Vanishing Higher-Ed Hasn’t Put a Damper on These Portland Fashion Schools

 

In 2018, the Art Institute of Portland—the only college in the city offering bachelor’s degrees in apparel design and fashion marketing—closed its doors, shifting the balance of local design education options. The school, well known for its fashion alums (including no fewer than three Project Runway contestants) had been through a tumultuous few years, with the nationwide chain of colleges forced to grant $103 million in loan forgiveness on top of a $95 million multistate lawsuit settlement to students for consumer fraud. Since then, Portland has also seen the closures of the 112-year-old Oregon College of Art & Craft, which offered a smattering of experimental design courses, as well as other non-fashion Portland-area mainstays Marylhurst and Concordia.

But the great higher-ed vanishing hasn’t put a damper on advances in the local fashion scene. Nike, Adidas, and Columbia all continue to operate design studios here that employ hordes of fashion folk. There’s three-year-old Sneaker Week, an annual footwear event that brings in industry kin from all over the country. And, prepandemic, of course, local fashion shows were continuously popping up with new names and design collectives, like “The Ones” on E Burnside, which lets newbie designers share space alongside veterans of the fashion world.

A look from PFI student Chuck Ryan’s final collection.

The question, in the absence of higher ed, is where are all of these people learning their craft?

Across the river in the Hollywood District, Portland Fashion Institute caters to that seeking-a-toehold-in-the-industry demographic, but also embraces Portland’s indie days of yore with a program that runs students through not only the ins and outs of things like sewing knits and Optitex computer patternmaking, but also business classes on how to run your growing design empire. PFI founder Sharon Blair was a full-time instructor at the Art Institute of Portland before leaving to found her own school in 2010. That move, she says, was about taking her years of education experience plus the perspective from running her own small clothing line, SKB, to students for a fraction of the cost. Despite having several of the same instructors helming classes, the accredited school is vastly more affordable than the Art Institute, where the final tuition hit $485 per credit hour vs. Blair’s zero-debt vision. At PFI things clock in around $30 an hour for a sewing class and just $55 per patternmaking class, even with access to the expensive computer programs.

The commonality among all the schools? Each one gets students trained for a future career with classes that are faster and cheaper than traditional colleges, all with access to industry professionals that value time on the floor over textbooks.

9 steps to perfect pant fit

Creating pants that fit seems to be the goal of every clothing sewer.  That’s our goal for you two.  There are nine simple steps to get there.  You can start with one of the five PFI patterns that best flatter you (we have dress pants and jeans for men too!).  Then visit our blog page on “Four Fast Flat Fell Seams” to choose the one you like for a professional look.  Best of all, take Britta’s Pants, Jeans and Overalls class to learn the skills that will get you to your goal every time.

#happysewing!

POC Design Scholarship Contest announced

Five things to know for Friday, including why, exactly, Black is Beautiful

By  – Managing Editor, Portland Business Journal

Looking great

The Portland Fashion Institute and Bloom Beauty Collective have announced a design scholarship contest that’s open to area high school juniors and seniors who are persons of color.

The winner will get a year of PFI fashion design classes, valued at nearly $20,000, as well as the chance to intern at a local apparel company.

“This is a challenging time for the apparel industry,” said PFI owner and director Sharon Blair in a statement. “But crisis creates opportunity. Right now the world needs forward thinking in fashion design more than ever.”

Have a beautiful, fashionable weekend, Portland.

# # #

PFI grad competes for $10K

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.

photos @tomboehme

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.

# # #

Latest fashion trends from London, Milan & NYFW & how to use them

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:

Beige
From Soybean to Desert Sand, shades of beige painted the runway like a rainbow of light browns.  Chicago Harper by Josh Buck


Mutton Sleeves

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

Shirt Dress
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
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

Slip Dress
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
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

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

Structured Necklines
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.

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.”

# # #