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Local version of Fashion Week returns on Wednesday with its unique blend of ready to wear, sportswear, couture, and well-dressed Portlanders

PHOTO: HAL HARRISON  - Designer: Vouture by Vien To, at 2018 FashioNXT

Portland's version of Fashion Week, known as FashioNXT, runs counter to the casually dressed image of the city. FashioNXT — "pronounced Fashion Next" — kicks off Wednesday, Oct 2, bringing fashion-forward creatives, celebrities and industry reps from the rag trade together, not just to party, but to take the local fashion industry seriously.

FashioNXT founder and executive director Tito Chowdhury, is a tireless promoter of the Portland fashion scene. A former Intel microprocessor design engineer, Chowdhury's message is consistent: FashioNXT is classy. It's not your thrown together warehouse show — even though it has been held in many a warehouse over the years.

This year's event will be held at Daimler's Swan Island building, 4859 N. Lagoon Ave.

"The lighting and set … the 100-foot runway, that creates excitement," Chowdhury told the Business Tribune.

A super bright 18,000-lumen projector will illuminate the stage's backdrop.

"Renting that projector, which to buy is $30,000 plus, is our single biggest line item," Chowdhury said. "It's not like the one you use in a meeting room."

Check it out

What: FashioNXT 2019

Where: Daimler Campus, Swan Island, 4859 N. Lagoon Ave., Portland

When: Oct. 2 to Oct. 5

How much: $25 - $185 per night

More info:

The show has increased the power of its projector each year, Chowdhury said, because it's the best way for designer logos to show up in photos. The logos have to be as visible in a photo taken on an influencer's phone as in a glossy magazine. The runway will have a section dedicated exclusively to professional photographers, but Chowdhury said professional photos in glossy magazines are no longer the whole game of the fashion show industry.

"Social media is a big thing," he said. "Instagram is now the biggest fashion platform, not magazines. So, the quality of content has to be premium. If you're putting out bad content, you are getting lost."

For Chowdhury the real purpose is to provide a platform where serious industry types can mingle.

Both Time magazine and the American Fashion Podcast have recognized FashioNXT as the best fashion show outside of New York.

"Portlanders don't know that or believe that anything from Portland can be that good," he said. "I don't think many in the city of Portland can wrap their brains around the idea that such a high caliber show is possible here."

The structure of the four-day-long show follows a set pattern. Opening night, Oct. 2, will be a showcase of emerging designers from the Pacific Northwest. Thursday, Oct. 3 showcases Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, Canada designers offering streetwear and couture, with an emphasis on inclusivity, including the use of all-size models. Friday, Oct, 4, will feature more ready-to-wear and couture designers, with an emphasis on Latino designers. This year will also feature a new line from local designer Michelle Lesniak, the winner of Season 11 of Lifetime's fashion reality show "Project Runway." Lesniak was named a Project Runway International All Star earlier this year. The final night, Saturday, Oct. 5, features more ready-to-wear and couture stylings from Portland and Seattle.

Each night includes networking and displays of tech-forward fashions, local designers selling their wares, and non-profits such as Dress for Success Oregon.

This year, Nordstrom area managers will be in attendance. A market hour each night will offer designers a chance to meet buyers, who will be able to get up close and touch the wares. An after party with a VIP area also plays an important role in the show. Small designers relay on such moments for snagging limited edition orders.

Although local pro-sports stars have walked the runway in the past, Chowdhury doesn't like to pre-announce them in case the evening is run over by sports fans instead of style fans.

Chowdhury said FashioNXT takes the local fashion scene seriously, unlike other "silly shows," he says, where people "just come to party."

Chowdhury see Portland at a creative crossroads. It punches above its weight but attaining global critical mass may not be possible without local support.

"All the CEOs (in the Business Roundtable) who this year pledged to support community engagement. Who said it's not just about shareholders. Where are they? I hope Nike and other apparel giants here will find it worthwhile to support the ecosystem that will help incubate the next Phil Knight."

The biggest ticket purchaser this year is commercial real estate company CBRE International, along with Wells Fargo. New sponsors this year include Porsche Beaverton and Audi Beaverton.

"They like to create an intimate connection," Chowdhury said. "They want the people to test their car for the weekend."

Chowdhury has some choice words for local apparel companies, like Nike, who don't appear interested.

"Where are our apparel and footwear giants who spend millions of dollars to send their people to other cities to get inspiration, when their neighbors and families are here and they don't think it a good investment to come out and support them? These companies get to use Portland as more than just a cheap place to live and do business. We need to talk about it: 'What are you doing to develop local talent in the system?'"

Joseph Gallivan
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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