Ripping the City with Sa’rah Sabino

The footwear designer and artist dishes on her favorite spots in Portland and the future of the city.

By Dalila Brent August 18, 2022

Welcome to Portland Monthly’s “Ripping the City”, a new series that highlights interesting Portlanders doing interesting things in the community, and offers their insights on the city they call home. This week: Footwear designer and artist Sa’rah Sabino.

Born and raised in Boston, Sa’rah Sabino’s journey to Portland came from her love of shoes. Her first visit to the Rose City (and first time traveling away from home) was in 2010, when she became a student in the 2nd inaugural Pensole class. After receiving a BFA in painting industrial design, Sabino went on to work for Converse for almost three years before eventually making her way back to Portland in 2016, securing a role as a footwear designer at Adidas, where she works now.

Despite her success in the sneaker industry, Sabino’s passion was to become a part of Portland's art community, even though her duality was often discouraged. “I was always told you couldn't be a designer and a fine artist; that you had to choose a path,” Sabino says. “I feel like people want to put me in different boxes to like make themselves feel comfortable, but I don't take no for an answer.”

In 2021 Sabino team up with Aux Mute Gallery for her Away|Home exhibition at the Portland Art Museum. Her solo show, Dream Girl, will be on display at the One Grand Gallery starting September 9th.

We caught up with Sabino to about her favorite local spots and why she’s excited to call Portland home.

As a creative, where’s a place that you can go to get inspired or just clear your mind?

I love being in museums and galleries, and Portland has a lot of good ones. I live in Northwest, so I walk by the Russo Lee Gallery almost every day and peek in their window. There's a lot of really cool work that like goes unnoticed here. I love to hike behind the Japanese Garden. It's super easy and accessible. It’s a good way to free your mind.

What’s you go-to restaurant to take out-of-towners?

So, my favorite restaurant in Portland is Grind Wit Trys. It’s a Hawaiian spot with incredible food. I love local spots and things that are community oriented. I usually get the Ono Chicken, which is a garlic fried chicken dish. The short ribs are also bomb. Everything is good and the portions are crazy—you can get one thing to share with three people.

What are some of the most slept on businesses in Portland?

I’m not a big shopper, but I think Portland has a great vintage scene. I like House of Vintage or hitting up flea markets that pop up on the weekends. I also love to collect silver. There’s a spot on the Oregon Coast in Seaside called Molly Morgan that has amazing jewelry.

What one misconception people have about Portland?

I've heard a lot that there are no people of color in Portland and it's frustrating because the first thing I did when I moved here was try to make friends that were from here. I think because of red lining and gentrification people of color are harder to find because they’ve been pushed out.  You have to do a little searching and community building, but I’ve made friends that are born and raised here. I really made an effort to bring myself to the city and make myself feel like I was part of it.

What excites you most about the future of the city?

After seeing so much devastation of the past couple of years, I want to be a part of the positive creative change for Portland.  I want to really utilize my platform to inspire people to the be the best versions of themselves. I think if a lot of people were more willing to share knowledge, then we'd be in a very different place. I’m enjoying serving the community. Portland was supposed to be my five-year plan, and I’m now on year six. I’ve definitely found a home here.

Define Portland in three words.

Beautiful. Free. Inspiring.


Want more Ripping the City? Check out our previous features here


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