For the past four years, Ace Hotel in Portland has offered their second floor guest rooms to twenty eight local designers and granted each one free reign to transform a room. We were thrilled to be a part of this inspirational event and chat with some of our favorite local designers.
Where to begin? That’s what I thought when I entered the second floor hallway and that’s what I’m thinking now, so I suppose I’ll start where I did that Saturday, with Betsy + Iya.
Stepping into the Betsy + Iya room was like walking into their notebooks, literally. From the floor to the ceiling and then everywhere in between, the room was wallpapered with notes and designs from Betsy + Iya’s inception to three weeks before Content. It gave us a sense of the chaos that accompanies the design process, while also showcasing the beauty that comes with, and from, that grittiness. There was such candidness conveyed in their display, a clear extension of the warm and genuine brilliance of Betsy and Will, her husband and business partner.
We continued to wander in and out of rooms; I blindly scribbled notes while trying to absorb every ounce of creativity surrounding me. Embarrassingly, when we were in the Portland Garment Factory room, I only managed two words, though I feel those two simple words express everything that I feel about PGF, their room, their designs, and the ladies who run it: COOLEST GIRLS. Truly. Britt Howard and Rosemary Robinson are some of the most fun, welcoming, interesting, and accessible ladies I have met and that fully translates into their contemporary designs.
I thought Alexa Stark had won my heart when I saw her lookbook featuring Glenda Goldwater earlier this year, but then I walked into her room and was met with Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast from 1946 projected onto a sheer backdrop as sudden flashes of light exposed dancers moving silently behind the curtain. In the style of Butoh, a form of Japanese dance based in the individual dancer’s reaction to where they are feeling in the space, Alexa evoked the idea of negative space and shadows to represent the sense of movement in her designs.
Every part of the Olderbrother design process is met with such intention and awareness towards the future, not just of their garments, but of the environment. Sustainability is a driving force of this gender-neutral clothing line, figuring out the line (and if there has to be one) between eco-friendly and fashion forward and in my opinion, succeeding. Each piece, if subtle in its unique quality, somehow seems perfectly crafted to any given body type, regardless of type or gender. We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse into the organic indigo hand-dye process in their room at Content. Some even luckier winners were later able to take home shirts dyed that night.
One of the final rooms I visited also happened to be one of my favorites; Ancliffe. Rachel Ancliffe hails from New Mexico, spent five years in New York, and has now called Portland “home” for the past ten years. Her travel and experience is evident in all of her fresh and wearable pieces. Beautifully hand-dyed clothes are all designed to carry over into different outfits and different years; they are classic while still being unique; and they all need to find a place in my closet.
While I have only highlighted a few of the designers from that weekend, believe me when I tell you that each and every designer is one to follow. I feel so honored to live in a city that is able to not just boast such talent, but support it. By the time I left Content, the halls of the second floor were overflowing with people, all buzzing with excitement. The rooms were inspiring, yes, but so was the effect of a community coming together. It was not an event to miss, but if you did, then I encourage you to look further into the designers, and if you’re not already, keeping your eyes open to the creativity flowing in your own city, and perhaps even yourself.