- Photo by Jesse Champlin -
I was recently asked about my current aspirations and after answering that I’m working towards something fashion-related, I was asked in all seriousness when I would be moving to the East Coast. There are actually many reasons why I don’t need to move to the East Coast to puruse my goals. That said, I understand not everyone is aware of the fashion industry / community we’ve already got right here in Portland, or that that community is serious about it’s work and actively seeking avenues to grow to levels on par with the stalwart fashion communities in New York and LA.
While that is still a work in progress, there are definitely awesome things happening here right now and at the forefront of that coverage is Marjorie Skinner, Managing Editor at local alt-weekly, The Portland Mercury. I’ve been following Marjorie’s regular fashion & arts column, Sold Out, for a while now to garner news about local fashion lines and events (including the annual Open Season fashion show which Marjorie produces) and to keep up on discussions about the challenges facing the local fashion community in it’s pursuit of growth. For me, Marjorie is a perfect Rad Lady candidate and I was thrilled when she agreed to an interview. (Insert Wayne & Garth voices here: I’m not worthy!!)
VGS: At what point in your life did you know you wanted to be / were a writer?
MS: There was no singular “aha” type moment. Writing was always what I most excelled at in school and was encouraged to do. If anything it came when I started college, and considered becoming a psychology major. That lasted about a year before I went running back into the arms of English literature!
VGS: Has fashion always been an interest? How did you get into fashion writing?
MS: Fashion was always a personal interest, and never something I expected would be part of my professional life. My background is in writing, criticism, and the arts, but it came about that I was starting at the Mercury during the time that Seaplane was becoming active and beginning to garner some national press. As a magazine that emphasized the local arts so heavily I felt it was an oversight not to include an independent apparel design scene that was doing such remarkable things. Basically I pitched it to my editor, he said okay, and it snowballed from there.
VGS: What was your path to your current job?
MS: Honestly, I kind of fell into it. I graduated from Reed College and was eager to use my English degree. I felt the obvious thing to pursue was teaching, but that didn’t hold much appeal for me. I got a part-time job at a book store and just walked into the Mercury cold—it was the local publication that I most identified with, though I wasn’t an avid reader. I just recognized that it was something I could do, and that would hold my interest. I began with an internship, and as I learned more about the process that feeling of recognition intensified. After a couple months the internship became a part-time job, and after a year or so of that it became a full-time job. As our staff has grown and changed over the years, my position has continued to evolve. I think it’s key that the paper was also very young when I started, so in a sense we’ve been able to grow up and change together.
VGS: In general, what are your thoughts on Portland’s fashion / maker scene?
MS: That is general! Obviously I think we have a really fruitful scene here, and there are debatable reasons why Portland has been able to foster that. I’m proud of the fact that the quality of work and taste level here holds up against that of larger cities, and I know that our scene is part of the Portland dream that draws so many people here to live and visit. The trick is in how to retain that industry, especially when one of its hallmarks is the participation of people whose business plans aren’t necessarily traditional. I think a lot of old models are breaking down as far as how one should pursue a career in design/making, and that’s a scary but exciting thing, and a complicated discussion that’s been going on in various capacities for years. It’s an ongoing struggle, but I try not to lose sight of its value to the city and to all of us who live here. The fact is also that people are making money off of the existence of these small makers, and many people have a stake in protecting them from disappearing, whether they realize it directly or not.
VGS: There has been much discussion lately regarding Portland’s fashion industry. What do you think are the biggest issues that need addressing to keep things moving forward?
MS: The thing that keeps coming up is that many apparel designers need more business education, but I also think consumer education and investment are ongoing concerns.
VGS: What are your biggest inspirations currently?
MS: I tend to pull inspiration from all over, especially from musicians, folklore, film, and social media. I love the personal insights and travel journaling that Instagram has been able to afford. I use it almost exclusively for inspiration and window shopping.
VGS: What is your biggest challenge in staying motivated and how do you overcome it?
MS: The biggest challenge is that in some sense it’s hard to mark progress when you’ve been working for the same company, writing about the same community, producing the same fashion shows, etc. for 10+ years! The fact is I can basically say that I’ve almost never been bored, and I am aware of how immense a privilege that is.
VGS: What’s your favorite place to grab a burger in Portland?
MS: I only dabble in the dark meats, but my favorite veggie burger is actually at Club 21. I think veggie burgers in general are kind of uninspiring, but theirs is really good!
- Photo by Holly Stalder -
Huge thanks to Marjorie!
You can follow her via The Portland Mercury MOD blog | Instagram @mjskinner800 | Twitter @mjskinner800