SethAaron makes splash at Portland Fashion Week

By Mary Ann Albright, Columbian Staff Reporter

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Industrial shipyards on Portland’s Swan Island turned into a sartorial epicenter Saturday evening as models, designers and fashionistas descended to see SethAaron Henderson and three other “Project Runway” alumni present collections.

The show was part of the seventh annual Portland Fashion Week, a five-day event that wrapped up Sunday and featured local, regional, national and international designers’ spring and summer collections.

Henderson, a Vancouver designer and winner of the past season of “Project Runway,” was the final act in Saturday’s runway show. He sent down the catwalk 15 looks inspired by solar energy technology, particularly event sponsor SolarWorld and its Hillsboro, Ore., plant.

“It went extremely well,” Henderson said. “It went without a flaw. I’m very happy.”

Henderson’s designs, which he also showed Wednesday at L.A. Fashion Week, brought the energy and drama viewers who saw his winning “Project Runway” collection would expect.

He created a collection tied together with repeated elements such as masks, hats, oversized and angular collars, and yellow war paint-style eye shadow. He mixed hard with soft, employing sheer, light fabrics alongside shiny vinyl. His color palette of black, white, silver, red, yellow and purple was inspired by a tour of the Hillsboro SolarWorld factory. It was a familiar aesthetic for the designer, who favors black, white, gray and primary colors.

The first look he sent down the black solar-panel-lined runway was a long-sleeved white minidress worn with a black and silver full-face mask. Others included a black vinyl minidress with red piping and an almost origami-looking bodice, and a flowy, sheer purple metallic dress that opened in the front and was worn over boy shorts.

He closed the show with a dress that had been featured in Portland Fashion Week promotional materials, a black vinyl zip-front minidress with powerful shoulders and matching arm bands. His model looked like a sexy comic book assassin.

Henderson, 39, succeeded in creating an edgy, futuristic collection, though not all the looks were strictly editorial. A few, including a black-and-white striped sleeveless dress with ruffle details, seemed like clothes a real woman could wear.

The rest, though, are more Katy Perry or Lady Gaga than girl-next-door. The couture-loving, trousers-optional Lady Gaga might be one of the few people brave enough to wear some of Henderson’s most high-concept looks, including a pair of slim black pants with revealing cutouts down the sides.

Henderson said he is having his representatives send a look book to Lady Gaga in hopes of getting one of his designs on the pop star.

His collection Saturday was preceded by looks by Gordana Gehlhausen, Jay Nicolas Sario and Jonathan Joseph Peters, who all joined him on Season 7 of “Project Runway.”

Henderson was excited to reunite with his three former competitors in his first fashion show since winning “Project Runway.”

“We’ve shown at the big shows, and we were pleased with Portland Fashion Week,” he said. “It was great. We’re all really good friends. We hung out the night before. We went to dinner, then hung out at my house. We’re like family.”