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.”

# # #

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

 

 

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.

PFI expands: New building, new store now open

Monday, February 11, 2019

Portland Fashion Institute is expanding.  Today, PFI announced it has purchased the building next to its main building in Portland’s Hollywood District.  The building adds another 3,000 square feet to house a growing number of classes and students.
   “We’re moving forward to make our corner of NE 43rd and Tillamook into Portland’s Apparel Center,” says PFI owner and director Sharon Blair.
   Blair is working with an advisory board from Adidas, Columbia Sportswear, Nike and Shibui Knits to bring 3D and innovative design labs plus a retail space for boutiques and a design museum into the new space.
   The first floor of the building has been remade into a fabric store with everything from scissors and thread to silks and knits for apparel makers.  PFI hosts twice-yearly textile shows and will move them into the new space — called PFI Supply.
   “We have many makers and manufacturers in this town.  With the closure of Fabric Depot and Rose City Textiles, it’s getting harder to find good-quality apparel fabrics.  We aim to serve that need,” Blair says.
   “If all goes well, we will reinstall a drive-through window left by a former credit union as a convenient way to sell thread, zippers and fabric.”
   Students have begun to use the store and building.  PFI plans a grand opening in April as part of Design Week Portland.
PFI Supply, portlandsewingsupply@gmail.com, ‭(971) 801-6446‬, 4225 NE Tillamook PDX 97213
###

PFI, Portland group helps Mali girls stay in school

Monday, January 21, 2019
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr Day of Service, PFI teamed up with Portland’s Happy Girls Tribe to support “Mali Rising.”
     “In remote villages in Africa young girls must miss school each month when they get their periods due to the lack of supplies,” says tribe leader Melissa Allen.  “Girls fall behind in classes, and sometimes that leads to dropping out altogether.
     “We decided to take on a sewing project.  Our tribe would make cloth menstrual kits that will be taken to Mali and give girls back weeks of missed school each year.”
    Eight of Allen’s tribe members accepted the challenge.  First they made drawstring bags to hold supplies.  Next they’ll make the cloth pads.  PFI donated the machines, tools and instruction.  The tribe donated materials.  The tribe members donated their talent.
     Allen plans to deliver the kits by Spring.  “Each kit can give a girl back 45 days of school each year.”
     The Happy Girls Tribe is made up of 11-year-old girls “with a goal of building confidence and friendships through experiences together,” Allen says.  Tribe members attend Cottonwood School in southwest Portland where Allen teaches art.
     The Mali Rising Foundation aims to empower the children of Mali, West Africa by expanding and improving educational opportunities for them within their own villages.
     Another volunteer group, Days for Girls, designed the kit patterns.
     If you’d like to make your own kit to help the young women of Mali and boost their education, click the pattern and instructions below.  To learn more about Mali Rising, click here.

Color Trends for Spring/Summer 2019

So, what will be the new color palettes as we look forward to a new year in fashion? Pantone, the world authority on color, has its color trend predictions set for Spring/Summer 2019.

Featuring 12 colorful shades and four neutral tones, the report declares the mindset for Spring/Summer 2019 to “reflect our desire to face the future with empowering colors that provide confidence and spirit; colors that are uplifting; joyful hues that lend themselves to playful expression and take us down a path of creative and unexpected combinations,” according to Pantone.

Pantone describes the roundup of colors as choices that “transcend seasonality for both men’s and women’s fashion,” and, at a glance, that seems to be true. Hues like Jester Red, Terrarium Moss, and Toffee would be just as lovely and at home in autumn and winter, while Living Coral and Pink Peacock are as summery as they come.

Here is the full report:

It’s not a surprise to see colors like Sweet Lilac, which recalls the Millennial Pink craze, and Princess Blue, an electric take on the mainstay color that promises to dominate the year ahead.

Turmeric, Pink Peacock, and Aspen Gold are all bright, cheerful colors that will prove exciting additions to any warm-weather wardrobe, and the quartet of neutrals in this recent report are beautiful and breezy.

There are some similarities to the 2018 Spring/Summer report, but the choices here are a bit more saturated, where 2018 had more of a pastel look about it. The 2019 selection is decidedly bolder, brighter, and fun. It will be very interesting to see which colors turn out to be crowd favorites, but at first glance, it looks as though 2019 may be a year for orange.

Images courtesy of Pantone