Good News. PFI is accredited!

 

PORTLAND FASHION INSTITUTE EARNS ACCREDITATION FOR ITS FASHION DESIGN PROGRAMS FROM NATIONAL ACCREDITING ORGANIZATION

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland’s only fashion design school took a new step today.  Portland Fashion Institute has been accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET), a statement that the school’s teaching and programs meet rigorous educational standards.   PFI is ACCET’s first fashion design school.

“While we have been in business for nearly ten years — first as Portland Sewing then licensed by Oregon as PFI — the ACCET accreditation is a meaningful milestone in the evolution of the school,” said Sharon Blair, PFI’s director. “It validates that we are operating at a level of excellence.

“It gives us great confidence that we have a positive impact the success of Portland’s apparel community and the careers of our students — whether they are here for a single class or for a career.”

In its evaluation process, ACCET noted PFI’s strengths in the quality of its classes and teachers, its connection to the Portland’s apparel companies and its graduation and placement rates.

ACCET accredits continuing education and training programs at more than 214 schools nationwide.  It was officially recognized in 1978 by the U.S. Department of Education.

Accreditation means PFI can apply for Title IV eligibility to offer financial aid and grants to its enrolled certificate students.

“Our motto remains ‘#schoolwithoutdebt’,” Blair said.  “We plan to remain an affordable option for apparel education.”

PFI with Title IV could accept 529 plans such as Oregon College Savings Plan funds, help foreign students with visas and pursue contracts and affiliations with welfare, rehabilitation, and other workforce development programs.

Its website will soon change from www.portlandfashioninstitute.com to www.pfi.edu

More than 6,000 persons have studied at the school since it opened its doors in April 2010.  Most students come for a single class, from beginning sewing to patternmaking to apparel business.   Others come to enroll for a career.  This will not change.

PFI offers three apparel programs for enrollees:  Apparel Design, Apparel Technical Developer and Apparel Entrepreneur.  Enrollees have gone on to start clothing lines, open boutiques, take jobs at Portland Opera and Michael Curry Designs and work for area apparel companies from Adidas, Columbia Sportswear and Nike to Bridge & Burn and Duchess Clothiers.

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Innovation in Fabric Sustainability

Sustainability was in focus at M.A.G.I.C. Las Vegas, August 2019.  Photo: PFI

 

Executives from Lenzing and Saitex talk sustainability in fabrics (courtesy of Fashion Frameworks)

 

Sustainability in fashion has become increasingly important. And one way for a brand to become more sustainable is through its fabric. We talked to two market leaders, Saitex and Lenzing, about fabric sustainability.

Saitex.  Founded by Sanjeev Bahl, Saitex is a sustainable factory specializing in denim manufacturing. Top clients include Everlane, Edwin, J. Crew, and Madewell, among others. Saitex’s impressive factory is based in Vietnam and they’re opening a second production facility in Los Angeles. Here, we talk to Virgina Rollando, Saitex’s sustainability project manager.

 What makes a fabric sustainable?

Virgina Rollando: Sustainability is always difficult to define, particularly when speaking about fabrics. Organic cotton is the least harmful option for soil health, however it requires large amounts of water. Recycled polyester from waste reduces what goes to landfill, and the amount of energy required in production, however it releases microfibers in washing. What makes a fabric sustainable is not black and white definition.

Typically, sustainable fabrics are derived from eco-friendly resources, such as sustainably grown fiber crops or recycled materials. At Saitex, we have extended these requirements to include how fabrics are made. Saitex has recently achieved GOTS and GRS certifications for organic and recycled garments – this means that after we receive a certified fabric, we can ensure that the whole garment and chemicals used also have the highest standards.

At Saitex, we strive to make sure there is a clear understanding of the fabric’s complete process from seed to bolt. Not only do we collaborate with fabric suppliers, we are the partner of choice for our brands when testing and refining any innovations. We share a level of transparency with our brands, so fabric innovations do not remain exclusive for very long, we try to be as open source as possible. We want to see our impact spread. We are also under construction of an on-site mill at our Vietnam facility opening in 2020, which will produce the most sustainable fabrics available, using renewable energy, recycled wastewater, and Bluesign chemicals.

Photo: Jon Galbarriartu

In your opinion, what are three ways a fashion brand can become more sustainable?

Virginia Rollando: The lowest hanging fruit for a fashion brand is to incorporate sustainable fabrics into its products. This is just a conscious decision every company leader must make. The options available across all categories and price points are vast. There have been significant adjustments to the cost of making these responsible decisions. Similarly, there are increasing options for sustainable production at all scales, both international or domestic, that utilize renewable energy sources.

Fashion brands should take more responsibility over all steps and aspects of production. When speaking of social sustainability, we greatly support the Fairtrade program, which connects brands directly with employees on the factory floor that receive a premium for every Fairtrade purchase, and are empowered to vote collectively on what projects to invest in. In terms of environmental sustainability, too often a blind eye is turned towards fabric waste. Brands ignore the amounts of fabric offcuts and waste garments that are an inevitable aspect of production, and are often asked to be incinerated. SAITEX offers brands the option to upcycle them into new garments or products such as tiles and furniture.

Photo: Jon Galbarriartu

Lenzing.  Lenzing has been producing fibers from wood for over 80 years. They make fibers under their four brands (Tencel, EcoVero, Veocel and Lenzing) for various industries like fashion, home textiles, outdoor, among others. Here, we talk to Lenzing’s Tricia Carey about sustainable fabrics.

What makes a fabric sustainable?

Tricia Carey: The definition of sustainability is rather blurry now. Each company is defining sustainability in their terms—some are addressing current standards and others are pushing to triumph beyond.

I view a sustainable fabric as having the least amount of total environmental impact based on current available technology. This encompasses raw material, spinning, weaving or knitting, dyeing and finishing, consumer use and after-life. Starting with preferred raw materials with the least impact on water usage, land, and chemicals. TENCEL™ lyocell is produced in a closed loop production process and is biodegradable and compostable. Our latest innovation is TENCEL™ Lyocell with REFIBRA™ technology which uses cotton scraps to make a new lyocell fiber.

Photo: Lenzing

In your opinion, what are three ways a brand can become more sustainable?

Tricia Carey:

1) Education. Brands need to learn about current standards and issues. They need to assess the impact of their current supply chain and product assortment, as well as review what leading brands are doing to have scalability. Environmental impact is a common thread across all companies.

2) Strategy. Next brands need to set a strategy with measurable goals in a timeframe. Typically, brands set a materials strategy based on cotton, synthetics and wood-based cellulosics.

3) Transparency. Work with transparent and reliable partners who share the same vision and goals. Visit these suppliers to see what they are doing and how their factories run. Lenzing often hosts tours of our facilities for customers and once they see how we transform trees into fiber, there is truly another level of understanding.

Fashion Frameworks: Can you expand on Lenzing’s sustainability program?

Tricia Carey: Overall, the entire fiber industry produces over 100 million tons of fibers every year. At Lenzing, we produce viscose (branded as LENZING™ ECOVERO™), modal and lyocell (branded as TENCEL™ Fibers). We believe in the concept of circular economy and closed-loop processes. We dedicate our innovative spirit and engineering excellence to solutions that make best possible use of our trees, a natural source material, while preserving our planet’s resources.

Growing trees feed on sunlight, water and the carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. The cellulose used to produce Lenzing’s fibers is a natural component in wood. At the end of our fibers’ life cycle, cellulose disintegrates into its native substances and prepares the ground for new plants to grow. Our production process mirrors this circular concept of nature: The water and chemicals we need for our production process are used over and over. They are re-circulated in our system.

The result of this circular model is perfectly sustainable: All along their life cycle, products made with Lenzing fibers promote resource preservation and environmental protection.

Lenzing works with stakeholders, certifiers and NGOs throughout the supply chain. We also use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a foundation for our business focusing on SDG 7 Affordable and clean energy, SDG 9 Industry, innovation, and infrastructure, SDG 12 Responsible consumption and production, SDG 13 Climate action, SDG 15 Life on land, SDG17 Partnering for the goals.

The idea of sustainability has grown and changed since the environmental movement in the 1960s.  For one, it is now in the psyche of industry and design makers.  To see and talk with those who are driving sustainability in the fashion industry, make plans to attend PFI’s Sustainability Tech series of seminars in Spring 2020 with Annin Barrett.

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Fabric shopping in Paris

Let’s be blunt.  Fabric shopping in Paris is very expensive.

Count your lucky stars if you live in Portland.  There you can get quality fabric at good prices at so many stores:  PFI Supply, Mill End, Josephine’s, Bolt, Whole 9 Yards.  By the end of our stay in Paris, we were begging for a JoAnn’s.  I kid you not.

When I was there studying at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts, we were given a list of stores where we could buy class supplies.  Here’s a rundown.  One note:  Go in mid-January to mid-February or July when French shops are legally allowed to sell items for less than cost and use the word ‘Sale’ or ‘Soldes’ in their windows and ads.  Expect long lines.

Marche St. Pierre is in Montmartre district right below Sacre Couer, 18th arrondissement.

Marche St. Pierre is the main drag for fabric.  Its looks much like the fabric district in Los Angeles: Sidewalks lined with polyester.

Rue d’Orsel, the main street through the fabric district of Marche St. Pierre.

Two high points:  Tissus Reine, a full line of products and quality, though not all of the notions we have here.  Tissus Paris, a good variety of silks, though overpriced.  For example, a meter of silk habotai (called “pongee” here) sells for 23 euros or $26 versus $18 a yard in the U.S.  And that’s on sale.

La Reine, our most-visited fabric store.  Solde=Sale

Paris Tissus right below Sacre Couer.  Tissus=Fabric.  A good place for silk.

Two lesser points: Dreyfus with its five floors of so-so fabric.  Maison Blanc where they sell remnants (“coupons” here), 3 meters for 16 euros a meter.

Dreyfus.  Big store. Boring fabric at high prices.

Bourse-Sentier business district next to Les Halles shopping center, 2nd arrondissement.

There are smaller stores in the Sentier near the Bourse, Paris’ equivalent of Wall Street.  These are supposed to be wholesale, but don’t have wholesale prices.  Here we found hat supplies at Ultramod, knitting and embroidering supplies at Le Drogerie and ribbons at Mokuba.

Ultramod hat supplies and trims.

Hidden gems in Passy, 16th arrondisement and Rue du Faubourg St. Honore, 8th arrondisement.

To get the best fabrics, we had to go to Tissus Edre in Passy.  Here, I bought two meters of Chanel wool at about 55 euros a meter from the lovely Sophie.  We also went to Janssens & Janssens near Rue du Faubourg St. Honore where I bought Chantilly lace for a mother of the groom dress for 95 euros a meter.

Tissus Edre in Passy and its proprietress, Sophie — a special place.

Janssens on rue D’Anjou near the Faubourg when you absolutely must spend a boatload of $$$.

Designers who live in Paris have relationships and can buy from wholesale companies not open to retail customers like us as students.  Some of these fabric are milled in Italy.  But most are made in China or India, as are most fabrics worldwide today.

But it’s Paris.  Why do you need a fabric budget when you are here, in the city of light and fashion?

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Take a look at the Spring 2020 Women’s Global Runway trends

Spring 2020 collections embraced joy through optimistic bright colors that were met with voluminous silhouettes like the maxi dress. This season many brands moved away from athleisure references, opting instead for casual summer staples. Bermuda shorts were everywhere as a seasonal essential. Good vibes were in the air with a Midsommar theme, featuring eyelet, lace and whimsical florals. Ultralight transparent fabrics and natural materials like raffia were highlighted. Prints took on familiar, yet highly commercial motfis, from polka dots and tropicals to the new animal print du jour — zebra — while cutouts spoke to new erogenous zones.  From our friends at Fashion Snoops.

NEW URBAN
New Urban is a fresh take on minimal utility, which has been strong for the past few seasons and lands at one of the most prevalent themes of Spring 2020. Details such as utility pockets and metal hardware elevate items, which have a decidedly casual look even though tailoring is also factored in. New soft brights bring excitement to an otherwise neutral palette. Key items include jumpsuits, cargo pants and structured blazers.  To make this at home, try PFI patterns Roxy Raglan jacket and Avril pants; Casual Jackets + Jeans & Pants classes.

 

MIDSOMMAR
Midsommar is packed full of whimsical, summer fun. Set to a cheery color palette, materials like eyelet stand out on flowing maxi dresses. Floral prints, stripes and lace trim are just as relevant as casual spring sweater dresses. All – white looks make an entrance. To make this at home, try PFI patterns Wrap Dolman top and Boho pants; Jeans & Pants + Classic Shirts classes.

 

80s
The 80s powers forward. Spring 2020 collections go BIG on shape, with strong tailored shoulders and exaggerated puff sleeves. Other highlights include bright colors, the return of polka dots, minis, ruffles and bubble hems. To make this at home, try PFI pattern Moto jacket; Casual Jackets class.

 

OPTIMISTIC BRIGHTS
The notion of joy was featured across all fashion weeks with fun, bold and inherently optimistic colors, which also extended to neons. Bright primary hues include Sunny Yellow, Carrot Orange, Scarlet Red and Lively Green. To make this at home, try PFI pattern Lola dress; Dresses class.

 

GO GREEN
One of the most powerful fashion colors to emerge for Spring 2020 is green. Both lively bright hues and dramatic jade are featured. To make this at home, try PFI pattern Isabella dress; Dresses class.

 

SHORT STORY
Shorts make a huge impact in Spring 2020 collections. High waist bermudas are key, while short suits bring a casual sense to tailoring. To make this at home, try PFI pattern Marianne rompers; Jumpsuits & Overalls class.

 

MAXI
Couture-like volume was a big takeaway for Spring 2020. One of the most commercial ways to apply it is through sweeping maxi dresses. Bold color and print applications stand out. To make this at home, try PFI pattern Julia dress; Knits class.

 

ZEBRA
Animal prints remain strong throughout Spring 2020 collections, with zebra as the most forward direction. To make this at home, try PFI pattern Warhol Trench Coat; Jacket class.

 

 

POLKA DOTS
With a nod to the 80s, polka dots are a favorite in Spring collections. Mini and oversized scales are featured on a variety of items. To make this at home, try PFI pattern Donna dress; Couture Dress class

 

TROPICAL
The J.Lo jungle dress moment defined Spring 2020, with a variety of vacation-ready lush tropical patterns. To make this at home, try PFI pattern Morgan Wrap dress; Dresses class

 

ULTRALIGHT TRANSPARENCY
From gauzy netting to super fine macrame, transperancy is a key material focus. A number of European designers explored these aerated materials, bringing a sporty perspective to vacation-ready fits with embroidered overlays or fringe effects. To make this at home, try PFI pattern Bianca dress; Couture Dress class.

 

NATURE’S DESIGN
From basket woven raffia to macrame filaments, natural materials ruled runways. Designers opted for flexible fronds that were easily manipulated into full looks or intricate detailing.  From Liza Rietz’ Innovative Design class, Dieter Vlasich’s straw dress.

 

CUTOUTS
Cutouts remain as one of the most popular design details, with a focus on new placements. Cutout sides and shoulders are highlighted, while new circular cutouts are a forward direction. To make this at home, try PFI pattern Baby Jane top & tunic; Knits class.

 

Next up:  Trends in sustainability

Do you know knits? Here’s a guide!

We all love wearing knits – the stretch makes it comfortable to wear and forgiving if you gain or lose a few pounds. The fit makes all the difference.  That’s why buying fabric online can be so difficult. You can’t feel a knit fabric before you buy it.  You don’t know how much it can stretch.  It can be hard to know what you’re getting. It’s disappointing to order fabric for a project and realize when it arrives that it just won’t work. It’s hard enough unless you go to a fabric store such as PFI Supply and have knowledgeable hep
To help make sure you get what you want when buying knit fabric, here the main types of knit with a guide to tell you what you can expect from each of them, as well as what clothing items to make from them.
JERSEY – Single knit.  Flat vertical ribs on right side; dominant horizontal courses on wrong side.  Little lengthwise stretch.  Used for skinny T-shirts, pullover tops, lingerie.
DOUBLE KNITS:  Firm, stable knits that are medium to heavy weight.  Little to moderate stretch.  Used for jackets, suits, pants, dresses.
INTERLOCKS – Fine rib on both sides.  Light to medium weight.  Moderate crosswise stretch.  Watch out for runs!  Used for heavier T-shirts, sportswear, sleepwear.
SWEATSHIRT FLEECE – Flat vertical ribs on right side; softbrushed surface on wrong side.  Stable with little stretch.  Used for sweatshirts, sweatpants, hoodies.
SWEATER KNITS: Smooth and lightweight to lofty and bulky.  Stable without much stretch.  Can be sold by the yard or as sweaterbodies with built in ribbing.  Has a nap and may run.  Used as sweaters or coats.
RIBBINGS – Prominent vertical ribs on both sides.  Have significant stretch.  Used for collars, hems, cuffs.
4-WAY STRETCH – Stretches lengthwise and crosswise. Gets its stretch from a manmade elastic fiber called spandex.  Lycra is Dupont’s registered name for spandex.  May be blended with nylon, cotton, polyester.  Used to make form-fitting garments for activewear and swimwear.
KNIT TERRY – Includes French and stretch terry.  Small loops on right side; smooth vertical ribs on wrong side.  May shift with right sides together because of nap.  Used for jackets.
VELOURS – Includes stretch velvets, stretch panne.  Brushed nap on right side; smooth vertical ribs on wrong side.  May shift with right sides together.  Used for jackets.
MESH KNITS, TRICOT – Knitted with evenly spaced holes.  Do not ravel or run but can snag.  Can be woven, non woven and knit.  Can be cotton, polyester or nylon.  Use for T-shirts, tops and jacket lining and ventilation.  If using for a dress or top, be sure to line it with a fabric of the same stretch.  It is see through!
For more on how sew with knits, take PFI’s Sewing Knits class.  Want to make patterns suitable for knits, take PFI’s Pattern 4-Knits & Stretch class.

Nike, W+K, Oregonian, Project Runway help PFI boost business classes

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.

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

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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.”

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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.”