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Injury launches teen's fashion career, which skyrockets with Fade to Light fashion show, then nomination for Best Emerging Designer in Portland Fashion and Style Awards

PMG: JAIME VALDEZ - Charlie Ryan will be featured in the Fade to Light fashion show, showing fashions from his senior collection. He has been nominated as Best Emerging Designer 2019 in the Portland Style and Fashion Awards.

When fate hands you a lemon, make lemonade.

That bit of sage advice from American writer Dale Carnegie has served as inspiration for millions of people over the years. Lake Oswego teen Charlie Ryan turned the lemon fate handed him into far more than a glass of lemonade. His lemon became more like a mile-high lemon meringue pie.

The lemon fate dealt Charlie was to be sidelined on the lacrosse field with a broken femur during his sophomore year at Lake Oswego High School. Lacrosse was his passion, but he turned his attention to sketching of all things men's fashion during his recuperation.

"Charlie's always been super creative and artistic," said his mother, Anne Ryan. After a while, drawing the fashions wasn't enough and he asked for a sewing machine for Christmas in 2017. Anne found a sewing machine online and ordered it, then asked a family friend to teach him how to use it.

"She taught him how to thread the machine and then he simply taught himself," Anne said.

"I taught myself to sew by watching YouTube videos," Charlie said. Then he taught himself how to construct clothing by cutting apart old clothes. "I had to rip seams out and then start again."

Charlie was sewing up a storm — hoodies and sweatpants mainly, and just two months into this new passion his sewing machine needed adjusting.

"I was so naïve," said Anne. "His machine wasn't working well and we took it to Montavilla to have it repaired. They asked what he had been making, and we showed them, and then they asked 'how long have you been sewing?' We told them just a couple of months and they asked 'Do you know how unbelievable this is?'"

The sewing machine could not be repaired, but one of the women at the sewing shop was so impressed with Charlie's talent she was willing to sell him one of her machines.

Charlie Ryan started sewing about 18 months ago. The new interest developed while he recuperated from a broken femur, and couldnt play lacrosse.

Last school year as a 3-D assignment in his AP Art class taught by Amy Burnham, Charlie asked permission to create art by sewing. Impressed by his fashion sketches, she agreed.

Burnham urged Charlie and another LOHS student caught up with fashion and sketching, Dieter Vlasich, to apply for a scholarship offered by Portland Fashion Institute. Both young men were awarded $2,000 worth of fashion design classes at PFI, a leading apparel design and sewing school in northeast Portland.

This is one of Charlie Ryans sketches of an outfit, and the deconstruction of it in preparation for making a pattern.

"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." Vlasich is now studying at the Fashion Programme at Central Saint Martins at the University of the Arts in London.

Now a senior at LOHS, Charlie recently completed his studies at PFI, and will be showing his senior collection at Fade to Light: A Multidimensional Fashion Event, taking place Sept. 18 at the Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W Burnside St. in Portland. Professionals will model six of his "head-to-toe" fashions.

"I had to select music and create a video for the show," he said.

Charlie Ryan in one of his fashions, photographed by Jordan  Boyd.

Fade to Light is more than a fashion show. The intent is for it to be an experience that leaves the viewer with a solid understanding of the designer and the collections shown. It showcases the work of both established and emerging designers within the Portland fashion community, including Project Runway winners and alums and graduates from The Art Institute of Portland and Portland Fashion Institute.

Tickets and more information about Fade to Light can be found online at Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m.

Taking the lemon analogy to the next level, this is where Charlie's lemonade becomes lemon meringue pie.

Each year the Portland Fashion and Style Awards are presented as the grand finale of the year's fashion industry events. It honors 100 businesses in 25 categories. One of the categories is Best Emerging Designer and Charlie Ryan is one of the four nominees.

The whipped cream on the top of that lemon meringue pie could be Charlie being named Best Emerging Designer at the awards ceremony.

The Portland Fashion and Style Awards will be held Nov. 10 at the Portland Art Museum. Action begins on the red carpet at 4:30 p.m., and the show begins at 6 p.m. Come dressed to impress.

For complete details and to vote in the People's Choice awards in all 25 categories, including Charlie's Best Emerging Designer, visit

Charlie's fashions often feature unique fabrics such as plastics, reflective fabrics, chrome finishes and a mix of textures such as seersucker and denim. His brand is Chuck's Lab; visit and follow him on Instagram @chuckslab.

You can be purchased his fashions at Produce Portland, 140 NW 4th St. Portland, though the store sells out quickly.

Charlie plans to attend Parsons School of Fashion in New York City after graduation. He is in the process of building his portfolio to submit, but has first to get through the two events before him.

Check his website for updates on the PFSA winners.

Charlie Ryan has set his bedroom up as his studio and workspace. He has three sewing machines, one strictly is for embroidery.


Portland Fashion Institute starting business series

Sharon Blair, director of Portland Fashion Institute, says Portland is known nationwide for its fashion.

"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 is launching 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 fashion editor Vivian McInerny and famed local designer and Project Runway winner Michelle Lesniak.

Classes take place Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. starting Sept. 14. The series of 11 classes costs $680 or $65 per class.

PFI places 100% 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 located at 2111 NE 43rd St. Portland. Visit or call 503-927-5457.

Charlie Ryans fashions are comfortable to wear. His designs are outside the box, and include unique fabrics.

Charlie Ryan plans to attend Parsons School of Fashion in New York City after he graduates from Lake Oswego High School in 2020.

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- LO high school students earn fashion design scholarships

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