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Italian Influence: Portland Design

In the decades following World War II, Italy’s impact on fashion stretched across the continents, reaching the United States and permeating our country’s design aesthetic from coast to coast. From signature textiles such as smooth silks and world-class wools, to traditional tailoring and couture techniques, Italian fashion past and present still inspires designers across the globe and in our own backyard.

In conjunction with Italian Style: Fashion Since 1945, the Portland Art Museum invited six noted Portland-based fashion designers to interpret Italian style within the context of their own work. The garments on display in this gallery represent some of the excellence in fashion design and manufacturing happening right now in Portland, including fine dressmaking, knitwear, tailoring, couture, and sportswear. Like “Made in Italy,” the phrases “Made in Oregon” and “Made in Portland” signal a certain pride in place, materials, and making. Whether it is established dressmakers such as Elizabeth Dye, Holly Stalder, and Liza Rietz, tailors such as Adam Arnold and Brady Lange, or sportswear designers at Nike’s world headquarters, contemporary Portland fashion pulses with the passion of Prada and innovates in the vein of Versace.

This is Italian Influence: Portland.

This display was organized by the Portland Art Museum Education Department in collaboration with Eden Dawn, Style Editor at Portland Monthly.

Featured Designers

KNITWEAR: Anna Cohen

After studying knitwear at the Polimoda school in Florence, Italy, Cohen remained abroad to hone her skills working for brands such as Patrizia Pepe and Max Mara. After returning to her hometown of Portland, Cohen launched her namesake brand to critical acclaim before becoming the creative director of the Imperial Collection in 2008—a collaboration with the Imperial Stock Ranch based in Shaniko, Oregon—in addition to a new design partnership creating fashion-forward sportswear for Polartec, a leader in fabric technology.

Cohen’s “Uccello in Volo” (Bird in Flight) dress was created with Polartec’s cut-and-sew PowerWoolan American-made textile layering Merino wool and synthetic fiberswhile the cardigan from her Fall 2014 collection for Imperial Stock Ranch is fully fashioned from Oregon wool.


Elizabeth Dye



TAILORING: Adam Arnold

Designer Adam Arnold creates bespoke tailored suits, dresses, and other impeccably fit garments for both men and women from his Southeast Portland studio. To create the structured silhouettes, Arnold employs a combination of multiple fittings and flat patternmaking techniques, incorporating layers of internal fabrics such as canvas and horsehair to bring his streamlined, classic garments to life.

Inspired by Italian designer Walter Albini, Arnold created his and hers suits using a mix of Italian wool patterns with a combination of machine- and hand-stitched tailoring techniques.


Sonia Kasparian



THE FUTURE: Alexa Stark

A New York City transplant trained at Parsons New School for Design, Alexa Stark moved to Portland in 2011, quickly gaining recognition for her innovative textile treatments. With a focus on sustainability, Stark uses organic and upcycled materials to create a line of timeless silhouettes with fashion-forward details such as exposed seams, hand-made fringes, and inversed fabrics.

Using repurposed denim from blue jeans, Stark’s ensemble is designed with the seams exposed so the garment evolves with each wear.


Nike: Made in Italy




Anna Cohen



DRESSMAKING: Elizabeth Dye

For the past fifteen years, bridal designer Elizabeth Dye has outfitted thousands of women with high-end gowns. Known for her ethereal and flowy looks—and for founding bridal mainstay boutique The English Dept.—the self-taught designer works exclusively by draping her patterns onto the form to achieve optimal fit.

Dye’s trumpet gown features vintage Lurex embroidered tulle over an illusion neckline with over sixty feet of hem on a stiff crinoline skirt.


Adam Arnold



COUTURE: Sonia Kasparian

Each piece Sonia Kasparian creates for her couture line, or bridal line Urchin, begins by draping the garment on a form or directly on a client’s body. Then the dress is delicately formed into place before Kasparian stitches down every pleat and tuck by hand. Using a combination of new, vintage, and repurposed materials before adding custom embellishments, every gown is one of a kind.

Built on a vintage corset, Kasparian’s asymmetrical gown uses a combination of beaded pewter lace before transitioning to cascading ruffles, each dip-dyed by hand to create an ombre effect.


Alexa Stark




Nike: Made in Italy

In the summer of 2011, inspired by Italy’s high-end materials and craftsmanship, Nike Sportswear released its “Made in Italy” collection. Designed by Nike and produced in Italy, the line featured men and women’s sportswear that combined Nike’s signature functionality with European flair.

Featuring both luxury knits and high performance synthetics, the line has since evolved into what is now called the Nike Sportswear White Label.


The hooded, zip-jacket for men features a soft, knit interior with a reflective protective exterior that both shields the wearer from the elements and helps provide visibility in low-light conditions. Material innovation helps define the aesthetic of the jacket, as the knit back of the garment is uniquely bonded with the woven front.

Blending the lines between style and practicality, the lightweight women’s matching jacket features contrasting fashion binding and double pockets.