Catwalk in the Clouds
"Up in the Air" fashion event soars
When I arrived at the "Up in the Air" Summer Affair last Friday, held atop the Hotel deLuxe’s parking structure, my first thought was: "Man. This roof thing is great in theory, but it is too damn hot today." Why did I decide to wear a sweater in 100 degree weather? And where were my sunglasses when I needed them? Luckily for me, however, my next thought was: "Thank god this Kona Brewing tent is right next to the elevator. Wailua Wheat, please!" And with a chilly glass of beer in hand I felt far more prepared for what the night had in store. Which was, all things considered, a very well-organized chaos.
A walk of the event’s perimeter revealed a slew of booths from many of Portland’s most noteworthy designers and boutiques, including Fuchsia, Pasteesh, Tina Marie Bridal Design, Betsy + Iya, and Worn + Refind, as well as tables serving cocktails from local distilleries New Deal and Deco Distilling (and of course, beer by Kona Brewing Co). There was also a photo booth, complete with funny hats and a feather boa… the existence of which I found rather perplexing.
The event was put on by Popina Swimwear (read: Will Levenson, Popina co-owner and organizer of the whole shebang) in conjunction with CRAVE Portland (a marketing company that connects and supports local women business owners), advertised as a launch party for The Neat Sheet, with proceeds ($10 admission and $10 raffle tickets) going to benefit the Willamette Riverkeeper (the only organization dedicated solely to the protection and restoration of the Willamette River). As much as the event sponsors and organizers I spoke with tried to talk up the importance of giving back to the community generally, and the Willamette Riverkeeper specifically, the crowd itself gave the nonprofit little notice. The event came off more in the way Levenson himself described it: as a "fun, kick-butt party," to fill Portland’s big fiesta void and "hit summer with the ground running."
Perhaps the highlight of the evening for me (aside from the free drinks) was speaking with Karen Vitt, the publisher/editor-in-chief of The Neat Sheet. The "blogazine," first launched in January 2010, claims to be Portland’s only daily style and fashion news source. They provide up-to-date sartorial reports that cover everything from what’s new at Macy’s to smart designs the smallest of local boutiques. At this point, Vitt herself does 90 percent of the work, including publishing, coding, and writing, with new volunteer writer Erin Flesch fleshing out the content. But according to Vitt, things are looking up (not up in the air, ha ha ha): they expect to introduce easy-and-affordable traditional advertising in the next few months, although she emphasized the fact that that they are staunchly non-advertorial, focusing solely on news: "News-hooked, news value, news ethics," she said.
As the hot afternoon transitioned into a beautiful, cool evening, the fashion show began, featuring designs from Popina Swimwear, Mabel and Zora, Parallel, Physical Element, Idom, Moulé, Lizard Lounge, Solestruck, Covet, and Oh Baby. See above video for footage, but suffice to say that the show was what it was, no more and no less: a "Local Boutique Showcase." The fashions that were modeled accurately represented the Portland boutique scene both stylistically and quality-wise: for the most part, they were simple, wearable, well-crafted designs displaying neat lines and just enough flair to enter the realm of the not-boring. The models themselves ranged from confident runway walkers to "Hey, I have this friend who likes to model sometimes—can she be in the show?" to one aggro and uncomfortable-looking model who made me feel slightly awkward myself.
Post-fashion show, things began to fizzle out, and by the party’s 9 p.m. close, the roof was pretty empty. A gorgeous sunset served ceremoniously as the closing address. As my boyfriend and I circled down the parking structure, followed by an entourage of local designers wheeling away their wares, we stopped to revel in the Portland summer fashion party mystique and vowed to spend as much time on roofs as possible. The views are amazing.