Cyndi Koon: Apparel Designer

Hailing from Pennsylvania to Portland, apparel designer Cyndi Koon has graced our lovely city with her emerging clothing designs from her own line- Olive Clothier.

Cyndi Koon’s introduction into the world of fashion began when she studied costume design for theater at Penn State University. From there, she moved to New York to pursue costume design for film and TV.  She designed her own clothing line, “Milo Antares” while in New York as well as producing and orchestrating two annual fashion shows through Milo.

Enchanted by Oregon’s wine industry especially its pinot noir, Koon worked as a wine tech for 10 years. Realizing her creative roots couldn’t be ignored, she quit her winery job.I am an artist by nature and I genuinely missed art,” she said. She returned to school at the Art Institute of Portland and decided fashion was just the kind of art she truly had been craving all along.

Koon always dabbled with art and fabrics throughout the years. Her years working various jobs led her to return to her passion and familiarity for fashion.  She drew inspiration from her knowledge of theater that can commonly be seen throughout her designs. Traveling to New Zealand, London and throughout the United States, Koon developed a keen eye for elegant styles as well as street fashion. Simple, clean lines, and all things in nature-particularly landscapes from Northern California inspired Koon. The buildings in Portland have served as a creative spark for her, with lines and patterns that appear to be both precise and intricate. Her favorite designers included the punk edge pieces by Betsy Johnson, Vivienne Westwood and Marimekko.

To create and perfect a garment, Koon said, is always a different process and depends on what she is aiming for in mood and style.  When studying fabrics, she allowed herself to select soft fabrics that caught her eye. She narrowed them down and didn’t push a fabric into existence, rather letting it create itself.

“A fabric tells me what it wants to be,” she explained, when she described how she approached a new project. The time she spent carefully selecting and putting an idea into motion is a calculated process. Through her designs, Koon tends to gravitate toward a more modern direction while incorporating bygone fashion eras, such as the early 20th century.

Since landing permanently in Portland, Koon launched Olive Clothier, her own custom apparel design company that is centered around clean lines and a sophisticated feel. She had the privilege to create a custom wedding dress as well as bridesmaids’ dresses for a client in Oregon. Koon has created a pace since launching her line that is both comfortable and smooth, a transition that is often a struggle for many new business owners.

In December 2013, Koon won the contest for Portland’s Ladies Day Out Style By Fire Design Competition with her “Linear B” fashion line debut.  Koon’s future plans for Olive Clothier is to create new designs to sell to local boutiques in the Portland area. Since Olive is still fairly new, Koon is not approaching her work in a rush, being sure she is able to fulfill her orders with diligence and top quality. This summer, she hopes to work with a seamstress and to offer seasonal, ready to wear pieces for her spring and fall line. She hopes to eventually evolve and have her designs in other cities as well.

When asked to provide advice to an aspiring apparel designer about clothing design, Koon emphasized the importance of hard work and innovation. She stressed the significance of learning from mistakes and working through frustrations when things are tedious and time consuming. Koon assured people pursuing design that late nights are acceptable and to always listen to advice from people who have experience in the fashion industry. Koon said people should not be afraid to go back to school again to obtain knowledge for a career they are passionate about. Being a designer requires having an appreciation for the evolving nature of fashion and being able to continue working at it until you are satisfied with your own results, she said.

“Fashion isn’t nice, luckily Portland is,” Koon said.

Koon’s studio is located in downtown Portland and more of her work can be seen at: as well as Olive Clothier’s Facebook page. She can be contacted by email at:

About The Author: Jordan Hernandez