Odessa line makes its second coming, and sustainable fashion is no oxymoron
For the past 10 years, Odessa Boutique has set the pace for Portland clothing stores. With Odessa's relocation from the Pearl District to the burgeoning Southwest 13th Avenue corridor, owner Susan Tompkins has parlayed all her experience into something divine.
Tompkins' renowned eye is at its peak; the design of the new Odessa space (410 S.W. 13th Ave., 503-223-1998) is still fastidiously clean, but the vibe is warm and welcoming.
And it's serendipitous that Daryl K, one of Tompkins' most successful lines in the late '90s, is back.
Daryl K is the label of Daryl Kerrigan, who, despite wide accolades, has had a rough go of it. She was courted and then rejected by several major design houses. A large investment fund bought her company; then the partnership collapsed.
All these years later Kerrigan has stuck to her vision, with designs that are somewhat androgynous and focused on narrow legs, copious layers and voluminous tops. And the fashion climate - with its current penchant for moody colors and experimentation with proportion and layering - is primed for her signature look.
Tompkins says: 'I've always been a fan because her clothes are very urban. But now she's better than ever. She still has the street chic, but it has grown up. The clothes are more sophisticated.'
The palette - gray, brown, black and russet - feels current and coordinates beautifully. Tompkins says part of the appeal is that the colors are slightly 'off,' more complex than standard chocolate brown or slate gray.
Kerrigan's experience has translated into clever designs. Sweaters have stealthy built-in pockets. A jacket that looks boyish in fact has sexy gathering across the shoulders and a feminine tie waist. A movable belt converts an empire waist dress into a smock tunic.
Luxe fabrics and streamlined cuts give the pieces real longevity. Despite being undeniably hip, they're classics. 'They're good investment pieces, with a great fit. They're sexy but very wearable,' Tompkins says.
Style mavens get double dose
In case you hadn't noticed, this year Portland has two fashion weeks. September's Collections Fashion Week presented some of Portland's most established and innovative designers.
Now, tonight marks the opening of Portland Fashion Week, the ambitious undertaking of a new force.
Last summer, the triumvirate behind Portland Fashion Week - Chris Cone, Tod Foulk and Tito Chowdhury - united over a love of the catwalk and an urge to think big.
Their first fashion show together, at a gala for the Oregon Bus Project last summer, galvanized their mission. Even though 10 bands were playing the event, once the fashion show began, the whole crowd shifted.
It was a converting moment for Chowdhury, who was struck by the rapt audience. 'People love fashion shows,' he says. 'People are captivated by beauty. They get to consume eye candy without feeling guilty. And it's a great way to communicate a message.'
He says that with Portland Fashion Week he and his partners hope to showcase and support a vital local industry.
And how will Portland distinguish itself among far more established fashion weeks in much larger cities?
Fashion goes green
Chowdhury says: 'Green is very now. Sustainability is both practical and moral. … Portland will distinguish itself as a major center for sustainable fashion.'
The show Wednesday, Oct. 25, will focus on sustainable fashion, although elements of it also will show up throughout the whole week.
Portland Fashion Week held a preview in August, with a Sustainable Fashion Show at City Hall. The same flash will be in full force this week. Civic luminaries, nationally recognized designers and a Portland landmark will converge.
All events will be held on the panoramic 43rd floor of the U.S. Bancorp Tower, aka 'Big Pink,' a place rarely open to the public.
Designers will include the well-established Sofada, recently chosen best debut of New York Fashion Week by Papierdoll magazine; the glamorous line Magalí Corzo; and edgy embroiderers Bonnie Heart Clyde.
Mayor Tom Potter will open the series tonight, and Commissioner Sam Adams will be an emcee. Lux Lighting and Design Within Reach are decorating the space. Oregon State University's fashion program is sponsoring a night combining students, alumni and faculty design talent (Thursday, Oct. 26).
Whichever events attendees manage to see, the organizers aim to amaze. Chowdhury says: 'Portland is such a creative, interesting city. We need to keep sophisticated people here in order to support this industry, so we have to impress them.'