Still Made in America: The Purl of Portland’s Fashion Week


Last weekend’s Portland Fashion Week endeavored for the title of most cohesive runway show on the West Coast and demonstrated the area’s evident talent pool with four former Project Runway competitors showing. Reiterating the event’s green consciousness was last season’s winner, Seth Aaron‘s debut of a dramatic Gaga-esque solar energy-inspired collection.

While Aaron’s collection and the headlining unique, solar-powered catwalk construction were a blazing argument for the need for new collaboration between the energy and fashion industries, the most radical thing to see was legendary Oregon textilist Pendleton‘s collaboration with Opening Ceremony and local luxury knitwear line Souchi – demonstrating that local companies can produce eco-wool clothing successfully.

Perhaps it’s timing. With chunky knits ruling the AW 2010 runways from Prada to Chloé, and the trend for heritage looks, the use of wool for clothing seems exciting again. As a natural, renewable, and fully recyclable fiber, wool’s green credentials are obvious. Are the knitters on to something?

“I’m not sure it’s necessarily cheaper to produce than cut and sew – it’s actually a bit more expensive especially locally,” says designer Casey Larkin, whose knitwear line, Adie + George, produced 100 percent in California, launched last year. “Looking at the big picture of the manufacturing process, knit wear is probably a good place to start in this recession because a knit house is usually a vertical program that handles the entire process from start to finish – making the process more efficient and therefore less expensive in the end.”

Larkin’s partner, textile artist and designer Sasha Duerr, outlines the many benefits to keeping production in America, “Just as with regaining our local food system, the initial cost for quality ingredients in our collection is higher – just like with organic and local food – but the exchange is that we are able to participate closely in the process of where our yarn comes from, where it is spun, where it is knitted, and finally dyed.” Duerr, who founded the Permacouture Institute and is devoted to reviving organic and natural dying processes, continues, “There is a true storytelling that comes with choosing local materials, working with local farms, reviving fiber mills, and domestic knitwear houses, and supporting other facets that support true economic recovery. Our vision for Adie + George is aligned with how we would like local and domestic fashion production to be in the near future. The whole process is hands-on and extremely satisfying.”

Above image Pendleton for Opening Ceremony

Rowena Ritchie

Rowena is EcoSalon’s West Coast Fashion Editor and currently resides in San Francisco, CA.