Portland’s biannual Fade to Light fashion show is already famous for its clever multimedia touches, from short films to live music accompanying models. But when fresh line Holy Voids hit the floor last August, it was an event in itself. Performers from 11: Dance Co writhed on the floor, jazz drummer Akira Ishikawa’s ’70s-era grooves blasted from the speakers, and barefoot models in veils, flowing robes, and costume makeup transformed the runway into a procession of modern Maleficents for a cheering audience. But beyond the theatrics, a creative new line of ready-to-wear pieces slinked forth: drapey asymmetrical jumpsuits to a structured statement bolero and soft knit maxi skirts—most completely wearable as stand-alone pieces.
That’s an impressive feat for any brand, let alone one that had been around for only five months—the ability to design a versatile collection that swings between drama and utility. That’s why we’ve dubbed Holy Voids creator Ariel Fan Portland Monthly’s Emerging Designer 2019. And we’re not the only admirer.
“She is tapping into the minimalist look that is popular right now, but designing through her own point of view,” says Fade to Light producer Elizabeth Mollo, who greenlit the collection to join the show solely based on the cohesive sketches Fan submitted with her application.
Fan, 28, moved to Portland three years ago, industrial design degree from Arizona State in hand. She quickly flipped an internship in the creative direction department at Adidas into a coveted gig as a color materials designer—getting a crash course in the technical side of the fashion world in the bargain. Then, last April, she walked away from that comfy corporate athleisure salary to go all-in on her dark, layered ready-to-wear and custom pieces. Fan meticulously handcrafts everything, sleeveless denim duster to oversize tunics, in a studio she shares with NDA Leather and Barrow jewelry just off NE Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, in Portland’s emerging “Mystic District.”
“To me, it’s a sprout off of a branch of different kinds of dark fashion. It’s part Japanese street wear, or it can be ‘Aging Witch,’ or it can even go towards street tech,” Fan says. “I’ve just been heavily influenced by black clothing. You can create new things, even with the same old thing.”
For now, Fan primarily sells her work online and through studio visits. And she’s poised to make her runway return with Fade to Light’s spring show on March 27. The sophomore collection may be for the sunnier season, but it’s still quintessential Holy Voids: swaths of gauzy black, an intricately crocheted shrug made from fabric scraps, and her signature balance of costume flair over loose, wearable pieces.
“When it comes straight down to clothing,” she says, “I am heavily influenced by two things: comfort and structure.” Just what any aging witch needs.
Hair and Makeup: Sheri Mendes. Model: Caroline Lai/Reaction Models