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Meier and Frank takeover reveals fashionable silver lining

Weekend!Style: Style
by: COURTESY OF MONSIER T, A hoodie designed by Bwana Spoons is set to fly off the shelves at Monsieur T.

On Saturday, Meier and Frank officially became Macy's. The transition brings some sadness - it's the end of a Portland institution, and the appropriation of a historic building. However, the Macy's takeover also offers some major perks.

Macy's recent nationwide expansion will bring its store tally to more than 800. This volume will enhance customers' ability to request merchandise transfers from other locations.

Yet some of the most tantalizing benefits are this fall's limited-edition collections by hot designers. Three fashion stars, both emerging and established, have produced new lines of shoes, handbags and accessories, which will be available exclusively at Nine West and Macy's stores.

September kicks off these collections with punk-rock legend Vivienne Westwood. October brings critically lauded Thakoon, and November is surrealist wunderkind Sophia Kokosalaki.

All three collections are a great opportunity to partake of cutting-edge fashion, minus the cutting-edge cost. Prices range from $180 to $500, and while not pocket change, they represent a sizable reduction from the designers' normal price tags.

Other exciting adds to Macy's are snowboard-centric Burton, classic sportswear by T-Tahari and old-school chocolatier Frango.

The tee's the thing

After the recent Portland Collections Fashion Week, you should be convinced that Portland has dreamy, intricate dresses coming out of its ears. But behold the city's newest stylistic coup: streetwear.

Local company Monsieur T is elevating the hip T-shirt to an art form - literally. Founded in 2004 by Quentin Nguyen, Monsieur T makes silk-screened T-shirts that double as wearable art; they're witty, cool and eye-catching.

Nguyen started out with only a few styles but within the year developed a complete line of shirts. He asks artists he admires to create shirts. Now, Nguyen has a roster of creative standouts; they each design one graphic every season.

The established talent pool features local luminaries Bwana Spoons and Martin Ontiveros. New additions include rising stars such as Andrio Abero, who most recently designed the 2006 Bumbershoot campaign. Also joining the company is Emil Kozak, a Danish artist who lives in Barcelona, Spain, and creates graphics for many skateboard companies.

Monsieur T is distributed in several local stores: Yes Boutique (811 E. Burnside St., 503-236-7788), Cal's Pharmacy (see below), Steel for Men (826 N.W. 23rd Ave., 503-295-9220) and Magpie (520 S.W. Ninth Ave., 503-220-0920). Or you can catch the goods at the monthly Crafty Wonderland series, which Nguyen's wife helps organize.

In fact, domestic collaboration was the genesis of the enterprise. Nguyen was helping his wife create promotional T-shirts for her handbag company when he realized how much he loved the process.

He explains: 'I grew up in the skateboard scene, and it's always about having a cool shirt. I love to wear different T-shirts. When I started the business, I thought, 'If I can make a living doing this, it would be fantastic.' It's hard work, but it's a passion.'

Tonight Monsieur T will hold its launch party fall and winter collection. The event serves a dual purpose: to showcase the new designs and to spotlight one of Nguyen's veteran collaborators, artist Ryan Berkley.

Berkley is the man behind some of Monsieur T's most popular designs, including a giant turtle destroying the city of Portland. It was Nguyen who encouraged this first solo art show for Berkley. 'Ryan is supertalented but very humble,' he says. 'I wanted to push him.'

Party guests will be able to preorder from the fall line, which includes 12 new graphics.

7 p.m. to 10 p.m. FRIDAY, Sept. 15, Cal's Pharmacy, 15 N.E. Hancock St., 503-680-5723, www.monsieurt.net

Target aims at style mavens

Target has not been traditionally known for its high style. But over the past few years, the company has enjoyed an extreme makeover. The newest addition to Target's cache of coolness is GO International, part of the company's apparel division.

The label offers 'flights of fashion,' 90-day collections by hot designers. The idea, one that Target already has employed with housewares and the Mizrahi line, is simple: Get top-notch talent to create affordable product.

The first designer to participate was Londoner Luella Bartley, who mixed prep-school blazers with punky miniskirts. Next came Tara Jarmon's ultragirlie pieces, a profusion of ruffles and lace.

Now, the GO team has reached new heights with its third collection, Paul and Joe. After purchasing items from all three collections, I can attest that this one truly nails it. The designer, Sophie Albou, has diverse experience - from assisting Azzedine Alaia to designing crisp menswear - and it shows.

Feminine and sophisticated pieces commingle with more playful looks. Romantic blouses mix with bold screen-printed tees, trendy denim and substantial tweeds.

Most impressive is how Albou managed to avoid the pitfall of an economical collection. Frankly, cheap clothes usually feel cheap, with highly synthetic or coarse fabrics. But Albou uses the good stuff, 100 percent silk, wool and leather, whenever possible.

The collection runs through the end of October. The word in local Target stores is that Paul and Joe is flying off the racks. New pieces arrive regularly, so check back often.

Mark your calendars

When: Oct. 20 through Oct. 27

More: www.portlandfashionweek.net

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