See more of Lisa Warninger's street-style photos from Urban Weeds
Carrie Brownstein. Gretchen Jones. Leanne Marshall. For the past few years, the poster children of our city’s indie scene have bathed in the spotlight of the nation’s adoration for all things Portland. Yet one of our biggest fashion ambassadors has stood—or often crouched—just beyond the glow, documenting guerrilla-style Portland’s steady rise to hipster royalty.
Meet Lisa Warninger, founder of the nationally acclaimed street-style photo blog Urban Weeds (urbanweedsblog.com). Since the blog’s 2009 inception, Yakima-raised Warninger’s clean, naturally lit images portraying Northwest style have increasingly caught the eye of big fashion fish outside our little pond. The blog averages 100,000 visitors a month and has scored regular mentions in New York Magazine, inspired an online feature from CNN, and netted Warninger gigs shooting for Elle—which she credits largely to Portland’s unique, practical mix of high and low fashion.
“Fashion week in New York or Milan or Paris looks unattainable for most people,” the 35-year-old says. “It’s not a huge part of everyday life.” The Northwest look, on the other hand, embodies a lifestyle that’s smart, aspirational, and achievable. “Fashion is less of a status symbol here and more about a statement of creativity,” she notes.
Warninger fell in love with photography as a child on trips to the Cascades with her amateur-photographer father and began shooting street portraits as a teen. She later translated her passion into a BA from California’s prestigious Brooks Institute of Photography. Following her 2005 return to Portland, Warninger founded Urban Weeds with friend Chelsea Fuss, who moved to Sweden six months later. The name, Warninger says, reflects the fact that “we’re urban but not as stylish as other cities.”
From the beginning, Urban Weeds’ signature format hasn’t changed. Each of its 400-some posts showcases a head-to-toe color fashion shot of someone on the street, with the location and clothing brands listed, plus a black-and-white portrait and a quote from the subject about his or her fashion mantra.
“It’s relatable,” Warninger says. “Anyone could be your friend in there.”
The simple, authentic formula might be precisely why Warninger’s blog regularly climbs to the no. 1 spot on StreetStyleNews, a fashion site that creates daily lists of the 90 most popular street-style blogs.
“More and more bloggers concentrate on the fashionable crowd during fashion weeks around the world,” says StreetStyleNews founder Martin Paul about Urban Weeds holding its own with big names like the New York Times’ Bill Cunningham, NYC’s Sartorialist, and Tokyo Fashion. “The fact that Urban Weeds mainly shows people’s real-life street style from the readers’ local neighborhoods is an important distinctive feature.”
As the website has grown, so has Warninger’s reputation as a tastemaker. This winter Cotton Incorporated tapped her as the Northwest style scout for its star-studded Road to the Runway fashion show, held this month in South Beach. Her job: scour hundreds of photo entries and advise Cotton which ones look authentically “Northwest,” then head to Florida to make sure looks are styled properly.
So how does one catch Warninger’s stylish eye? With your feet, for starters. “We are a boot mecca,” she says. “Boots here are like heels in New York, so I always look for good boots.”
After all, boots are made for walking ... and crouching and shooting. And, in Warninger’s case, for finally stepping into the well-deserved spotlight.