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Moth Love

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For those who follow (and patronize) local fashion designers, things are a bit feast or famine right now. With Portland Fashion Week shows out of the way, the wait seems long until the next exciting collections arrive. Bridging that gap is Gretchen Jones, who decided to wait out the crowds and debut a winter/holiday collection this month, under the new moniker Moth Love, giving us some new ideas to play with in our wardrobes 'til spring.

Originally Jones' clothing was named eponymously, though a combination of development as a designer and an impulse for anonymity led to the name change. Taken from a phrase in Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer, "moth love" stood out to Jones for its mysterious, sexy, and poetic evocations. And while previous creations by the designer were super feminine and sometimes saccharine, yesterday's ruffles and bibs have now made way for a new era of grownup clean lines, leather and feather accents, and a muted palette. Jones is also sending out "secrets" in her clothing, a technique she intends to make permanent. This is evident in the new Hopi moth logo, rendered in monochrome needlework, and placed in subtle spots, like the bottom hem of a skirt. In future collections, Jones plans to work together with artists to develop other such needlework details, based on inspiring literature, and also including barely there screenprinted excerpts of books. The secrets are meant to be mere whispers of Jones left behind in her clothing, whether the wearer immediately notices them or not, toying with issues of what the point is of logo and signature in design.

Joining Jones in the presentation is Anna Korte and her line of jewelry, Anna. Roommates and co-conspirators, the two young women are daily influenced by each other, making collaboration inevitable. Taking cues from each other, Korte's new work is a departure from the chunky looks of her past creations, although as always the pieces remain fashioned from vintage materials. Like Jones, the Anna line is cleaner and more sophisticated, and marks the designer's first foray into working with leather—specifically vintage leather gloves, bits of which show up reincarnated as tassels, knots, and chain links, as well as an entire finger transformed into a "ruffly bead."

To present these collections, Korte and Jones have opted for the installation approach over a traditional runway event. Given that the show takes place in the relatively small confines of Amalee (Jones manages the N Mississippi boutique), expect an intimate but artful affair. Models will mill around, letting the audience experience the designs up close, even touch them. In keeping with the titular theme, each piece is named after a different type of moth, and the models' make-up and hair is intended to be representative of their respective markings, a creepy yet beautiful touch that's an appropriate homage to the moth, which though often outshined by the butterfly, predates it in existence by 100 million years.

Jones and Korte are both relatively new to Portland, with less than five years of residency between them, part of an exciting new crop of creatives that permeate the city's various avenues. The show's setup goes back to the reasons Jones, a self-described "mountain girl" from rural Colorado, chose Portland to pursue a design career. "I want to allow my new fans to get to know who I am, why I made what I did, or just connect in a way fashion shows rarely allow the designers to... fashion here is communal, and I want to get a piece of my own presentation!" (w/DJ Placetina; Amalee, 909 N Beech, Sat Nov 17, 7 pm, free)

After you find a perfect poetic party dress from Moth Love, you'll need to consider the rest of your seasonal shopping obligations. Get your Christmas shopping rolling with the Pretty Girl Holiday Sale, featuring over 30 local vendors of handmade art and gifts. (The Egg, 534 SE Oak, Fri Nov 16, artists' reception and sale 6-9 pm; Sat Nov 17, 11 am-5 pm)

I want moths in my closet? marjorie@portlandmercury.com

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