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Runway Reflections

What can I say about the fashion scene in Eugene? It's slowly but surely growing up. Last Sunday night, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art hosted St. Vinnie's Metamorphose Upcycling Design challenge: 10 local designers on a $40 material budget to be spent at St Vincent de Paul were tasked to create three runway-ready looks in the categories of Ready-to-Wear, Evening Wear and Designer’s Choice. You can see the winners from this week’s EW “Project Runway” photo spread here.

All the designers get kudos for creating anything that wasn't just a bunch of sock puppets on that tight of a budget with unconventional material options. The levels of execution of the 30 looks ranged from student work to professional and ready to hit the stores — at least from my vantage point — but all the designs had a wonderful sense of whimsy and spontaneity. I sat next to Portland Fashion Week ambassador Ryan May, who had high marks for Vanessa Froehling (Stiches by V); her strapless fishtail gown (below) made from a lace-patterned bed sheet took home the prize for Evening Wear. “It was exciting for me because I’ve never made a dress like that before. I’m not used to doing something so elegant,” Froehling told me over the phone.

Myself, and several in the audience, were struck by the designs (seen below, model Cathryn Clover with Wade) of Seams Legit designer Courtney Wade, who didn’t take home any prizes but was the EW pick in this week’s issue. Her slick, black dress designs, styled perfectly with simple black heals and a fat white blossom in the model’s chignon, did not look “recycled.” After the show, I got to chat with Wade about her approach.


“I wanted to stick with a classic look,” Wade says, that was “neutral in color but used a lot of texture.” This is a departure from her typically colorful, more embellished designs. She called it vintage glamour and a “grown-up version” of herself.

I was also struck by the Ready-to-Wear (seen below) look by Julia Paige of Tufflove Designs. The beautiful mix of clashing bold patterns, along with a wide trouser pant and fantastic fabric hoop earings, Paige’s look was one of the most on-the-fashion-pulse designs. 

Perhaps the most avant-garde ensembles of the night came from Rhiannon Dark of RHI. Dark took home the prize for Ready-to-Wear made from a wool blanket. “There were holes in it,” Dark says. “It had the feel that maybe someone on the street had worn it, which felt punk to me.”

The outfit was edgy and fresh, but for me, her Evening Wear entry (below) was incredibly memorable. She transformed model Savannah Best into a character à la Tilda Swinton in The Chronicles of Narnia: textured hair, ghostly makeup and some truly imaginative outfits — a sort of punk fairytale.


“My husband lived in Amsterdam for a while,” Dark says of her partner, who was immersed in the Dutch punk subculture. “When we got together I got way into it.”

Kendra Brock (seen below with model Desiree Kuenkele - someone's gotta get this woman a role on Mad Men, right?) of Kendra Grace Designs nabbed the prize for Designer’s Choice with her signature playful take on a t-shirt dress. “It was really nice for me that it did win because it’s what I do most of the time, which is making dresses from upcycled t-shirts. It fit her perfectly,” Brock told me the morning after the show. It was great to see Brock, whose background is in sculpture, push herself to work with other fabrics like linen and denim. But it’s also easy to see the appeal of her dresses: they’re easy, fun and oh-so Eugene.

Hosanna Haines of Royal Macabre, the dark horse of the show, had some show-stopping looks as well. The detailing on her collars and backlines (below) were edgy, fashion-forward and completely different than anything else on the catwalk that night.

Overall, it was a great night for Eugene fashion leaving me hungry for Eugene Fashion Week this fall.

(All photos thanks to the marvelous and talented Athena Delene.)