April 29, 2020
April 29, 2020
April 29, 2020
Be sure to stop by the Pacific Northwest College of Art this next two weeks to see Chuck Ryan’s @chuckslab display. You saw this PFI scholarship winner show his graduate collection at September’s Fade to Light Show. Now you can see it in the Scholastic Gold Key Exhibit. Chuck’s creations are competing for the Scholastic Art Awards and $10,000! In our view, he is a winner already. His is the only fashion exhibit among the artworks.
A Lake Oswego high school senior, Chuck has been accepted to Parsons in New York and Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. Both are offering him full scholarships. He’s thinking about holding out for Central St. Martins in London.
We’ll keep you posted on his decision and his winning ways.
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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We like trends. Not because it makes us want to run out and shop. Instead it gives us a fresh look at the clothes in our closet and find new ways to mix and match. It lets us perk up an existing capsule wardrobe. If you want something new, we say #makersgottamake Do it yourself. Choose the right fabric. Make it fit. Do it once. Do it right. It’s the sustainable thing to do.
So here we go. Perhaps you have something to rediscover or something new to bring life to your ensembles. For example, old favorites such as animal prints, jumpsuits, big shoulders, yellow and lovely lavender made dominating comebacks. Try:
From Soybean to Desert Sand, shades of beige painted the runway like a rainbow of light browns. Chicago Harper by Josh Buck
An intense 80’s revival with big sleeves and bigger silhouettes hit NYFW. Don’t want to go that far? Try mutton sleeves. We just patterned a pair in knit in our latest Pattern 4 class. Cocoon Jacket by StudioSKB
Always a reliable staple, the shirt dress is ideal for professional fashionistas and stylish savants. Try it in trending color: yellow. Day Dress PFI pattern #1551
Stripes came in all widths. Stripped down, vibrant colors, pin stripes paired with chunky stripes, parallel prints running perpendicular to perforated patterns — stripes are in. Lancaster Dress by StudioSKB
The slip dress returns as a runway favorite. Although the original slip is simple, designers have gotten a little more playful for 2020. Try it in trending lavender. Lingerie PFI pattern #7010
Animal print, electric and eclectic, lit up the runways this season. From cheetah and leopard in a variety of neon to zebra and sequins, there was enough fashion to fill a forest. Davis Blouse by StudioSKB
Overalls & Jumpsuits
The blazer dress, wide-leg pants, and the leisure suit all had their day on the runway. Although these garments continue to walk the walk, the new “it” garment is the jumpsuit. A pair of pants that doubles as a shirt, chic as can be and comfortable to boot, the jumpsuit is perfect for every occasion. Parker Jumpsuit PFI pattern #2051 (left); Marianne Jumpsuit PFI pattern #2015
Patchwork and prim, designers have spliced styles together to create a couture collection of textiles and fabrics. A great way to recycle your fabric stash. Fusion Jacket by Chuckslab
There was a lot of structure this season, from big sleeves (as we’ve seen) to skirts and blouses. But the true artistry was in the necklines, subtle and stylish. Fontaine Jacket by StudioSKB
That’s it. Everything old is new again. Shop your closet. Sew something wonderful to add joy and we’ll see you in 2020.
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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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.
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.”
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.”
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.
How to launch your fashion brand
from Sharon Blair, director, Portland Fashion Institute
Charlie Ryan and Dieter Vlasich just landed a future in fashion design.
Each won a scholarship contest and $2,000 worth of fashion design classes at Portland Fashion Institute, an apparel design and sewing school in northeast Portland.
As a result, each will build their skills and create a portfolio that could land entry into a prestige fashion design university.
“Normally, we choose only one winner each year,” said PFI director Sharon Blair. “But both of these applicants were so strong, we had to choose both.”
Ryan chose a sportswear theme he calls “Spacesuit for the Streets”. A varsity lacrosse player, he took advantage of a knee injury to design what he saw was missing from menswear: An updated angle on the traditional t-shirt, hoodie, sweatpants that every teen wears. Bright orange and white with lots of zippered circular pockets, his outfit is not only functional, it is stylish.
“I aim to create high fashion for everyday use,” Ryan says.
Vlasich won based on his designs for an oversized angular suit he calls a “reaction to the toxicity of modern society.
“I wanted something fierce, aggressive and empowered.” His colors and silhouette reflect current trends and reminded PFI’s judges of high fashion designers Yves St Laurent and Comme des Garcons.
“I’m looking forward now to learning professional techniques at PFI,” Vlasich says.
Both taught themselves to pattern, fit and sew. Both are 17.
Vlasich plans to attend Central St. Martins in London. Ryan is interested in possibly attending Parsons or Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. All three schools are internationally recognized colleges for fashion design. Their alumni include designers Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, Zac Posen and Stella McCartney. Such schools require portfolios as part of a very competitive admissions process.
This is the eighth year for the annual contest. It is open to full-time students in Portland and Vancouver area high schools who have a GPA of 2.5 or more. Each contestant creates an original apparel design idea with sketches, interviews of influential people and an essay on fashion design.
Judges included directors and managers for Kroger, Columbia Sportswear and Nike.
More than 6,000 persons have studied at PFI since it opened in 2010. While most students come to PFI for a class or two, those interested in a career have gone on to start their own clothing lines, to work for one of the area’s many apparel companies or to gain entry into one of the top schools in New York, London or Paris.