At Nike's "Campus" aka their headquarters in Portland, across design, marketing and communications, curiously there are a high number of British expats. I think I heard as many English accents as I did American when I was touring campus during the #NatureAmplified media summit, which played out over the last two days. When I went to visit recommended and rated vintage store Yo Vintage! on the borders of Portland's nicely gentrified Pearl District, it was therefore not surprising to learn that what bought founder Sarah Radcliffe from London to Portland, was her husband's relocation to Nike Campus as part of the Nike Sportswear design team. Sarah was a trend forecaster and vintage buyer in London previously and when she found herself in Portland four years ago, in amongst a wealth of not-yet-hiked-up vintage, that was perhaps lacking an edit, she ventured with an e-commerce store that began in her basement and then became a physical space.
For all our ribbing about Portlandia-isms (the obsession/snobbery over coffee, the artfully maintained moustaches, the love of a bird motif), the positives remain. Sarah admitted she wouldn't have been able to start her business, in the way that she did, back in London. There's an eagerness to help the new, the young and the independent, which results in lucking out in all areas of starting up; from finding models for her website through Craig's List to getting local letterpress people to make business cards to finding a month-by-month contract on a newly developed shop space.
Yo Vintage! is truly representative of the 21st century type of vintage that, for want of a better word is "curated" with a stylist/editor's eye and takes the "musty" or "old" factor out of vintage and recontextualises second hand clothing for a wider audience. Rather than focusing on period, origin or designer, Sarah picks out pieces that grab your eye because of a certain detail, with bright graphic prints being a strong point at the moment. When styled up against Portland's pretty landscape backdrop, the clothes seduce the hardiest of vintage naysayers. The store itself also has a touch of the new with Karen Walker sunnies, and local Portland labels such as AK Vintage and Seaecho. I also discovered the insane pigments of Portland Black Lipstick Co. and took to a pale blue shade called Difficult Island – I was thinking Mr Freeze, but somebody on Instagram pointed out that this was my Joey from Friends Japanese lipstick commercial moment.
Vintage wise, I zoomed in on a dragon embroidered jacket that fits into my "I'm ok with looking like a dim sum waitress occasionally" phase. I'm heeding the words of Sisqo and unleashing the dragon within me. And then doing what any Portlandia fan slash photo opportunistic blogger would do but cycle around on a twee-looking bike and match outfit to the appropriate environment, which in this case is Portland's old Chinatown area (where I also checked out the lovely Table of Contents concept store).