Can fashion be sustainable?

Why is sustainable fashion on everyone’s minds now? That’s because fashion has a massive environmental cost.
– It is one of the largest polluters and consumers of fresh water. One pound of cotton consumes 1,320 gallons. That means 650 gallons for one new cotton t-shirt.
– It can take 200 years for a polyester garment to decompose.
– Fashion is responsible for about 5% to 10% of all human-caused carbon in the world.
– The amount of clothing in landfills is more than four times what it was in 1980.

Blame it on fast fashion. That is, getting trendy clothes out to customers as fast as possible and priced low enough to encourage overconsumption. The average person:
– In 1990, bought 40 garments per year. Today, 66 garments per year.

– Throws out 70 lbs of clothes/year to make room for new fast fashion.
– Most consumers admit to a closet full of clothes that they don’t really like or want to wear.

But the cost is also cultural.

We’ve raised a generation of consumers who struggle to recognize quality clothing; who lack basic mending and repairing skills and have lost touch with their clothes, where they come from, how they’re made and why it matters.

So what can you do? Here are some tips to help you pursue your fashion dreams, sustainably:

  • Educate yourself. Learn the elements of good design.
  • Look for brands that produce garments using less water, fewer toxic dyes, fewer chemicals and fewer nonrenewables like virgin polyester.
  • Cherish garments you love and make them to fit you.
  • Go slow. Make choices carefully. Build a functioning wardrobe of clothes that you love.
  • Buy secondhand clothes and make them suit you. Make locally; buy locally.
  • Learn to sew & repair. Wear clothes 9 months longer & reduce your carbon footprint for that garment by 30%.
  • Read “Overdressed: the shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” by Elizabeth Cline
  • Support local upcyclers like Looptworks

Trend Watch: 6 Sizzling Colors for Summer

Yes, we live in the Northwest where black, grey and neutrals reign supreme. Just for fun, let’s brighten our day with a pop of color — especially when it feels warm enough to wear them.
You’ve seen these colors on the runway. You’ll see them in our fabric store, PFI Supply. We bet, with some searching, you might find them in your closet. With a little “Fix & Fit”, wear them again and get ready to go viral.

Electric Yellow
Ever since Nike introduced the color Volt in 2016, we’ve been on the edge of a neon wave. So bring on the sunshine. Rita Dress, pattern #5181

Lime Green
Brighter than florals but more subdued than neon. Let’s try this one for picnics and garden parties. Gilda Dress, pattern #5183

Cayenne Red
Nothing says Summer more than red. Cayenne was spotted all over the runways. Wear it as a dress or as a blouse for a pop. Menjou Dress, pattern #5184

Bright Blue
Bright blues are making major waves. Use it for a dress, a jacket or pair it with denim and go all-blue. Donna Dress, pattern #5141

Hot Pink
Anything that reminds you of bubblegum is what you should choose. Try a comfortable and flattering slip dress during the day with kicky boots or in the evening with a strappy sandal. Georgia Taylor, OverallyAwesome

Painterly Prints
Take the opposite route of a solid color and go for a print that includes elements of the trendy brights. Yes, it can rain in Summer here. Warhol Trench, pattern #3510

# # #

Portland Fashion Institute Doubles in Size as Other Fashion Schools Shutter

FASHION NEWS

After a year of losing longtime fashion establishments, one school is going gangbusters.

Portland Monthly

By Eden Dawn 4/16/2019 at 9:53am

The local fashion community took a lot of hits in the last year. In December, The Art Institute of Portland—known for filtering graduates directly into the mega machines of Nike, Adidas, and Columbia—shut its doors after operating for 20 years. Prior to being acquired as part of the AI chain, it had been the Bassist College, a fashion institute for women, since 1963. In October, Fabric Depot, a stalwart of the sewing community providing budding young designers and quilting grandmothers alike with bolts and threads, shut its doors suddenly after 26 years. And finally, in February of 2019, the Oregon College of Arts and Crafts, with a 112-year-old history in the community, announced it will close its doors next month.

At the same time, the Portland Fashion Institute  just doubled their campus size to accompany their exploding annual growth of 103% a year.

Some background, first. Founder and director Sharon Blair was a former instructor at the Art Institute knew she loved teaching, but was struggling with the high-cost of AI’s tuition, saddling students with up to 30 years of debt. She wanted to create an option students who just wanted to focus on the fashion aspect. (Full disclosure, Blair was my sewing teacher at AI many years ago.) In 2010 she opened the doors of her school, then called Portland Sewing, committed to providing more affordable options for those who wanted the trade skills. Today it operates out of two simple, renovated homes in the Hollywood neighborhood.

“I couldn’t understand burdening people with that kind of debt for the rest of their lives. That I think is the shadow of what is driving our success goes. We’ve always believed in students without debt. And always lived within our means,” she says. “We’re always going to counsel them to first stick with living within their means and people pay for the classes as they go along. We even break it down into monthly payment plans for them. I’d rather that they left us without any burden on their shoulders.”

Her vision of affordability rings true. A 4-week sewing class is under $30 a session, and even a 12 week pattern-making class with all the specialty supplies included runs just $55 a session. Most classes have around a dozen students ensuring a lot of instructor face time. By comparison, AI’s tuition was $485 per credit hour after capping it in 2014.

There’s even some familiar face crossover between the two schools from instructors beyond Blair. With the addition of the new building textile designer Trish Langman, who’s crafted prints for everyone from Calvin Klein to Pendleton, now teaches her techniques in a hands on dyeing and manipulation class. Elizabeth Mollo, the city’s busiest fashion show producer teaches her methodology to budding apparel students for a fraction of the price of the former college. Additionally Blair contracts with a host of well known names in the industry from designer Liza Rietz teaching an experimental design class to Karen Spencer, who formed Nike’s Intellectual Property Transactions and Licensing functions, with business plan courses.

Now, as the school approaches the 10 year mark, students will soon have some new options. PFI is a licensed trade school that’s also in the midst of the long process to also become accredited with the Department of Education, which would lend the school more prestige and name recognition. It will also give students the opportunity to apply for FAFSA loans—though Blair says she will expressly discourage students from doing so in keeping her zero-debt vision.

Currently the student body is a mix of working professionals building their resumes with, say, a computer pattern-making class, and people looking to change careers entirely by entering into one of their three certificate programs: Apparel Design, Apparel Development, or Entrepreneurship.

Certificate graduates get employment assistance with an impressive success rate of 100%. Meaning if you graduate from the program, PFI says they will help you find a job in the fashion field. Former students now work for eco-friendly brand Looptworks, on the Yeezy line for Adidas, Hannah Andersson, Pendleton, and Columbia. All of them successfully working in the fashion industry without the previously required $70,000 training price tag.

“I don’t need a jet, you know,” says Blair. “I want to just build Portland as a market center for the apparel industry.”

# # #

Fade to Light: Portland’s Art-Forward Fashion Show Shocks and Soothes

Portland Mercury
April 11, 2019
by Wm. Steven Humphrey, editor-in-chief

Held twice yearly, Fade to Light is the fashion show for people who love fashion shows. Created and produced by former Mercury style writer Elizabeth Mollo, Fade to Light pushes the boundaries of standard runway shows by encouraging local designers to experiment and reveal the muses that inspire them. And the recent spring installment of Fade was just as exciting and thought-provoking as always. Portland Fashion Institute students showed remarkable maturity and fashion-forwardness with their intricate and innovative draping and fabric manipulation techniques. Other heavy hitters included Altar’s always excellent house line, Ale O’s asymmetrical minimalism, and strong, fantastical design chops from Ai PDX’s Ibet Lopez, Tyrone Spencer, and Bi Quang Pham. That said, the crowd went absolutely nuts for Holy Voids’ smartly tailored “Where the Wild Things Are meets Satan” fashion freak-outs, as well as COLTY, whose snappy, sharp line of leather handbags, backpacks, and body harnesses were revealed as scantily clad models tore themselves out of body-length stockings. It was scary, kind of disturbing, and entirely sexy—providing yet another shining example of how Fade to Light adds a jolt of creative electricity to Portland’s already fantastic fashion scene.

More than 100 persons attend PFI’s 9th Anniversary Open House

The Portland Fashion Institute just bought a new building in the Hollywood District, where designers and aspiring designers can buy supplies for their creations. Cassidy Quinn got a lesson in Batik dyeing from textile artist Tricia Langman.  See Cassidy’s visit here.

Great piece in the Portland Tribune: “Faced with a fast-growing enrollment and lack of room at Portland Fashion Institute, Sharon K. Blair is growing and expanding her business in NE Portland with the purchase of a building next door. Her school offers three certificate programs — apparel design, apparel technical development and apparel entrepreneurship and it only uses teachers who work in the fashion industry.”

Sources for Eco-Fabrics

Q. Do you have any tips on how to source existing fabric? I’d like to order more but no longer have the info about the fabric. Do you have organic cotton sources? — Heather

A.  Most all of our sources are wholesale.  If you can buy wholesale amounts (12+ yards), you’ll get a better price on these expensive fabrics.  Most will ask you to register and make a minimum purchase initially, yearly and each time both in dollars and yardage.

You know our favorite source for organic knits:  Pickering.  Birch Fabrics also carries organic cotton.  You might also try the following.  I’ve had good luck with all.

— Bamboo Fabric Store
— Jasco fabrics
— NearSea Naturals (Organic Cotton Plus)
— Spiritex Organic Fabric
— Wazoodle Fabrics

 

 

Portland Fashion Institute’s recent expansion holds good news for local apparel design

Sewing up the future

Stephanie Basalyga — Portland Tribune

Photos by Jonathan House

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Portland Fashion Institute’s recent expansion holds good news for local apparel design

When it came time to expand Portland Fashion Institute, founder Sharon Blair found the answer in her own backyard.

The school, which uses a former house on the corner of Northeast Tillamook Street and Northeast 43rd Avenue in Portland’s Hollywood District, recently purchased and renovated a neighboring house. Blair said the purchase was necessary to meet growing demand for the school’s classes and certification programs.

The ground-floor of the second location at 4225 N.E. Tillamook St. now contains a fabric store called PFI Supply that is open to the public. Rooms on the upper floor as well as basement space are for classes taught by a faculty that includes professionals from local apparel manufacturing companies.

Blair, whose resume includes a career as a fashion designer and apparel entreprenuer, says the Hollywood location is ideal for the school’s two buildings in large part because research indicates the area boasts a high number of people interested in sewing.

Offering sewing classes was Blair’s main focus in 2002 when she started a venture called Portland Sewing, which served an initial class of four students. By 2010, she had added classes in the business of apparel. In 2016, Portland Fashion Institute opened its doors as a licensed commerical school.

As the school’s class offerings increased, so did the school’s popularity, driven as much by reality television shows like Project Runway — 11 of Portland Fashion Institute’s student have competed in the show, with one selected as a winner in season eight — as by willingness of city residents to embrace a sustainability mindset that extends to their wardrobes.

Faced with a fast-growing enrollment and lack of room in the 2,800-square-foot original location, Blair began looking for a second building. After searching for nearly a year without success, she learned the house next to the school’s original building was for sale.

From designers to DIYers

The school saw a jump in enrollment starting in 2016, when a certificate program it created was approved by the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission. From a first-year class with 20 students, the school has expanded to three certificate programs — apparel design, apparel technical development and apparel entrepreneurship — serving a total of 57 students at any one time.

The school serves another 630 students each year who come seeking individual classes for personal or professional development. Part of the attraction, Blair said, is the fact that Portland Fashion Institute offers classes for a range of students, from designers looking to earn certification to people interested in one or two classes either for fun or for continuing education.

Portland Fashion Institute only uses teachers who work in the fashion industry. The main goal is to ensure that teachers are up to date in industry trends and practices, but that real-world connection comes with a bonus.

“It also turns out quite a few of them are hiring managers for their companies,” Blair said. “So, they’re able to spot the next talent.”

That pipeline to jobs at local companies has resulted in a 100 percent placement rate for students once they finish their certificate programs, Blair added. 

Building on basics 

The world of apparel design is becoming more high-tech, but Blair holds firm in her belief that a successful career in the industry still requires building a hands-on foundation. 

“You always have to know how things go together and we teach those basics,” she said. “Any garment has a certain set of operations, whether you’re doing it by machine or by human being. What we try to teach our people is (they’re) not necessarily going to be doing the sewing, but (they’d) better know how it goes together so (they) can specify that to the factory or the sample sewer or the production house who’s going to be putting that together.”

Students enrolled in the certificate programs also are required to take 36 credits of business courses. Blair has tapped local professionals to teach classes on topics that include branding, marketing strategy, building financial plans.

The school also partners with Mercy Corps Northwest’s Business Development Services along with its Small Women’s Business Center, which offers low-interest loans for entrepreneurs, especially women and minorities. About 80 percent of the students at Portland Fashion Institute are women, while 40 percent of the school’s students identify as minorities, Blair said.

Most students complete the certification program in two to two-and-a half years. The programs are broken into quarters, which align with those at local public schools.

“Most of our students have jobs, are married, have kids,” Blair said. “So, they’re trying to have a work-life balance and fit in schooling.”

Next steps

Blair is looking at possibly finding a third location in the near future. The school is “very close” to receiving accreditation, according to Blair, and she believes that will attract even more students. The status means Portland Fashion Institute will be included in Department of Education and career counseling lists available to students at high schools. It also will allow the school to accept to accept Oregon Savings Plan money and federal financial aid.

The institute has long had a commitment to helping students graduate with little to no debt, even using the hashtag “studentswithoutdebt” on social media. While the school will continue to offer plans that allow students to pay for classes as they go or break up payments through a quarter, Blair also plans on hiring a financial aid officer once the school receives the accreditation.

“If (students) really insist on borrowing … through financial aid, then we’ll have somebody to help them,” she said. “But we’ll find every avenue we can to make this education affordable to them so they graduate with a clean slate and not have a monkey of debt on their backs.”

Designing Ways

Portland Fashion Institute will serve up a double celebration on Wednesday, April 10, in honor of Portland Design Week and the school’s ninth anniversary.

The school will offer a series of demonstrations from 4 to 5 p.m. that will include patternmaking, machine knitting and fabric painting.

From 6 to 7 p.m., Michelle Lesniak, a self-taught Portland designer who won season 11 of Project Runway and moved on to become a cast member of Project Runway Allstars, will discuss what it takes to succeed in fashion design. 

The school also will offer tours of its new building, including a fabric store that’s open to the public, and a special exhibit of Barbie dolls featuring 100 outfits by some of the biggest names in fashion design.

Registration to attend the demonstrations is available online here.

Fabric purchasing advice

Hi Sharon,

I’m in the final prototyping stage of my tank tops in a slubby lightweight organic french terry. I have one more roll of this material, with 50 yards on it. I am in search of a slightly softer fabric and am ordering sample yardage from Pickering. That said, if the fabric I order is more luxurious feeling (also more expensive), should I go ahead and sew up the 100 tanks I can get out of my current supply and sell them at a discounted price to my loyal fans, or should I hold off and wait until I get the new fabric – which could take longer (and I’m stuck with 50 yards of french terry). My fabric has a very natural organic feel to it, and when paired with the modern minimalist cut of the tank has a cool style.

I really appreciate your perspective and advice on this. – Heather T

Hi Heather — You likely have already made a decision but I always go with the original sample. That’s what people used for their buying decision. That would mean staying with your original fabric. The Pickering fabric is just speculation. You may not like it after all. It may be more expensive for your profit margin. If you do like it and order it then great, you have next season’s garments.

Hope that helps — S//PFI

Silks — and how to use them

End of February brings the end of winter and beginning of Spring sewing season.  Time to make that party dress or, for some of us, sew a wedding dress.  That means hunting for the right kind of silk.  With so many types, which one should you choose?

PFI’s new store, PFI Supply, offers fabric just for clothes — including plenty of silks in a broad range of colors.  Here are some of the most requested kinds and how to use them.

How silk is made

Silk is one of the oldest known natural fibers. Most silk originates in China, India and Southeast Asia. Domestic mulberry silkworm pupae spin it. Commercial growers kill the pupae before they emerge as adult moths. That way, the cocoon can be unraveled as one long continuous unbroken thread.

Peace silk allows the moth to eat a hole in the cocoon to emerge. The hole makes it impossible to unreel the cocoon. So the fiber must be spun. The result is a more matte finish with a rougher look. Peace silk is also called wild silk.


Chiffon
.  If you can sew sheer, you can sew most everything. Soft, light and fragile, chiffon is a balanced plain weave with hight-twist crepe yarns used in both warp and weft. Sew on the straight grain before you try sewing bias. Save the selvages to help stabilize your seams.

Georgette.  What’s the difference from chiffon? Both fabrics are sheer. Georgette has a more substance with a cloudier look. Its fibers are twisted and alternate every one or two yarns from an “S” to a “Z”, giving a pebbly, crêpe feel. It is stretchier and harder to control than chiffon. Use it for lingerie, nightwear, blouses, dresses, evening and bridal wear.  It’s said to be named for a French milliner, Mme. Georgette de la Plante. who used this fabric a great deal.


Charmeuse
 is the queen of silk, the lightest of silk satins and most difficult to sew.  Of all woven fabric, it is the smoothest and most lustrous, thus most desirable.  The warp yarns float over weft yarns.  The more the floats, the more the luster. So don’t press charmeuse or you’ll flatten the floats and leave “burnished” dull spots. Use a seam stick, seam buffers (such as strips of paper under the seam allowances) and the tip of a mini-iron if you must press seams. Charmeuse snags easily and holes are permanent so don’t overwork it.  Sew it once and sew it right.

For more details on how to work with silk, visit PFI’s couture, dresses and shirt classes.