Portland deserves to be a center for the apparel industry.
“Our city is known nationwide for its fashion,” says Sharon Blair, director for Portland Fashion Institute. “We want our apparel designers to continue that image, to express themselves and have fun. But we also want them to make money and stay in business.”
“It’s no fun to go broke.”
To meet that challenge, PFI today announced the launch of a business class series for apparel start-ups. All are taught by industry experts from top companies such as Nike and Wieden + Kennedy. The series leads with talks from the Oregonian’s former fashion editor Vivian McInerny and famed local designer and Project Runwaywinner Michelle Lesniak.
“We have an exciting group of speakers willing to share what they know and help others succeed, Blair says”
Classes take place Saturdays, 10 am-1 pm starting September 14. The series of 11 classes costs $680 or $65/class. This business series takes place only in Fall.
“No where else can you get this caliber of instruction for such an accessible price,” Blair says. “Our hashtag is #schoolwithoutdebt.”
Blair adds that the classes are for everybody. “Half our students are here for one or two classes. The rest are here for a career. These classes are useful whether you start your own business or want work for one of Portland’s 25 apparel manufacturers.”
The list of classes Includes:
— September 14. Start an Apparel Business with McInerny and Blair.
— September 21. Fashion Forecasting with Lesniak.
— September 28. PR Secrets. Kim Bedwell, FLM Harvest Public Relations sr vice-president
— October 5. Excel for Apparel Professionals, Dana Ditto, Nike materials mgr
— October 12. Costing & Pricing. Dana Ditto, Nike
— October 19. Sourcing 101. Dana Ditto, Nike
— October 26. Contracting Basics. Owen Schmidt, contracts attorney
— November 2. Working with Production. Jason Calderon, West Daily designer & S Group sr product developer
— November 9. Working with Boutiques & Buyers. Celeste Sipes, Thunderpants USA owner and former owner of Radish Underground boutique
— November 16. Truth about Trade Shows. Jason Calderon, West Daily & S Group
— November 23. Social Media Marketing. Rebecca Russell, Wieden + Kennedy social media strategist
PFI places 100 percent of its career school graduates in the apparel industry with jobs at companies such as Adidas, Nike, Columbia Sportswear, Bridge & Burn and Kroger Corp.
PFI is an Oregon licensed fashion design school that aims to be the “best education center for apparel in the United States.” It celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2020.
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
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.
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
Brighter than florals but more subdued than neon. Let’s try this one for picnics and garden parties. Gilda Dress, pattern #5183
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 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
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
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
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After a year of losing longtime fashion establishments, one school is going gangbusters.
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.”
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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.”
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
How to launch your fashion brand
from Sharon Blair, director, Portland Fashion Institute
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.