I’ll just be blunt and say last night was a difficult decision when choosing the winner of FashioNXT’s Emerging Designer competition. While I promise to recap the entire week in one massive best of the best slide show post after it's all over, I’ll give you a preview by saying that it was an impressive night on all fronts. The house was packed, and the crowd eager for local fashion.
First Lady Nancy Hales emceed wearing a beautiful flowing red maxi by Britt Howard of Portland Garment Factory and Betsy & Iya earrings, acting once again as a great example of someone who supports local.
After some great showings by former Emerging Designer contestants Marcela Dyer and Devon Yan of Devonation, we got to the final four: Shea Wilcox, BBD Designs, Varsha, and German Madrigal.
This is where things got tough.
After the show the judges’ panel turned into a huddled flurry of activity. The judges included myself, Marjorie Skinner of the Portland Mercury, Michelle Lesniak and Seth Aaron representing Portland's Project Runway champs, Tiffany Bean of Mabel and Zora, and Anne Bocci held their corner as boutique owners and buyers. I’ll let you in on a little secret; we never came to a consensus and had to go with majority rules.
Wilcox’s chic color palette of gold and white fit the sophisticated look she was going for. The details of gold piping and sweet darts on dresses alongside white power suit combinations were bold and modern. There was room to edit, however, in some of the silhouettes with boxy skirts and cocoon jackets contradicting the sleek nature of the line.
BBD Designs is flat out my favorite workout wear I’ve ever seen. If the idea of boring black yoga pants and a dull hoodie make you yawn, this line will cure that. Mesh panels, unnecessarily giant hoods, and sexy cutouts all made this line sing. It’s a tricky number to be an activewear company up against more formal ready to wear. Activewear is typically easier to sew, requires less design, patterning, tailoring, and so on. While it didn’t win, I have no doubt this line will be snapped up by stores soon, and I’m ready to rock a new set of mesh leggings.
The debate really came down to the last two lines, Varsha and German Madrigal. Designer Varsha Agarwal showed a collection of meticulously crafted, luxe-looking womenswear that was as impressive as anything we've seen in stores today. She clearly has an impressive taste level, and with a background in business consulting, understands the needs for sophisticated work and eveningwear. This line will undoubtedly continue to grow and, fingers crossed, be one we see in Portland stores soon.
German Madrigal’s final gender-neutral collection purposefully, slowly walked the runway in a combination of male and female models, faces swathed in dyed chiffon to underline the neutrality. His layered, minimalist designs were futuristic and bold. And though styled dramatically for a runway show, individually pieces are quite wearable such as the finale cape coat, and blazers throughout.
So the debate raged on; The salability of Varsha’s lovely line that holds the Zeitgeist of high end now, or the slightly weirder, but future thinking Madrigal. In the end we chose German Madrigal because, if our goal is to pick what’s next, then we must play the role of fortunetellers and go with what the future holds. But in the meantime, I’ll also happily wear Varsha.