Being a Portland fashion boutique we are constantly looking for updates on Portland’s fashion scene and Portland Mercury’s Marjorie Skinner is one of our go-to’s. Therefore it was a must that we feature her in our fashion inspiration Q&A column! Marjorie is the Portland Mercury‘s Managing Editor, author of the weekly Sold Out column chronicling the area’s independent fashion and retail industry, and a frequent contributor to the film and other arts and feature sections of the paper. She has been writing about Portland life and culture for the Mercury since 2001, and produces one of Portland’s largest annual spring fashion shows.
1. How would you describe your personal fashion?
I’m pretty eclectic, but I’m particular about what I buy. Particularly with patterns, I tend to stay away from them unless they grab me. And when they do, it’s unmistakable. Same with shoes. As much as I’ve been a lifelong shoe obsessive, the vast majority of them don’t outright call my name. I’m a total snob about manufacturing origin and I avoid chain stores, so I prefer to buy less, spend more.
On the other hand, I think it’s a fun challenge to incorporate things I never would have bought myself but that I’ve ended up with—as gifts, for instance—into my wardrobe and make them mine. That can range from a pair of hot pink booties sent to me by a publicist that retail for $40 to a full length vintage fur coat my fiance’s parents found at a thrift store. When I’m not saving up to buy the statement pieces that have tapped my shoulder, I stick to sleek basics. Slim pants, jersey separates, things that can serve as a canvas for brighter pieces. I spent a lot of time building up those kinds of basics—and I’ll wear things for years and years—and I’m starting to enjoy bringing in more color and personality on top of that foundation. It’s a mix of being very calculated and not at all.
2. Who are your biggest style influencers and why?
Ninjas and ballerinas. And, in a roundabout way, private schools. I had to wear a uniform from first through eighth grade, then a dress code throughout high school (no denim, shirts had to have collars, skirts couldn’t be too short, etc.). The uniforms made me really attuned to the styling nuances that made it possible for some kids to look cooler, even when we were all ostensibly wearing the same thing, and the dress code created a desire to creatively interpret rules, and work around challenges and within boundaries. I also started dancing when I was four and the older girls at the dance school were a huge influence. I still think that dancers going to and from the studio half in dancewear and half in street clothes is the coolest thing ever. And ninjas’ style is similarly about both grace and function, except tougher and more exotic.
3. What is your go-to piece of clothing and why?
I’m not lying when I say I don’t have one. Certainly I have things that are on rotation more often than others but I try not to get stuck in a rut. I might wear a pair of black pants or jeans twice in one week, but I won’t wear them every week. I’ve been trying to get rid of some of my clothes, but I still have a lot, and I try to wear it all.
4. Where do you turn for fashion inspiration?
I love the street style blogs: The Sartorialist, Garance Dore, Face Hunter, Stockholm Streetstyle, etc. And I have a bunch of fashion related blogs on my RSS feed like Jak & Jil, Susie Bubble. I’ve always gotten a lot of inspiration from costume design and wardrobe styling in film. Also just people I know, even if they’re not particularly “fashion people.” I’m also really inspired by things that are special to a place, which is part of where my enduring fascination with local design comes from. It’s the same when I travel, I always want to check out what is unique to any location.
5. What’s the one item you’ll splurge on and why?
The most obvious answer is shoes, because it comes up most frequently, but I don’t mind spending money on anything that stops me in my tracks (it just might take me a while to save up). As for the why, it’s for the same reason one buys art or furniture that you feel an affinity with. It’s a collection, and a reflection.
6. How would you describe Portland Fashion?
I think that Portland fashion designers are very much shaped by their role as outsiders in the mainstream industry. You see fewer people doing overtly commercial collections, and more experimentation, less wholesaling, more custom work. It says something about a person who has decided to pursue a career in fashion design here, where they are cut off from the resources and exposure they’d get in a fashion capital.
Style-wise, it used to be that everyone was doing lacy dresses with raw hems and coats with big covered buttons, but it’s gotten much more diverse and mature. It’s harder to classify, because all the bold-name designers in town, from Adam Arnold to Liza Rietz to Dawn Sharp, are very different, and not following trends, or each other.