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Every stitch tells a story

Portland Fashion Week • Local artists, designers strut their stuff on the region's big runway
by: COURTESY OF Mercy Mcnab, 
Portand’s Devon Yan Barrong will debut his spring collection at Fashion Week, with a mix of elegant and funky designs for men and women.

Move over, Paris, Portland wants a spot in the fashion spotlight.

This week, local and international designers head to Swan Island to take in the latest Northwest fashion trends during Portland Fashion Week.

Stumptown's fashion week, which runs through Sunday, Oct. 10, isn't yet big enough to draw designers like Marc Jacobs or Ralph Lauren, but the week's events are packed with clothing that highlights the city's penchant for sustainable and innovative design.

Thursday, the first of four nights of runway shows, will highlight four local designers ready to break out at Catapult, Portland Fashion Week's emerging designer showcase.

Since moving to Portland five years ago, Alicia Woods, 37, has slowly grown an Internet storefront selling her handmade kimonos into a burgeoning virtual boutique. Her showcase features new designs, including jackets and dresses that share the design aesthetic and sweeping sleeves of her kimonos.

It was Woods' online storefront, hosted on Etsy.com, that led her to branch out into other styles.

Early this year, Woods had a pile of knit fabric lying around waiting for a use and decided to experiment. She designed a cardigan-style kimono. As soon as it went online, she was inundated with orders.

'They were just really popular,' Woods says. 'Obviously that's what people want.'

Woods says having an online venue to sell her wears, and those of her husband Ben, have helped her develop her line and style.

'It's like having a shop on a high-traffic street,' Woods says. 'But I just sit back and wait for orders.'

Woods will share the stage with another new arrival to Portland.

Hong Kong to Portland

Devon Yan Berrong, 28, also moved to Portland five years ago. He'd taken time off from apparel design to focus on painting, but a stint as a dresser for last year's Portland Fashion Week unleashed a flood of new ideas.

'That brought me back to many great memories when I was a fashion designer with two assistants and a tailor in Hong Kong,' Berrong says.

Berrong's spring collection, which will debut at Fashion Week, is a mix of elegant and funky clothes for men and women. Berrong said he's inspired by the growth in his adopted city's burgeoning fashion scene.

'As Portland develops a reputation as a hot spot for fashion that gives more confidence to customers as well as designers,' Berrong says.

Barrong said his clothing line, called Devonation, like painting, is a form of storytelling.

'An object or a story can inspire me to create a painting or to design an outfit,' Berrong says.

From science to fashion

Rana Ghezelayagh's life story works as a narrative anchor for her sleek clothing line Anar Couture, which will make its Portland debut at Fashion Week.

Ghezelayagh, who grew up in Iran, went to school to be a chemical engineer at the urging of her father. After graduating in 1997, she went to work in chemistry but continued to make her own clothes.

In 2006, Ghezelayagh moved to the United States and decided to take up her true passion designing clothing that evokes Iranian culture.

'The architectural beauty of the ancient city called Persepolis in Iran inspires the lines, color and structure of my designs, and their influence can be seen in this collection,' Ghezelayagh says.

A life of fashion

Nelli Millard also brings international experience to her clothes. Millard, 40, grew up in Russia where her mother, a professional clothing designer, taught her a love of fine tailoring.

'It was in my blood,' Millard says.

Millard's Fashion Week line, 'From Russia with Fashion,' is inspired by the 1967 novel 'The Master and Margarita.'

Millard, who owns a boutique in Bend, is excited to take the trip north, where she sees innovative street fashion worn by people from all walks of life.

Catapult, Portland Fashion Week's emerging designer competition, starts at 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 7, at Vigor Industrial Shipyards on Swan Island, 5555 N. Channel Ave., in Portland. Tickets start at $20. For more information, visit portlandfashionweek.net.