Fashioning Cascadia

The Social Life of the Garment

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Fashioning Cascadia: The Social Life of the Garment

A curatorial essay written by Sarah Margolis-Pineo exploring the concepts and questions underlying the exhibition.

Fashioning Cascadia: The Social Life of the Garment

curated by Sarah Margolis-Pineo

Something I have come to realize about Portland is that this city is decidedly un-fashionable. Not to say that we don’t have style—I feel that few would dispute the fact we are committed to styling hard and with particular zeal; rather, as a region distanced from the urgency of major metropolitan hubs, living in this area affords the breathing room to slow down and exercise a way of life built on considered intention opposed to the momentary gratification of a following fleeting trend.

Fashion connotes a perpetual forward motion—a global cultural zeitgeist expressed through the material choices of consumers, which can be driven by all manner of personal and symbolic desires. In the Pacific Northwest, we have the freedom to redefine what fashion is on a regional scale—detaching it from luxury and trend—to place value in products that are meaningful, sustaining us as human beings. In this sense, un-fashionable means designing garments that are made to last a lifetime and into the next generation. It means repairing and refashioning clothing as things wear and style evolves. And, it means being aware of regional fiber systems that allow local economy and ecology to thrive.

The work on view in Fashioning Cascadia: The Social Life of the Garment is contentedly un-fashionable. Focused on Portland and Seattle, this exhibition explores the material, cultural, and social influences woven into the region’s most inspired sartorial craft by peering behind-the-scenes into the designer’s studio. Further, it invites you examine your own relationship to dress, encouraging you to consider the ways you wear, consume, and reflect on clothing day-to-day.

For many, being un-fashionable is not a viable reality. Amidst our current industrial and economic climate, the appeal – and some may say necessity – of fast fashion’s lower price point and trendier product is undeniable. Fashioning Cascadia does not presume to make a definitive statement about the current and/or future state of the apparel industry; instead, it seeks to raise questions by highlighting the work of artisans who are creating clothing for their immediate neighborhood, literally fashioning Cascadia through small-scale, customer-driven production systems that give material form to garments that are more than objects to own—they are meaningful heirlooms to treasure. It is by taking a closer look at the craft of clothing that Fashioning Cascadia seeks to reconnect us with our own sense of fashion, compelling us to consider the meaning that evolves from what we wear and how we wear it everyday.

Fashioning Cascadia collapses wardrobe and museum, presenting clothing in a context that unpacks the social, cultural, and political life of a particular time and place, all the while remaining tethered to the tactile experience of dress. It is in the seams of a garment that one locates the principles of craft and design, but it is through the daily experience of wearing clothing that we are able to reimagine perceptions, forge new systems of meaning, and create new visions that will propel fashion forward. A garment is both an expression of an ideology as well as a tangible piece that you can hold and wear, and it is the intent of Fashioning Cascadia to be an inspiring exhibition and a provocative call-to-action.

Sarah Margolis-Pineo is Associate Curator of Museum of Contemporary Craft

Illustrations courtesy of Adam Arnold

Pendleton: Gifts of Gratitude

An essay reflecting on personal and family history with Pendleton Woolen Mills, by Jacqueline Keeler.

Pendleton: Gifts of Gratitude

written by Jacqueline Keeler

My dad used to say that when Indians in his town on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in South Dakota were fed up with trying to adapt to white culture they would leave town saying, “I’m done with this—I’m going back to the blanket.”

More often than not, that “blanket” would be made by Pendleton Woolen Mills here in Oregon. The company had cornered the market through an early form of market research in order to give their Native American customers exactly what they wanted. The company sent a textile designer to reservations in the Southwest to study traditional designs and incorporated them into the beautiful patterns the blankets would feature in order to appeal more to the Native American customer.

In an early brochure about the blankets from the early 20th century, photos illustrate all the ways the blankets were worn by Native American people. With titles that describe the situations and mood, it serves as evidence of how the wearing of the blanket served as a form of communication both eloquent and artistic.

In vintage photos of Navajo men they are often pictured huddled together under blankets to protect themselves against the onslaught of wind and gritty sand. My shimasani (Navajo for grandmother) often said that Pendletons kept out the wind better than other blankets and yet, were cool in the summer. They were truly the perfect blanket for life in the Southwestern desert.

My shimasani was the sort of community member who could always be counted on to pitch in and bring food or needed items if another family was doing a ceremony. To thank her, the family would thank her by gifting her with a Pendleton blanket. And when it was her turn she would do the same. Pendletons were the currency of gratitude in Navajo country.

When my husband and I got married, he gave my mother a Pendleton blanket he was given when he graduated from college. The Native American Program at Dartmouth College gave one to each Native American graduate. She was deeply touched as it was the first Pendleton she’d ever been given.

Then, at our wedding, she reciprocated by gifting each of us with a Pendleton. Mine was fringed and I carried it in my traditional Navajo wedding in a hogan made by my family and wearing a rug dress provided by my shimasani. It all made sense to me that night, the rug, the Pendleton, the fire in the middle of the hogan that was the only light during the nighttime ceremony surrounded by my family, my family-to-be and our many friends.

That’s what Pendleton means to me.

Jacqueline Keeler is a Navajo/Yankton Dakota Sioux writer living in Portland, Oregon finishing her first novel “Leaving the Glittering World.”

Image of Pendleton Mill, 1909, courtesy of Pendleton Woolen Mills.

The Business of Fashion: An Interview with Celeste Stipes of Radish Underground and Holly Stalder of Haunt

Weaver and textile designer Kyla Mucci sits down with Celeste Stipes, owner of Radish Underground, and Holly Stalder, designer/owner of Haunt, to discuss the business of the apparel industry in Portland.

The Business of Fashion: An Interview with Celeste Stipes of Radish Underground and Holly Stalder of Haunt

written by Kyla Mucci

As a textile designer, a significant part of my motivation to move to Portland was the number and range of small craft-based businesses flourishing in the Pacific Northwest region. I briefly worked for Nicole Miller in New York and loathed the mechanics of the fashion industry, but appreciated the craftsmanship that went into the construction of apparel. Unfortunately, most people in Nicole Miller’s position are compelled to outsource their production overseas—the most fascinating piece of the process. In Portland, there has been a revival of bringing garment production back to the United States. This is evident in the efforts of businesses like Portland Garment Factory, Make it Good, and Spooltown. These entities support local designers such as Queen Bee, Church and State, Bridge and Burn, and many others.

All of these makers have incredible products. Even so, it still seems too good to be true that all of these people are able to earn their livings through their crafts. Who was buying these things? Is this a viable line of work? I contacted two local apparel storeowners to answer these questions: Celeste Stipes of Radish Underground and Holly Stalder of Haunt. I chose these venues because of the amount of time and experience both owners have had in the Portland clothing retail market.

Stipes is co-owner of Radish Underground, a store dedicated to “timeless quality goods made by either the designer themselves or people directly connected to the designer making a fair wage in good working conditions.” With her business partner Gina Morris, Stipes offers a bevy of ready to wear garments and accessories for women. In addition to providing an outlet for smaller designers to make a living, they are community builders.

Stalder was already an active proponent of independent local design by the time she opened the beloved boutique Seaplane in 2001 with designer Kathryn Towers. Seaplane was a showcase for both Stalder and Towers alongside other local designers. Since Seaplane was sold in 2008, both Stalder and Towers have continued to design clothing. Stalder reentered the retail world with Haunt, boutique a shop located at 811 E Burnside in 2010. Haunt showcases independent designers and is an atelier for Stalder’s own line of custom bridal wear.

I met with Stipes and Stalder with questions and both were generous with their wisdom.

Kyla Mucci: Describe your typical customer. When you opened Radish Underground did you have a vision of who this person was? Has this customer changed?

Celeste Stipes: We do have a fairly wide appeal, but our most consistent market is professional woman age 32-55. She is college educated and is looking for something that is not mass-produced either because she wants to feel unique or is concerned about her impact on the world. She wants clothing that is comfortable and has at least one distinct style element, but not something flashy or trendy. She wants to buy fewer higher quality more versatile pieces.
We did have a vision of a similar customer when we opened, but the customer we have cultivated is different in a couple key ways: she’s slightly older, a more conservative dresser, and maybe not a Portlander. We do have a lot of local customers, but some of our most loyal customers are from Seattle, San Francisco, LA, Boise, Eugene, etc.

KM: Are slow fashion movements and independent fashion design succeeding? Is this feasible?

CS: I see them taking a similar path as the slow food movement has. They need a more educated consumer base and a couple of strong voices moving it along: the Jaime Oliver and Michael Pollan of fashion, as it were. Elizabeth Cline’s book, “Overdressed…” is a good example of this. There has also been so much negative press about clothing manufacturing and a movement towards American manufacturing that has gained a lot of traction in the last couple years. It’s absolutely feasible. It’s a growing market that has a lot to figure out in terms of sustainable production and developing a good brand, but with the success of market places like Etsy, the conscience consumer has never been easier to reach.

We are getting more and more customers in who are looking for more responsible products —I mean, we have one line made responsibly in China (our one exception!) and we get hassled for it by our customers. And customers used to very rarely check labels or ask were things are made and now it is pretty commonplace.

KM: Have you seen a shift in making and manufacturing with the lines you carry since you began in 2008? Is production moving back to the US?

CS: We’ve always focused on small lines and so with the exception of one or two production has always been in the same region as the designer. Very little has changed for the designers we work with in terms of where things are produced. Locally there are a growing number of production options. Finding production has become a lot easier for Portland designers. When we first opened it was a nightmare that brought companies to their knees and prevented growth, but now it is a frustrating part of growing. It’s still difficult as there hasn’t really been an educated work force in garment production in Portland for a long time (I suspect since the last of those big outdoor apparel companies shipped manufacturing overseas —probably Columbia in the 80s if i were guess). As interest in the indie apparel market has grown Portland, so has the apparel skill set and opportunities for skilled makers. Outside of my direct experience with Radish designers. I have noticed a growing movement towards bringing garment manufacturing back to the US. If you just look at how trade shows are marketed: for one there are so many new ones that are specifically for handmade goods that simply didn’t exist 5 years ago, and for the ones who have been around a while they are adding US made sections and using it to market the event. The last show I went to, a couple big lines were touting their return to US manufacturing. It’s Portland so I’m not surprised that I see this kind of marketing but when a rep calls and I ask where their products are made you can tell they get asked all the time. They barely used to know! and now it’s either a quick US! or a lengthy explanation of where and why.

KM: Who was your customer at Seaplane? Is this a different customer than Haunt? Please describe the demographic. What is this customer looking for? Is it different now from 10 years ago?

Holly Stalder: Seaplane was probably geared towards 20 or 30 ish – men and women. Haunt is geared towards women 20-50, but I have 12-80 year olds who are regular customers. I don’t think that people came to Seaplane looking so much for functional clothing, rather an artful conversation piece. Haunt customers are looking for something a little more wearable. I do a lot of bridal. Haunt is a lot smaller and just a very small collection of designers. It feels very private where Seaplane felt very much on display.

KM: In your opinion, whom are successful designers working in the Pacific Northwest? Why?

HS: It depends on how you define success. Adam Arnold is probably the most professional and his skill is amazing. As far designers I love: Kate Towers, Liza Rietz and Emily Stark for being very artistic.

KM: What is the most important advice you can give an emerging designer?

HS: I really don’t have any sage advice for designers. Everyone is so different and it really depends on your goal and what you want out of your career. I would probably say, stay away from the reality shows!

My takeaway from speaking with the owners of Haunt and Radish Underground is if you have the skills, work ethic, and business sense, it is possible to develop, craft, and sell apparel in Portland. Both Stipes and Stalder have tested the market and continue to thrive while selling local lines. Geographic viability isn’t a new topic but it continues to be one of importance. Portland is a pocket containing makers of all types—in this case, apparel. Clothing is necessary and buyers are seeking locally made. In a casual discussion with Stipes she stated that it was more important to start with a business plan and capital rather than thinking you can work your way to profit from nothing. In contradiction to this opinion, Holly Stalder started Seaplane with the idea of having a creative space that was “a reflection of what was being made in the city at the time.” Making money wasn’t the original goal. But today, she has a lucrative business with Haunt. Although they have differing opinions, they agree that creating a successful apparel business is difficult but possible.

Kyla Mucci, ’13, a weaver and textile designer based in Portland, Oregon. Her company, Pastoral Textiles, offers small-batch handwoven wool textiles for apparel, accessories, and the home.

Eponymous Lines: An Interview with Justin Machus, Menswear Designer and Owner of Machus

Kyle Yoshioka speaks with designer and store owner Justin Machus, whose eponymous menswear boutique is setting a new standard for Portland-based men’s fashion.

Eponymous Lines: An Interview with Justin Machus, Menswear Designer and Owner of Machus

While there are many who go against the Portland grain of lumberjack chic, we are still a city drowning in plaid. Justin Machus offers something different. Beginning with the hugely successful, GQ-featured boutique, Local 35, (opened 2003), he has gone on to refine his image and brand to a new level with the opening of Machus in 2011.

It took stints in freelance photography and professional skiing to finally arrive at retail, a venture that goes back five generations in the Machus family. Justin is the first of his name to launch his own clothing line, Private Label. The Machus house label is a collection of impeccably designed garments that are both versatile and intriguing. His is the realm of extended hemlines, exaggerated silhouettes, and subtly masculine forms.

The store itself is an unabashed ode to geometric perfection, pristine edges, and bold asymmetry. Moreover, it is a sharp reflection of the man himself, who readily professes a deep commitment to the appearance of every nook and cranny in the store. The result is a cohesive space that effortlessly accentuates the selection of modern, sculptural, (and mostly black), menswear. Machus comes about as close as a clothing store can to the curatorial arena. Its owner has developed a sartorial concept into a full-blown, object-based conversation about modern fashion.

This interview with Justin Machus was conducted by Kyle Yoshioka for Museum of Contemporary Craft.

Kyle Yoshioka: How did you get your start in menswear?

Justin Machus: I was walking down Hawthorne one day and found the storefront that would become Local35. At the time, I was working at a bike shop trying to do freelance photography and it was a nightmare! So I wrote a proposal that night with my family’s help. I had been going to trade shows with them for a long time and I knew, if I were ever to open a store, what it would be – but I never had the space until then.

KY: With your family’s history in retail, did you feel like you were meant to one day follow that path yourself?

JM: I always wanted to be a photographer, actually, but it turns out that this is way cooler. It’s a mixture of many different kinds of art. As for having the family help in making my business model work – there was just a lineage that made sense to follow. It’s kind of in my DNA, and I grew up learning it. That kind of thing makes itself present as you mature. My mom is still in the industry, and she was a big part of making the private label happen. It’s something that our family has never dabbled in, and neither is my online store. So every generation of my family has taken things in a different direction.

KY: You clearly have an artistic streak, so how does your creative identity play out in the store?

JM: It’s in everything from clothing to the private label to overall aesthetic – furniture, video projections, music.

KY: As a control freak, that sounds awesome to me. Is it the same for you?

JM: Massively. And it’s really hard to relinquish that control to employees sometimes because I want things done the way I want them done. I’m just not awesome at delegating. It’s been ten years and I’m still not good at it, but I’m learning!

KY: But it pays off! Everything flows together and is so cohesive.

JM: I think that’s one of the reasons why I don’t want to have a second or third store, or make this into a huge operation because I think that’s a really old-fashioned business model. Local 35 was really big, and I took Machus down by about a quarter of the size. When the lease was up on that space, I decided it was time to rebrand after eight years on Hawthorne – which is a long time to be on Hawthorne. Since all of the stores in my family were named after relatives (Justin Russell after my father and me, Rupert Cornelius after my grandfather, and so on), it felt like an obvious choice for me to go with Machus and to make it into a brand. And this new space is meant to be smaller, but to serve a wider audience with the addition of the online store. It utilizes the square footage to the maximum.

KY: What was the impetus for creating the Private Label? Which I happen to be wearing today.

JM: Oh, cool! I’m really excited about it. Basically, I wanted to fill gaps. That’s the biggest thing. I see so many brands at all different price points. For the Private Label, I felt like I needed to provide basic daily options for the guys that are influenced by high design, but find it unattainable because it’s too expensive. So we’re doing things with the same factory that produces for Fear of God out of L.A. but at less than half the marked up price because we’re not being hyped by Kanye. I’m not reinventing the wheel, but I think they’re really on point and are filling in what other lines are missing.

KY: How does the Portland environment and client base affect your decisions?

JM: I guess I tend to look to an international scale for influences. We travel a ton. It’s hard – Portland is behind in a lot of things, but it’s poised to be at the forefront of fields like design and apparel with companies like Nike, Adidas, Instrument and Wieden+Kennedy, which are ahead of the game globally. But a lot of Portland is still kind of stuck with the same kind of workboot-and-raw-denim aesthetic. Which is great! And it’s totally Pacific Northwest and it’s not going anywhere. But there are other things that can be offered. I think the Private Label – a home brand from Portland that is quintessentially modern – is counterintuitive for people looking at us from LA and New York. They say things like, “Oh, there’s a clothing brand from Portland that isn’t Pendleton?”

It’s going to evolve as it needs to, but eventually I want it to be a kind of modern classics line. That’s the beauty of a house line – you can move really fast. If I go to a trade show in January, those pieces don’t come in until August, which is such a long time. Fashion moves so much faster these days. People could be well over something by the time it launches. But with the Private Label, I think of something I want and we get it done in three weeks to a month. I sketch a design, send it off, and a week later we get a sample. We do some tweaks, send it back, and go to production. The speed of it is my favorite part. I can actually stay on top of current trends.

KY: That’s amazing. And it’s something you couldn’t do in a bigger store.

JM: Yeah! There are a lot of brands that are starting to use an “at-once” model for delivering products. They don’t do seasons. They do mini-drops, mini-collections. And I think that’s really, really smart. The old Fall/Spring six-month business model is great for runways, but man, is it bad for actually providing fashion. It’s so weird. Fall comes by and those months are really busy and we’re totally bought up. But in the off times, it can be totally dead. So I plan the Private Label production for those moments. I think that’s the future, not the fashion season and trade show model – especially with more and more production happening in the United States.

KY: What does the future hold for the store and the Private Label?

JM: We’ll be keeping up with our stock of blacks/whites/grays. With the Private Label, we’ll keep making pieces that are simple and architectural. I want to make things that aren’t deconstructed and flowy – I like finished edges – but that still have movement and give. All of my stuff is meant to be worn and worked out over time, and will weather well and look better with age.

Curatorial Walkthrough | Fashioning Cascadia

Join curator Sarah Margolis-Pineo for a walk through of Museum of Contemporary Craft’s most recent exhibition, on view through October 11, 2014

Download (mp3).

Video | Adam Arnold

Video | Michael Cepress

Video | Anna Cohen for Imperial Stock Ranch

Video | Michelle Lesniak

Video | Carole McClellan

Video | Liza Rietz

Video | Anna Telcs

Video | Portland Garment Factory

Prototyping Fashion's Future: The Business of Fashion

Prototyping Fashion’s Futures is a half-day symposium conceived as a think-tank to envision how Portland can become an incubator for the slow fashion movement.

Photoset | Stephanie Syjuco: Fashion Safehouse Artist-in-Residence

Photoset | Cassie Ridgway: Fashion Safehouse Artist-in-Residence

PDX Garment Map

PDX Garment Map is an ongoing, interactive catalog of apparel production in Portland, Oregon. This resource includes sources for materials, made-to-measure design, full-scale production, garment repair, and educational opportunities in the field of fashion design.

PDX Garment Map was conceived as a component of Fashioning Cascadia: The Social Life of the Garment, on view at Museum of Contemporary Craft May 9 – October 11, 2014. To contribute to PDX Garment Map, email:

Slide Show | Seaplane: Epicenter of Independent Fashion Design in Portland, 2000 – 2008

Sentimental Value PDX

Every object has a story. Even our most mundane possessions narrate when, how, and why they entered our lives, and how they have been used since. Given the tactility and intimacy of clothing, garments often become repositories for meaning, acquiring sentimental value through continued wear and reuse.

This blog, inspired by Emily Spivack’s ongoing project Sentimental Value, is a forum for Museum visitors to share their own Sentimental Value stories. Sentimental Value PDX also includes the Vintage Emporium, a collaboration of artist Michael Horwitz and AlexSandra, owner of AlexSandra’s Vintage Emporium in North Portland.

Contribute to Sentimental Value PDX by emailing images and reflections to:

May 09, 2014 – October 11, 2014

Curated by: Sarah Margolis-Pineo

How does fashion and clothing engage craft, technically, materially, and conceptually in the design, production, circulation, use, and reuse of garments? Here, clothing is defined as the objects produced—the physical garments, whereas fashion is viewed as the cultural zeitgeist that fashion embodies: an ever-changing identity for the current moment. Leveraging craft as a framework, Fashioning Cascadia collapses clothing and fashion, bringing together the tangible utility of clothing with the creativity and cultural import of fashion in the Cascadian region.

This exhibition will ask: What is being made here and why? How does the fashion industry shape the regional identity of the Pacific Northwest? How/why are we known as a locality innovates through research and technology as well as handcraft, finding new models of production and consumption that reframe behavior patterns to be positioned for a more sustainable future?

This exhibition, firstly, unpacks the craft of the designer’s studio through the exhibition of work by regional clothiers including those involved in all aspects of the design and production, as well as those forging new production models based on locally-sourced and produced supply chains. In particular, this portion of the exhibition will honor the Fibershed ideology laid out by Rebecca Burgess that emphasizes regional and slow fiber systems similar to those that have been embraced in the culinary field.

Secondly, this exhibition will explore the craft of use, or the circulation, modification, and social meaning that becomes embedded in garments. This portion of the exhibition will emphasize the use of heirloom narrative and re-skilling as a way to examine individual behavior and breakdown prevailing attitudes towards clothing as a disposable commodity.

Adam Arnold
Michael Cepress
Anna Cohen for Imperial Stock Ranch
Michelle Lesniak
Carole McClellan
Pendleton Woolen Mills
Liza Rietz
Emily Spivack
Anna Telcs
Otto von Busch

Adrienne Antonson
Drew Cameron
Cassie Ridgway
Stephanie Syjuco

Community Connections Exhibition:
Portland Garment Factory

Storefront Artists-in-Residence:
Kyla Mucci
Alexa Stark