While we are lucky enough to live in a city that celebrates its farm-to-table movement, respects musicians for capturing their records here, and, in general, applauds the idea of being in touch with your consumerism, the fact remains that many of us cannot answer this simple question: “Who made your clothes?”

I don’t mean what fancy designers name is on it, I mean—in the same way we can rattle off what distillery provides the main ingredient for our favorite cocktail or where our wallpaper was hand screenprinted—can you name who made your clothes? What about even naming the country?

A growing movement within the fashion community and beyond with groups like FashionRevolution.org (who formed after the deaths of thousands in fashion factories last year due to shoddy conditions) and an ongoing dialogue about raising consciousness of the design and manufacturing process merges perfectly with our own Museum of Contemporary Craft’s newest exhibit opening this week. 

Image: Christy Klep
Adam Arnold, ASAP suit and blouse, 2013

Fashioning Cascadia: The Social Life of the Garment is an exhibition “that draws from the experience of both designer and wearer to explore the culture of regional fashion.” Opening this week and running through October 11, museum goers can get up close and personal with the independent fashion cycle—including phases of design, production, circulation, use, and reuse of garments with works by eight Northwest fashion designers.

That list includes a few of our local loves like Adam Arnold, Anna Cohen and Imperial Stock Ranch, Michelle Lesniak, the Portland Collection from Pendleton, and Liza Rietz. Additional highlights from the Seattle area include Michael Cepress, Carole McClellan, and Anna Telcs. Organized by Associate Curator Sarah Margolis-Pineo, the exhibition features spectacular finished garments alongside ephemera to illustrate the behind-the-scenes of the designer’s process.

Margolis-Pineo’s original list of potential designers hit three digits, before she narrowed that down to thirty studio visits that led to her final eight. It was important for her and the museum to feature Northwest designers that are committed to regional and slow clothing systems who focus on using responsible methods of sourcing, producing, distributing, using, caring for, and repairing garments.

Fashioning Cascadia:
The Social Life of the Garment 
Museum of Contemporary Craft 
May 9–October 11

“We start with the craft of fashion, and then broaden our scope to look at the social life of the garment,” says Sarah Margolis-Pineo. “The way garments are made, the way we live with them, the way we make them our own are inherently political. I’m interested in how designers and artists can help us imagine new models of production and consumption that can position us for a more sustainable future.”

Beyond learning the exhaustive process small designers go through to bring us beautiful clothing, the exhibit aims to get us all thinking with a number of participatory projects to engage the public in examining the ways we engage, use, and re-fashion clothing day-to-day.

The conversation is important, the ideas presented are important, but on top of all that, it’s just really beautiful, too. 

Additional Exhibit Features:  

Liza Rietz, Crescent Dress (2013)

Curatorial Walkthrough with Sarah Margolis-Pineo
Friday May 9, 11am

See the exhibit with Pineo as she explains additional details and her thoughts behind the displays.

Symposium | Prototyping Fashion’s Futures
Saturday May 31, 9am – 5pm 

This symposium is conceived as a think tank to envision how Portland can become an incubator for the slow fashion movement. In the way that this region has transformed the fields of transportation, energy, and food, how can we harness this momentum to innovate the apparel industry?

Sentimental Value: Artist Talk and Writing Workshop with Emily Spivack
Saturday May 10, 1-3pm 

Emily Spivack is a curator, writer, and fashion historian based in Brooklyn, NY. She is the creator and writer of Threaded, the Smithsonian's fashion history blog. Her ongoing story collection project, Sentimental Value, will be on view at the Museum, and her forthcoming book, Worn Stories, will be released by Princeton Architectural Press, fall 2014.

Vintage Fashion Runway Show
Friday May 30, 7:30pm 

AlexSandra's Vintage Emporium in partnership with Living Threads Vintage, Lodekka, Lulu's Vintage, Shop Vintage Portland, and Xtabay Vintage Clothing Boutique present a runway fashion show featuring spectacular vintage garments from decades past. Hosted by AlexSandra and Tony Starlight of Tony Starlight’s Lounge, this event will include cocktails, a runway performance, and a trunk show.

Every other Tuesday: Home and garden ideas, fashion trends, stories, and images from Portland's rich design scenes. (See an example!)