In the glory days of the early 2010s, Portland’s fashion scene was a different place. Designers could stretch their tunic-covered arms in affordable studio spaces, pop-ups were novel ideas, #Resistance fashion shows were far from anyone’s mind in the freewheelin’ Obama days, and Solestruck was the queen of the scene. The brand transcended shoe store with its epic balloon-filled parties and gothy lookbooks. The dimly lit shop looked like a high-end cocktail joint with shoes—including neon, fur-filled platforms—displayed on a glowing bar.
As with all bits of branding magic, it was the perfect combination of a small team who were at the cutting edge of fashion, pushing Portland to have fun with itself and try things. At some point, owner Bryce Morrow decided to take the company in a different direction, firing most of the well-known staff. Solestruck never recovered and shuttered soon after.
This Thursday, October 19, the old crew reunites for one night with a pop-up for former creative director Ty McBride’s own shoe line, Intentionally Blank, at the Yo Store. McBride’s line maintains the fun he’s known for, but the shapes have grown up with pieces like coral suede mules, low-heeled metallic jazz shoes, or classic black boots in a textured, crinkle fabric. We caught up with McBride to chat about the new line and get the scoop on the upcoming party, which is sure to be a blast from five years past. Expect Portland-themed slogan hats, shop discounts, Jack Hoppins from the Toffee Club slinging drinks, and more than 100 recently acquired vintage pieces on hand from the Yo Store. Can't make it on Thursday? The micro-store will remain open at the Yo Store for three months.
You’re an Eastern Oregon boy who moved to LA to start a shoe line. What was the impetus for that?
I had been living in NYC for a long time. I was bicoastal to Portland, where I had a tiny place near Albina Press in Northeast. I fell in love with a Mexican shoe designer, we both moved to LA to meet in the middle, and after we split up and I was fired from Solestruck.com, I decided to stay in LA, give it a go, and launch "INTENTIONALLY _________."
What made you want to come do an event in Portland with your old crew?
When I lived part-time in Portland, the best part of my experience was the contacts, connects, and friendships I made. I met so many good people—inspiring people. I sell to great stores in Portland already, but I have a lot of online clients from PDX who shop our site very regularly. I reached out to my crew in Portland with the idea of some kind of retail experiment back in this area, and after a few group emails—well, the concept of the pop-up was born! I am honored to be hosted by the Yo! Store.
How do you think Intentionally Blank might speak to the Portland girl—because I know you know her.
The brand is created to really work with you as you go through your day, and how that process is reflected in your personal style. It’s about mobility and casual styling. I don't really do a lot of heels, and the crux of my bestsellers are all low block heels, Western-inspired mules, and low-slung styles. I think my minimal take on casual works well with Portland. I make shoes that can shift and be dressed up or kept completely reserved and casual. That’s what I like about Portland—sense of style is celebrated. You get a lot of great makers, creatives, and style-focused people. It's inspiring and I am flattered to sell to so many people who call Portland home.
What can we expect for this party? You've always been known to throw a good one.
We are popping up to celebrate Yo! being in their new space for a year! Kayla Hoppins is organizing the event and you can expect lots of shoes. In addition to that, we will bring the apparel collection, which is sold exclusively through our Los Angeles boutique and site. We also created some limited-edition hats for the event which we think will be a hit. Here's the deal, it's a Thursday night, let's have a few drinks, listen to some cute music and see where the night goes! Did I mention a giant giveaway swag bag will be raffled off? I should also mention my mom is coming to town from Eastern Oregon—I consider her my muse and the source of all my creativity, so stop by and meet our LA team!
How is the line growing? What's next for you?
During my time at Solestruck, I got to wear many hats, but I also had a big team (the MOMs, as we call each other), who backed me up, supported me, and even traveled with me around the world creating the in-house collections and creative content. That team became a very strong part of my life both at work and otherwise. Now that I'm on my own—with a much smaller team—I am thankful for all the experience I had. (Even the experience of being fired.) I have distributors in five countries and my goal for 2018 is to crack Australia and Korea, as well as the Nordic market. Here stateside I am working on a concept of micro-retail stores in new locations.
My store in LA is tiny and very destination, but I feel like people want to shop with the brand directly more and more. They want experience. I would love to create micro-stores in several of my favorite cites which only carry my brand, our apparel, and extend the vibe of our site and brand to shoppers everywhere. I think in a nutshell I want to be small-big, if that makes sense. I want to stay small—as I value the client contact and the indie vibe of what I do, the freedom that comes with that. But I also want to grow, so I can have the support I need staff-wise while remaining true to what I do. The current economy is crazy, and I get that, but I think I am carving a niche that has room to grow and evolve. I feel tipping points—and I kind of feel like I'm just crossing one now—and going towards some really big new adventures.
What do people not know about Intentionally Blank?
One thing I often touch on is that I currently don't sell to any big-box stores. I don't sell to Amazon, Zappos, Nordstrom. I do this intentionally to try to support the small stores I work with. That crop of stores is shrinking, but my focus is to focus on the long-term goal—foster the relationships I have and slowly grow them. I’m not trying to blow this up overnight but rather create something that evolves, shifts, and grows as the market does.
6 p.m. Thu, Oct 19, The Yo Store