A STEP AHEAD: FASHION & TECHNOLOGY JOIN FORCES @ FASHIONXT 2016
written by Jyssica Yelas | photographed by Jeff Wong
After a year of anticipation, FashioNXT came again in early October to give those in attendance a glimpse into the future of fashion. The fifth annual four-day fashion event showcased collections from emerging designers to well-seasoned “Project Runway” winners who have become Portland household names. FashioNXT’s tagline, Experience What’s Next, was truly embodied in the undeniable recurring theme of wearable technology. There was a Wearable Technology Fashion Competition and a few young ladies of Girls Inc, a nonprofit organization that focuses on giving confidence to girls, walked the runway wearing a purse designed with a pocket for charging one’s phone.
Sara Donofrio opened Wednesday night’s show with her label, One Imaginary Girl, including colorful seventies-inspired long sleeves, cropped tops and trousers, ascots, and a skirt and dress made of broken records. Donofrio, of Portland and Toronto, was a contestant on Season 15 of “Project Runway.”
Also on Wednesday, And She Saw Stars of Los Angeles showcased a ‘remixed’ collection of mostly destructed and reconstructed jersey knit tees and dresses, some featuring characters from Disney or other films. A senior at Oregon State University, Portland’s own Michiya Stine was one of the youngest designers of the event. Her design inspiration was clearly rooted in her Japanese heritage, featuring traditional floral patterns with modern silhouettes and details. Stine said she is also inspired by “everything from an exotic adventure to a lucid dream.”
Fräulein Couture showed a collection titled Carpe DeNim, the first of the week to show both menswear and womenswear. Fräulein’s opening model wore a tailored hooded denim jacket featuring a detachable skirt the model removed at the end of the runway, revealing a new cropped look.
Eve Skywalker by Eve Styles was next to show on Wednesday. A blue neoprene top and skirt lit up the runway, and a more casual jacket and shorts combination followed in the same fabric. Prints of pressed flowers and palm leaves added cool sophistication. LOURDES é EVA by Nora Suarez of Seattle showed a collection that was nothing short of dreamy. Gauzy tops and dresses in blush, lilac, and white floated along the runway, with not a piece clinging to the body.
Local label MOORE by Andrea Moores finished the night with an almost entirely reversible collection. Streetwear pieces like dusters, striped tees, and leather hoodies proves the athleisure trend is alive and well.
Marie Claire’s tech editor Jenna Blaha kicked off Thursday night with “The Next Big Thing in Fashion,” a conversation series along with the third annual Wearable Technology Competition. The Vision track winner was Acu Jacket. Designed by Ridhi Paliwal, the jacket releases acupuncture to address posture and pain problems stemming from scoliosis. “This year we were the first fashion show out there to exhibit smart jewelry,” says Tito Chowdery, executive producer of the event. The winner of the Product track was Vorografia by Rowan Verbraak, a dance outfit with screen printed E-link to create interactivity between the dancer and stage.
Myriam Marcela opened the Thursday night runway show with her Fall/Winter Holiday collection, a colorful nod to the seventies featuring geometric prints, natural colors and textures, and platforms galore. Marcela was the UpNXT Winner in 2014. Shea Wilcox, also an NXT Allstar, showed her anticipated Opal Heart collection. Models were adorned in white, silver, and ice blue. Wilcox says she was inspired by a “shared femininity, kind of from an older time—fragility and strength encapsulated.” Fellow NXT Allstar Moontess (designer?) mixed turquoise blue swimwear with black transparent pieces and fur details.Stephanie Says brought a palette of pink satin, lace leather, high necklines, and lengthening silhouettes to the runway.
Formal menswear and bridal collections graced the stage for the first time this week with Vouture (D?)esigns. Hand embroidered flowers, crystal beading, and intricate pleats showed craftsmanship and detail. Sophie Chang Bridals closed Thursday night on an edgy note with high-glamour sequined dresses with mesh cut out details.
On Friday, local and established veterans took the stage. Katherine Tessier opened with a collection full of tailored denim, her models donning slick ponytails and matching blue eye makeup. Stephanie D. Couture showed her luxury womenswear in a lineup of mostly black, with metallic and lace details, and a glint of rock-and-roll. Some styles featured daring cutouts or skirt slits, and almost every look was finished with a pair of Eda Frames sunglasses.
Much anticipated at FashioNXT was Ohlendorf Altier. Ohlendorf played with feminine, shoulder-baring silhouettes, and rich patterns and textures in natural shades. Luxury was evident in the drape and rich texture in each look, and a blue velvet floor length gown paired with a Saint Fairchild clutch was a clear crowd favorite. Further extravagance was brought to the runway by Walter Collection by Walter Mendez and Ryan and Walter bridal fashion show. Trumpet skirted dresses swung, silk sleeves danced, and hand-beaded details dazzled.
Saturday was the final evening at FashioNXT, starting with Melynda Valera of Los Angeles. Valera’s designs had an ethereal air to them, each design adorned with pink florals and hand-crystaled details. Models were adorned with gold head chains and crowns, complementing sheer blush fabric.
Julie Danforth gowns graced the runway next, in silk waves of magenta and lighter shades of pink. Plunging v-necks and drop earrings gave the garments a linear feel. New Orleans native Romey Roe balanced the evening out with a marriage of gothic and romantic elements in his collection. The “Evil Queen” collection was equal parts black and red, with touches of gold, fringe, and velvet.
Layneau showed a luxury boudoir collection of rich emerald hues and gorgeous drape. Velvet hooded pieces were layered over silk gowns and lingerie sets, and each model wore curled hair and a black choker necklace. Closing out the night was Portland native and winner of “Project Runway” season 11. Lesniak’s models marched the runway in black and mustard-gold. Ensembles began with brilliantly textured tops and sweaters—some quilted, some tweed, and some completely of lace. Lace and leather skirts comprised of mixed textiles and hardware turned every head, and flat black top-hats and accessories by The Salt Empire completed the show.
This was the third year for FashioNXT: The Shows, produced by Tito Chowdery Attendees left the event nothing short of inspired. As 2016 is coming to a close, the production proved that the convergence of fashion and technology is inevitable, along with it the globalization of the industries. Chowdery is proud to show international designers, like Katherine Tessier. “Some people don’t get it,” says Chowdery. “They see [the shows] and they’re like, ‘why these non-Portland designers?’ Fashion is a global industry. You cannot make a living just by selling in Portland. If you are not selling of the international caliber, you will go out of business. We create the melting pot so designers can learn.”