How’s the saying go? It’s about the journey (as much as, if not more) than the destination. Well, this sentiment certainly rings true when it comes to the art of craft. In a city built on innovation and endless creativity, Portland’s abundance of makers have cultivated a craft culture like no other. For some, it’s following their passions years in the making, while others are carrying the torch of family tradition to ensure the legacy lives on. Find them fashioning dresses and tailor-made suits that make you feel like magic or celebrating their heritage to bridge creative communities halfway around the world.
It’s fun to find out how the ‘slacks’ are made, and these local Portland makers offer a peek at their process and individual craft through on-site studios all while you shop, tax-free of course.
In the burgeoning neighborhood of Montavilla in Southeast Portland, Union Rose houses quite the collection of women’s size inclusive apparel, jewelry and more, all from local designers, independent makers, and fashion brands. Many are small batch and limited runs, which give giftables a very one-of-a-kind feeling. Here, you’ll find owner and designer Rita Hudson creating custom vintage-inspired pieces at the back of the showroom, inviting visitors to watch as she round hems on the sewing machine and perfects her original designs.
Located on NE Alberta, a hot neighborhood for artistic endeavors, is Amelia. Downstairs, you’ll find a mix of apparel that celebrates all body types, jewelry, and hand-dipped candles, supporting small independent makers and manufacturers (and many found right here in the Pacific Northwest). Upstairs, you’ll find owner (and namesake) Amelia in her studio working on new pieces for their small-scale clothing line made in-house, or tailoring items for shoppers complimentary.
Located in the new Shops at 10Y in downtown Portland, find Amity Artisan Goods, a shop representing underserved artists, including women, immigrants, LGBTQ, BIPOC, Latinx, and AAPI makers of artisan goods and gifts from 27 makers within these communities. Here, Alshiref Design and Print, established in 2014, hand draws iconic places around Portland, like our famed bridges, and screen prints them onto fabric, wood, or paper on-site. His personal travels have long inspired his work, growing up in Egypt, living and traveling through European before calling the U.S. (and Portland) home.
There may be no bigger feast for the eyes than the eclectic mix of makers at Cargo, located on SE Yamhill in its historic digs. Here, you’ll find everything from antique altarpieces to Japanese kokeshi and hand-loomed garments to tribal jewelry – merchandise to match the vision of owners Patty Merrill and Bridgid Blackburn, whose goal setting out was to foster makers and artists while sustaining endangered traditions. With a business pivot (and new name), Cargo Emporium was realized, welcoming like-minded vendors who have set up shop like Hello! Good Morning!, Loaded Hips Press, Rx Letterpress and more. Get a peek at the artisans in action on-site or during one of their maker pop-ups. Keep an eye on Instagram for updates!
Deeply rooted in Mottainai, a time-honored Japanese value loosely translated to mean ‘waste nothing, recycle everything,’ Kiriko marries centuries old traditions with modern hand-crafted techniques, engaging artisans, and small textile companies in rural Japan. Where fabric inspires creation, every inch of the ‘Boro’ (scraps of cloth) on hand are utilized, creating beautiful solutions to combat waste. What starts as a pillowcase is fashioned to fit wallets and creative detailing for pants and hats. Walk into their shop on SE Morrison in downtown and find the team sewing up meditation pillows, face masks and more.
Heeding the call of tradition and familial history, Orox Leather Co. has revived its generational leatherworks craft to build a brand with a home in Portland while celebrating its Oaxacan roots. Step into their Old Town shop, where the rich smell of uncut leather carries you forward as you peruse the handcrafted bags, belts, and accessories. The other half of the shop is set up as a live working studio where you can meet and greet the artisans at work.
“Trail Tested, Mud approved,” a tagline befitting of North St. Bags , who sources materials and champions other companies within the Pacific Northwest to create their sustainability-forward gear. Not only is the company powered 100% by wind, but they are also working toward creating gear that’s 100% recyclable. Also, with every purchase made, 1% of the sale goes to an organization making a difference in preserving and protecting the natural world around us. Here, their dual retail space and workshop allows visitors to partake in the passion sewn into each item.
Dapper, inventive, and always with a personalized flare, Wildwood & Company creates custom suits, fanciful accent pieces and made-to-measure shoes that would have James Bond doing a double take. Inside their walnut-walled client lounge with whiskey at the ready, is an experience visitors will take with them long after their custom fittings. By special request (and with some notice), patrons can get an insider’s glimpse at the workshop and designers in progress. Additionally, their newly-opened on-site gallery – Day in the Life – showcases works from 40 artists in glassblowing, ceramics, weaving and more. At select times, you’ll find artists demonstrating their craft, like fourth-generation weaver Francisco Bautista.