Local Style

Make It Work

Five designers put their best looks forward

By Meghan Hilliard September 11, 2009

Reyburn Brown is a Benson High School grad who studied design in France.

Portland Fashion Week’s 2009 Emerging Designer showcase (Oct 7–11) is giving the city a formal introduction to some new faces. Among the hopefuls manning the runway alongside Portland favorites such as Anna Cohen and Modi Soondarotok, are these five rising talents.

Reyburn Brown, 46, Reyburn
“Now that you know how to walk, I will teach you how to fly.” When Reyburn Brown was earning his pattern-making degree in Paris (arguably the toughest place to learn how to make clothing) he was struck by this quote given to him by Madam Thomas, a confidant of Coco Chanel. “She took me where I needed to go.”

Originally earning his degree from the University of Oregon’s prestigious architecture program, the Portland native prides himself on taking his looks from paper to palpability himself. “A lot of designers don’t actually make their own clothing,” Brown said. “I have a pattern-making background. I can not only create looks, but I can manufacture them myself.”

Upon returning to the U.S. from France, Brown worked with fashion power players Anna Sui and St. John Knits. “I got a taste of the freelance market and went crazy." Settling into his Lloyd Center studio, just a few miles away from his alma matter, Benson Polytechnic High School, Brown’s readying his collection of cocktail, evening and special occasion gowns to debut to his hometown. “I’m trying to not over design and I’m not trying to show too much,” Brown said. “But this is a fashion show and I’m going to give a show.” For more information visit reyburnbrown.com

Mira Fannin, 36, Sweet Skins
Blame it on Mom and Dad. Mira Fannin’s organic denim and hemp-knit designs are a product of her upbringing. Born to a self-proclaimed “hippie couple,” Fannin spent her adolescent years traveling Malaysia, Japan, and Burma before settling back in the Bay Area as a teen.

The craftsmanship and thoughtful fabric selection of Fannin’s designs have proven to be in high demand. Outside of her own Sweet Skins location in Eugene, over 21 boutiques coast to coast carry Fannin’s green line. “This being my first real fashion show, I have an excuse to step out and be a little more dramatic,” Fannin said. “And it feels great!”

Her use of organic denim in key pieces (like a pair of high-waisted shorts with a full gathered waistband), will be romanticized by silk blend flouncy tops and dresses that sit over full bodied hemp scrap petticoats.

“Beauty and elegance are not things that women wear,” Fannin said. “They are what’s inside every woman’s heart. My designs are mean to accentuate that fact and bring it out for the rest of the world to enjoy.” For more information visit sweetskins.com

Owen Johnson, 29, Freight Train Clothing
Owen Johnson conceptualized his design emblem while hopping trains across the country at 19—leaving an ultra-orthodox Christian upbringing behind in Chicago. “Hopping trains is an alternative lifestyle,” Johnson said. “I had to hand sew to repair things. When I settled in San Francisco, I bought my first sewing machine and told myself I was not going to hand sew pants to fit me anymore.”

Johnson’s designs range outside of just fitted jeans. Although the Portland designer also makes bike messenger bags and women’s dresses, he will be previewing exclusively men’s leisure wear at Fashion Week. “I told the panel my vision was you just stepped out of your hotel room onto a beach in the Riviera.” Bringing sunny looks to the wet season was a calculated move. “I just wanted to take my look as far away from Portland during the spring and summer time,” Johnson said. “When guys wear cut-off girls’ pants.”

His collection’s off white and earth tone pallet is complemented with light weight cashmeres and linens. Fitted denim jeans and sear sucker knickers will also be featured on his runway October 8.

Angelia Sasmita, 27, Angelia Sasmita
Every designer has a trademark: For Diane von Furstenberg, it’s her signature wrap dress. Emilio Pucci has been deemed the “King of Prints”. Seattleite Angelia Sasmita has her intricate beadwork.

Starting designing back in high school in Indonesia, Sasmita’s creativity was fueled by bridal gown monotony. “A lot of women want their dream dress,” Sasmita said. “It’s kind of hard to find something unique when a lot of wedding dresses look the same.”

It’s all about angles when it comes to Sasmita’s geometric take on the classic bridal cut. Whether it’s an a-symmetrical gown train or the architectural silk folding of bodices, Sasmita will show in her seven-look collection that her forte goes far beyond just ethereal beading.

“I would like to be more visible in the United States,” Sasmita said. “I want people to know me and I want people to know my work.”
For more information visit angeliasasmita.com

Paloma Soledad, 31, Paloma Soledad Corsets
Paloma Soledad’s entry to Portland Fashion Week almost went up in flames—literally. “I picked up a Mercury the day of the auditions because I was going camping,” Soledad said. “I mainly picked it up to burn in our campfire when I noticed the one inch by inch ad about the audition.”

As a photography student at the California Institute of Art, Soledad came to learn she didn’t enjoy taking photographs as much as dressing the women in them. The self-taught designer was making high-end Halloween costumes in Los Angeles when she was recruited by horror director Eli Roth to serve as the costume designer for his thrillers Cabin Fever and Hostel. It was a somewhat lighter production that brought Soledad to Portland.

“I worked on Coraline for two years and really honed in on fine tuning details,” Soledad said. “The last six months, I felt like a caged bird. I had all of these ideas in my head.” Soledad not only wanted to make corsets, but she wanted to bring them out of the undergarment subculture and present her works as one-of-a-kind, brilliant accessories.

Soledad’s five-look collection is a fusion of delicate silk and hand painted lamb skin paired with antique hardware embellishments. Her pieces would fare well not in a boutique, but under glass in a gallery.
For more information visit palomasoledad.com

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