronts. A brief look at the available listings on Craiglist shows that a 1,000-square-foot shop (read: not big) can easily go for around $3,000 a month, meaning a small designer or boutique needs to reasonably rake in five figures a month to keep the lights on and the shelves stocked, not to mention pay any employees.
So, with the design community up against rising rents, competition from Amazon, fast-fashion knockoffs, and shoppers with dwindling budgets themselves, longtime local fashion designer Liza Rietz thinks she has a solution: create a design collective.
“I asked myself, why doesn't this exist?" she says. "I feel like there's 100 designers out there that would love to be part of a store, but they don't have time, money, or energy to do it. Nobody has time for business promotion, for photo shoots. It's all takes up money or time. It was as simple as, 'Can we just all be under one roof and then hire someone to do all the other stuff?'”
So that's exactly what she's done, turning her Liza Rietz storefront in the 811 Building on East Burnside into a design collective shared with four other creatives. After renewing her lease in the building (which also houses a number of woman-owned businesses, from Bombshell Vintage and Haunt to Anna Joyce and Kate Towers), Rietz abandoned the single designer model to establish The Ones, which throws a grand opening party this Saturday, November 10. The new cooperative brings together womenswear designers Rachel Ancliffe and Sara Bergman and jewelry lines Revere by Lauren Main and Tiro Tiro by Teresa Robinson, with Jessica Waltz holding down the retail management. Each designer works a shift per week and pays a monthly membership fee to be part of the collective, which supports the retail manager who handles the business elements. Rietz says this allows designers to focus on what they do best: designing.
It's a simple formula, really: band together, sharing resources and support, and find success in numbers. While the idea isn’t far off from how antique malls or farmers markets operate, the model might be a boon to the struggling fashion community. And as far as Rietz is concerned, they’re not done.
“I have not any put a cap on it," she says. "It's open to other people that want to apply. It's not like I'm done with my team. I would love more people to be a part of this.”
5–8 p.m. Sat, Nov 10, The Ones, 811 E Burnside, #111 FREE