PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland has been at the forefront of fashion for some time now. We’ve had several Project Runway winners, and host one of the top runway shows in the nation. But COVID-19 has changed everything.

In any other year, local fashion designers would be honing their collections to present at Portland’s FashioNXT–regarded as one of the best runway shows in the nation. But, the coronavirus pandemic has shut down the show for 2020.

“It has been affected tremendously bad, especially with small, independent designers, which a lot of the designers and brands that participate with us are,” said FashioNXT’s Tito Chowdhury.

Local fashion designers are adapting, and in many cases, moving their production into the newest fashion trend: masks. FashioNXT went with an online mask design competition to marry creativity with the reality of the coronavirus.

“Fashion designers have been at the forefront of that movement,” said Chowdhury.

FashioNXT pivots to face mask fashion in COVID-19 era. (FashioNXT)
FashioNXT pivots to face mask fashion in COVID-19 era. (FashioNXT)

Starting as mere face coverings, masks are now fashion. You can buy face coverings with elaborate designs, infinite colors, logos–even your favorite sports team. Fashion editor and critic Stephan Rabimov said local designers can move the mask concept to the next level as he talked with FashioNXT about judging Portland’s mask design competition.

“So, I think of Portland as one of those kind of laboratories–hubs where young talent and even established talent can be more daring, more risky, more creative,” said Rabimov.

And as fashion designers look to survive, masks may be one way to stay in the game, until things can once again approach normal.

“I think this way of presenting ourselves is intriguing because it’s human nature to be curious about what’s behind the mask,” said Rabimov.

KOIN 6 News’ Ken Boddie was a judge for the FashioNXT mask competition. The winning designs will be posted on the FashioNXT website Friday, October 9th. People will have a chance to bid on the winners, with the proceeds going to COVID-19 relief efforts.