John Blasioli invites me into his sweltering, spacious studio clearly in need of an air conditioner in Portland’s southeast neighborhood. A former designer at The Portland Collection, Blasioli said two of his former fellow designers, Nathaniel Crissman and Rachel Turk, share a studio down the hallway, and he tells me they’re doing good things.
He grew up in Connecticut and received his bachelor’s degrees from the University of Vermont, focusing on labor studies and domestic production.
“Fashion wasn’t really an option at college but there was an art program,” says Blasioli who was much more interested in taking a behind-the-scenes approach to fashion such as manufacturing and sampling. This part of the industry tends to be a gray area many aspiring designers overlook, instead hoping for a shot at something more glamorous like designing under another designer for some large company.
Blasioli traveled to Portland on a whim with his then girlfriend, and like so many others he fell in love with what this city had to offer creatively, and he’s been here ever since. “Portland is a place where ideas come to life pretty easily. You have people just basically creating out of their bedroom or out of their basements. Seeing all that stuff was inspiring,” Blasioli says.
In 2005, he launched a menswear line, broken spoke that continued until 2008. In the fall of 2009, he released a collection under his own name. In 2010, he was hired as one-third of the design team behind Pendleton’s new, contemporary line The Portland Collection. He designed five collections for the 150-year-old company including high-quality women’s clothing before returning his focus to his line and to new special projects. He prefers designing clothes for men.
At his studio, sophisticated jackets hung near a wall, some from previous collections, along with a few upcoming pieces that he prefers to keep quiet for now. Since leaving The Portland Collection, Blasioli has struggled in finding full-time work but has been fortunate in freelancing, taking on side projects, and is currently working on his spring 2015 collection, which he plans to sell this Fall. Although he’s appreciative of Portland’s supportive community, he explains it’s not enough to sustain him and he’s opting toward other markets. “Portland is really supportive community here but there’s not much work,” Blasioli says.
The world of fashion is similar to a revolving door — it’s continually on the go and evolving, and if you sit still long enough, you’ll get left in the dust. Strange enough, Blasioli’s work isn’t a reflection of his obsession with fashion but more about finding a balance in the clothing world. Like many designers, fashion remains a medium of communication allowing the designers to hone in on their creativity. “Fashion is just what I relate to the most. If I weren’t designing, I’d still have to be doing something else with my hands. My work is about finding a balance to fashion rather than just operating in the clothing world,” Blasioli says.