PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — One of the top fashion events in the United States is underway in Portland.
It’s called FashioNXT Week and it’s a 4-day runway show and exhibit of designers from across the country. This year marks the show’s 8th year running.
Five unique designers are featured each night from Wednesday, Oct. 2 to Saturday, Oct. 5 inside of a glammed-out Swan Island warehouse.
Runway manager Egle Zalpys is the magician behind the curtain who organizes the backstage chaos into a meaningful display of art. She makes sure the designers are given the platform and experience they were promised when they signed on to FashioNXT.
There may be a tornado of clothing, lash extensions and hairspray behind the scenes — but the audience would never know it. What struts out on the runway is a polished, well-oiled, sexy machine.
“It doesn’t matter what happens, doesn’t matter how much chaos is going on back there, they still come out and they still look good every single night,” Zalpys said. “Everyone is hustling and working their tails off. We have quick changes — models have to get dressed in under a minute.”
Fashion show 101
FashioNXT Executive Producer Tito Chowdhury had some tips for first-time fashion show-goers: wear clothing that expresses your personality and don’t overthink it.
“It is about celebrating these fashion designers who are working so hard to present their collection, so people should not worry too much about anything else except that it is an amazing and fun celebration of talent,” Chowdhury said.
Zalpys added that pretty much anything goes — with three small exceptions: flip flops, Ugg boots and Juicy Couture sweatsuits are all big fashion don’ts.
Friday night at FashioNXT featured designers who are all based in the Pacific Northwest, including Portland’s Michelle Lesniak — the winner of Project Runway season 11 and Project Runway International Allstar.
Nearly all of the designers are returning FashioNXT veterans.
This is Maria Venturini’s second year in the show. She told KOIN 6 News her designs are inspired by nature. The collection she presented on Friday was a nod to the roses in her backyard.
“Soft colors — the collection is ‘Soft Whisper,’ so soft petals, flowers, tulle, silk, taffeta, sequins,” Venturini explained.
She said the elements that set FashioNXT apart from other fashion shows is its organization and its friendly environment — sentiments echoed by many of the other designers and artists involved in the show.
Gustavo Apiti of Gustavo Apiti Couture is going on his third year at FashioNXT. His designs are meant to stand out and turn heads on red carpets.
For Apiti, FashioNXT is a big deal in terms of exposure. He also likes the atmosphere.
“I like the way people treat us as a designer — respect, they make sure you’re doing good,” he said. “The backstage is really well-organized, we have a great audience. It’s really a very high-standard show.”
He added that he plans on coming back in the future.
Yamil Quiñones is the only designer at FashioNXT this year who is new to the show. He hails from Puerto Rico originally and moved to Portland about a year ago. It’s also been about a year since he’s done a fashion show.
His style is all about “bringing some of the flavors of the island but more dark in a romantic way.”
Quiñones’ collection on the FashioNXT runway was inspired by medieval royalty and a story called “The Dark Kingdom on the Rising.”
“It’s going to be divided by stages, like what you would expect of a kingdom: knights, the queen, the king, the prince,” he explained backstage.
While the emphasis of a fashion show is on the clothing, makeup and hair are both critical to pulling off the desired effect.
Angela Foster has been a makeup artist for the past five years at FashioNXT. She’s going on her second year as the lead artist, with the help of assistant Nicole Dance.
Their work is extremely particular.
“I build the team, I make all the face charts. We have a whole guideline to follow for each of the designers,” Foster explained.
Foster said their work is high-stress but in a way that she enjoys.
“It’s such a high-energy, well-produced show,” Dance added. “Organizing, helping wrangle everybody — it’s what I live for.”
Chachi Tuy of the Chachi Hair salon in Northwest Portland is the lead hairstylist. He said FashioNXT is special to him because it’s unique in that it brings “technology and fashion together.”
“It starts relaxed then gets kind of crazy, then when the actual show happens, it’s really crazy,” Tuy said. “We really get in there and attack the models — in a good way.”
FashioNXT runs through Saturday at the Daimler Campus on Swan Island at 4859 N Lagoon Avenue. Tickets can be purchased here.