Portland's Fashion Show Dream Team
How a trio of local designers help each other fill the city's style calendar
Over the past four years, Elizabeth Mollo, Cassie Ridgway, and December Carson have staged the city’s biggest new fashion shows—pairing groundbreaking design with Portland’s cooperative spirit. “We came together to produce really high-caliber events,” Ridgway says. “We consider ourselves a production team, and I only want to work with my team at this point.
THE BRAINS: ELIZABETH MOLLO
In addition to producing FashionNXT and Fade to Light on her own, San Jose native Mollo, 33, thrives in harmonizing the intricate timing and choreography of the backstage operations of the trio’s collaborative shows. “It’s stressful,” she admits, “but I like the newness of it all. I like to be able to think, ‘Whatever happens happens—I’ll deal with it.’”
THE NETWORKER: CASSIE RIDGWAY
Ridgway, 26, is a designer and owner of Mag-Big, the four-year-old SE Hawthorne boutique that sells locally made and manufactured products from nearly 700 different designers. While she’s involved in all planning stages, Ridgway’s talents shine in crafting compelling lineups, drawing on the considerable Rolodex that she’s built at her store. “I know most of the apparel designers in Portland personally,” she says. “I have the strongest hold on what’s current in Portland.”
THE MUSCLE:DECEMBER CARSON
By day Carson, 44, is the marketing director for Portland 5 Centers for the Arts and artistic director for the nonprofit Siren Nation, which promotes local women in the arts. In addition to finding funding, Carson oversees the shows’ hefty physical infrastructure—from securing the venue to building the runway to erecting the lights and sound system.
- ENGAGED (January) Locally designed and manufactured wedding gowns
- UNMENTIONABLE (February) Locally designed and manufactured lingerie (yowza!)
- PORTLAND SEWING FASHION FORWARD SHOW (May) Co-produced by Mollo, this show features seven new Portland designers and their debut collections, with proceeds going to Portland Sewing’s Fashion Design Scholarship for Teens
- BIGGEST CLOTHING SWAP IN THE NORTHWEST (April) For only $5 and a bag of gently used clothing or accessories, attendees fill bags with whatever they find. Bonus: mimosas and cocktails.
- OPEN SEASON (May) Why mess with success? Mollo's Open Season tends to celebrate the tried and true—the venerated locals still producing dazzling designs.
- ALLEY 33 (July) An annual outdoor show featuring ready-to-wear apparel designed and manufactured locally and with sustainable business practices