Northwest Portland Boutique Folly Turns 10
“Out-of-towners are more impressed by it,” says Folly owner Sarah Bibb—referring to customers' first impressions of her boutique's in-house manufacturing space. “They’re blown away because this doesn't exist in the normal world. Sometimes Portlanders are a little more blasé."
It’s true: many Portlanders have grown accustomed to our slow fashion world, one that stacks small-batch design and manufacture on top of traditional retail. Boutiques like Folly, Amelia, and Union Rose offer their own pieces alongside other indie lines in a two-for-one business model. We forget this in-house approach is somewhat of a novelty; elsewhere in the country, domestic manufacturing is at an all-time low.
Bibb opened Folly in May 2008 after seeing a "For Lease" sign in the window of a slightly dingy corner at Northwest 16th and Lovejoy. “They had never had retail here—I was so confused because it's such an obvious retail location with the big corner windows,” she laughs. “I just thought this was perfect. I love old things, the windows are amazing. They don't build things like this anymore."
Bibb says her new landlords didn't expect her new shop to last, and confesses that they were right to be skeptical. Five months after opening, the economy came crashing down. Businesses like Bibb's began boarding up. And though Bibb weathered that initial storm, the sailing since then hasn't been easy. Fast forward to 2017, which saw a record number of store closures and an estimated loss of 60,000 jobs in just the first quarter. As Folly—known for soft, feminine dresses and sexy slips—turns a decade old this weekend, Bibb credits its staying power to eschewing trends, and making things that a customer can wear for years.
“I think if you're following or creating trends, you're working in a quantity formula. I'm a small store in a random location; I can't do anything based on quantity,” she says. “What I have done well is build relationships with people, so that they feel I'm committed to them. My whole idea is to make fun clothes that people feel good in, so that when they wear them they think of me.”
As the shop celebrates its big birthday this weekend, customers have a rare opportunity to own one of Bibb’s pieces at a discounted price. From June 7–9, Folly's lingerie, dresses, palazzo pants, and special caftans will be marked down 25 percent. Additionally, all purchases will enter you into the Folly Birthday raffle, with top-notch prizes from the likes of Body Vox and Urban Waxx.
“I love making clothes, the process of design, all of it, but the actual retail part is hard,” she says. “I’m really proud of myself.”