In 2008, with the economy teetering on the brink, Pamela Baker-Miller opened Frances May with just four clothing racks, 10 designers, and high-end aesthetic aspirations (and price points). FM’s vision of modernist luxury thrived, its selection growing with local names like Church + State, John Blasioli, and Draught Dry Goods as well as national brands like Rachel Comey, APC, and Acne. In fall 2014, the shop tripled in size. We caught up with the 33-year-old Baker-Miller.
Why Frances May? After my freshman year at Pratt, I was going to drop out to open a store. My grandmother persuaded me not to, saying she had always wanted to open a shop with me. Looking back, this was probably her way of keeping a naive 19-year-old in college. [The shop is named for her great-grandmother.] In 2006 I moved to Portland to follow a high school sweetheart. I frequented Una and Odessa, but felt I might have something to offer our small, yet pointed, fashion scene.
What sets the shop apart? We stock a nice mix of established brands along with smaller independent designers. People may come to the store looking for brands they are familiar with, but are happy when they are introduced to lesser-known lines.
What are your top lines? Rachel Comey comes to mind. Her pieces strike an intelligent and feminine balance that I think many women respond to. Acne Studios, Jesse Kamm, and Shaina Mote are other top contenders. I’m in New York at least six times a year on buying trips.
How have Portland’s shopping habits changed since you opened? We have seen the Portland customer become more specific. People have way more to choose from now than they did when we opened in 2008 during an economic collapse, so it keeps us on our toes and working hard to stay relevant.
10 Style Strongholds
Focused on ambitous emerging designers from around the world, from local luxe leather Ara handbags to New York’s Nanushka. 927 SW Oak St, westendselectshop.com
High-end designers from the romantic (Gary Graham) to the cutting edge (Alexa Stark). 922 SE Ankeny St, unanegozio.com
Mabel and Zora
Colorful dresses in pretty prints from local and national designers. 748 NW 11th Ave, mabelandzora.com
Owned by Portland’s indie-fashion godmother, Holly Stalder, this studio houses Stalder’s pieces and veteran locals like Kate Towers. 811 E Burnside St, #113, hauntstudioandshop.com
The tomboy mecca. 1230 SE Grand Ave, west-side shop coming soon at SW 10th and Stark, wildfang.com
Super-cute, affordable everyday looks from PDX and beyond. 414 SW 10th Ave, radishunderground.com
The go-to for vintage party dresses. 2515 SE Clinton St, xtabayvintage.com
Snag a variety of easy-to-wear local designers such as Alyson Clair, Carolyn Hart, and the in-house line. 2230 NE Alberta St, helloamelia.com
Stylish ready-to-wear, shoes, and accessories. 4120 NE Fremont St, 3366 SE Division St, shopadorn.com
Find scores of independent artists stuffed into one small shop with a boho edge. 3279 SE Hawthorne Blvd, altarpdx.com