Vivian McInerny: Portland’s Fashion Ambassador

The Oregonian’s pioneering fashion editor on the story behind our clothes, dressing to her mood, and spotting Beyoncé before Beyoncé was Beyoncé.

By Eden Dawn July 20, 2015 Published in the August 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

0815 vivianmcinerny wmoxhl

Image: Jason Quigley

For almost 30 years, Vivian McInerny was Oregon’s unofficial fashion ambassador. Over two stints between 1983 and 2009, the Minneapolis native steered the fashion beat for the Oregonian, scouting the vintage scene, bringing street fashion to the masses, and revealing early on that local designers really were a thing. On biannual treks to New York Fashion Week she scored interviews with the likes of Anna Wintour and Tommy Hilfiger, bringing back news of the fashion world to our plaid little corner of the country. The writer looks back. (For more, hear McInerny on our podcast, The Long Play.)


I introduced a segment called “Found Fashion.” I would stop people on the street, talk to them about what they had on, and always go a little deeper about what they were wearing and why. This guy I stopped had a porkpie hat on and he said he was “keeping it for a friend in the pen.” Everyone we stopped, if you talked to them enough about what they were wearing, they had meaning. 


I noticed these three very beautiful young women [at New York Fashion Week] and they were dressed in gold lamé—it wasn’t a very good look, honestly, but very noticeable. I went up to them and said, “Are you in a band?” and they said, “Well, we’re singers.” They were all three beautiful, but this one just had magic about her. So I said, “And your name is?” and she said, “It’s Beyoncé.” 


I definitely dress for my mood, whether it’s aspirational or reflecting the way I feel. That’s the excitement about clothes—you get to put on these costumes. I just think that’s one of the fun things in life. Why wouldn’t you want to partake?


I got to sit at the table with Diane von Furstenberg with maybe 10 people total. I remember being surprised at how sexual she seemed. The other people at the table weren’t fashion people, and they were talking around her. I was sitting the farthest away and I asked her a question really loudly, and people were sort of surprised and listened. And very soon she was holding court around this table.


This necklace is from a boy I traveled with. He picked up pieces of stone and rock along the way in Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkey. And my big one is from when I lived in Nepal for years. Everything on it is hand-done.

Filed under
Show Comments