A Decade of Portland Fashion Flashbacks

Ten years ago, we proclaimed that these fresh young designers would be the next big thing. (Look at them now!)

By Eden Dawn May 1, 2014 Published in the May 2014 issue of Portland Monthly

Holly Stalder

Then: Co-owner of Seaplane | Now: Owner of Haunt

In 2008, designer dream team Holly Stalder and Kate Towers sold Seaplane, the groundbreaking independent shop and unofficial fashion incubator they’d founded on SE Belmont Street in 2000, bringing an end to an early era of Portland fashion. By 2010, Stalder had opened her own studio in the mini fashion mecca of the 811 E Burnside building. The married mother of one has since crafted a mix of evening and bridal wear with her breezy, boho vibe while keeping an eye on Portland’s evolving design community. “We were just a group of idealistic young artists, and now people who start a clothing line are a little more business savvy,” says Stalder. “Ten years ago locally designed, handmade clothing was really a novelty."

Elizabeth Dye

Then: Designer, Elizabeth Dye | Now: Designer, Elizabeth Dye Bridal

From 2001 to 2010, Dye designed custom gowns for discerning brides, producing more than 500 unique dresses while simultaneously running her bridal boutique, the English Dept. In the past year, she sold the West End shop to turn her attention exclusively to the high-end collection of lacy wedding gowns she launched in 2010. “Today, Portland is a recognized center for independent makers of all kinds,” she says. “I think people who moved here recently have no idea that we were throwing guerrilla fashion shows in unheated, abandoned buildings not that long ago. We were pretty scrappy, and it took time to be taken seriously.”

Claire La Faye

Then: Designer, Claire La Faye | Now: Designer, Claire La Faye Bridal

When we covered her in 2004, La Faye’s line consisted of hand-embellished, corseted red-carpet getups for celebs like Paula Abdul and Courtney Love. In 2010, she took a sharp turn, and transitioned her aesthetic to soft, whimsical bridal gowns. The Parsons-trained designer credits the Seaplane founders for sparking our indie movement. “Kate and Holly brought an artistry and a collective design force that united some of the most determined and talented artists and designers during that era,” she remembers. “They set the tone for Portland’s indie design world and raised the bar for all of us.”

Nathaniel Crissman & Rachel Turk

Then: Codesigners for the just-founded Church & State | Now: Codesigners, Church & State

The name may be the same, but plenty has changed for this longtime couple and business duo. In 2011, the pair teamed with designer John Blasioli to launch and steer the Portland Collection, Pendleton’s acclaimed line of contemporary threads featuring its revered patterned textiles. The Spring 2014 collection will be the last for TPC, which will give Crissman and Turk space to refocus on their chic, tailored lines at Church & State. “I feel very confident about what I bring to the table, and what we’ve achieved,” says Crissman. “Simultaneously, though, there is so much left to fulfill, so much left to learn, and so much room to improve.”

Kate Towers

Then: Co-owner of Seaplane | Now: Designer, Kate Towers

After Seaplane, Towers continued to design limited runs of romantic tops and dresses with her signature ruffle detailing. She and Stalder still spend vast amounts of time together, but now their design collaboration is most often limited to watching their children play dress-up in old Seaplane pieces. With a ready-to-wear line on the horizon, Towers’s focus is on the future of fashion in the city she calls home. “The Portland Garment Factory is a huge part of where Portland is going,” she says of the local fashion manufacturing outfit. “Those girls are working hard and nailing it, expanding, taking risks, helping Portland to really get on the right path to sustainable and local design.”

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