Mark Korros

The Portland Collection

Iconic brand Pendleton Woolen Mills is proud to introduce its Spring 2014 line, The Portland Collection. Launched in 2011 by a team of three young and talented Portland designers (Nathaniel Crissman, Rachel Turk and John Blasioli), The Portland Collection utilizes 100-percent virgin wool fabrics, creating contemporary looks for men and women that are reminiscent of the classic textiles we’ve continued to see over the years. All products included in TPC are made in the US. The Fall 2013 line can soon be found in more than fifteen states, as well as Canada.

I recently spoke with Mark Korros, CEO at Pendleton Woolen Mills, about the launch of The Portland Collection’s Spring 2014 line, which will be premiering for the first time ever at FashioNXT.

Can you please share the idea behind The Portland Collection for those who aren’t as familiar?
The marketplace was demanding more fashion-forward products. The desire for authentic and iconic Americana brands has been the rage for the past several years, and we feel that we’ve been given a unique opportunity to increase our share of the closet with existing customers. The first concept was to step outside our circle and team up with some new thinking and with some new independent designers. We wanted to play up our Northwestern heritage, and create something unique for the marketplace. Pendleton is very much a fashion brand. The idea of presenting it in a new collection and telling our story in a modern style is important for us.

Portland is very excited for the debut of the TPC’s spring line on our runway. Can you tell me your feelings at this time?
We’re extremely flattered to be the lead collection. We respect and feel honored to be represented in the Portland community. We feel we’re bringing unique character to what fashion in the Northwest stands for. There are only five major woolen mills in the US, and Pendleton owns two of them. We don’t want craftsmanship to become a lost art. FashioNXT has helped showcase the competencies of our craftsmanship, and we think this is a great platform to tell the Pendleton story and to celebrate the great designs.

What can we expect to see from your upcoming spring collection?
It’s a combination of both style and fit. We created a trimmer, more close-to-the-body fit, which helped broaden the canvas for us, particularly with Japan. Japan is a large market for Pendleton, and it’s also our largest market distribution point. It has been an opportunityto show Pendleton brands in all categories. Coming into spring there was a lot of demand for the wholesale and retail customer. Our spring collection plays on our fabric expertise: cotton blends, silks, layaway wools, plaids and jacquards. The entire line is made in America. The key driver is the fact that we’re authentic.

The Portland Collection harkens back to the quintessential American lifestyle. Did you run into any design or sourcing challenges as far as keeping the sensibility going for the spring collection?
For the most part, no, we didn’t. Our design team is made up of a lot of talent. In terms of what we were trying to celebrate, we were determined for the entire line to be made in the USA. There are several up-and-coming small cottage businesses that were started for producing American-made. All the wool is made in the Pendleton facilities. The fact that we can design those fabrics and not have to face some of the difficulties that other manufacturers face, acts as an advantage for us.

Pendleton has been creating living-wage jobs in the fashion industry for a number of years. What’s your secret?
We have 150 years of success in the fashion industry. When you’ve been successful and respected for such a long period of time, it creates momentum. And whether it’s wearing one of our wool shirts or working in our stores, people like to attach themselves to us. I think it has to do with our history, our stability, and our longevity.

Last year, two designers at FashioNXT specifically chose your wool fabrics for their designs: Seth Aaron and Amanda Grisham. What do you take from this?
Wool is an amazing fiber. It’s survived the test of time and has so many unique properties. It’s a fabric used for insulation, it’s water repellent, and it’s naturally elastic and durable. It can be worn in any type of season. It can be worn with a pair of long johns underneath, or used as a shawl or a lap blanket. It presents itself as a canvas for an amazing variety of colors, and lasts a lifetime.

Part of what excites the design community is that they look at this wonderful fabric and can bring their own intellectual property and design. There’s nobody that can do all the things we do, and there are lots of people who can do some of the things we do.

About The Author: Tamara Alazri