Portland Fashion Week: Recap

So, this little "I'm a Slave for You" inspired number was the closer for Day 2 of Portland Fashion Week.

It was designed by Paloma Soledad, who among other things, just finished working on Coraline - the latest stop motion film from the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas.

All of the Paloma's pieces for the show were similar - showcasing her expert craftsmanship and deep understanding of body contours. Additionally the entire line, being lingerie & corset oriented was sexually thematic.

As a feminist who believes strongly in the connection between women claiming sexuality as their own - as sexual subjects not sexual objects - and female empowerment, I loved & felt inspired by her line.

But, at first, the finale design [pictured], really bothered me. Traditionally the final piece in a show is one that is considered the apex, the best, and usually sums up the theme or inspiration for the line as well. Its this dress that accompanies the designer as she waves to the crowd.

Shackles? Really? The New York Times estimates there are tens of thousands of sex slaves in the united states, and millions world wide. There is absolutely nothing sexy about sexual slavery, and it completely contradicts my personal beliefs on sexual dress - as a means of expression of the indeed existent sexual desires of women. Sexual slavery uses sex as a weapon against women, as something done to them, as something that makes them powerless.

Yet on the last day of the show I had an opportunity to talk to Kacy Owens, the model pictured here (and my absolute favorite from the show. She is incredible.) and I asked her about the outfit.
She said that Paloma called her about the outfit regarding the racial sensitivity of someone of mixed race wearing something the could possibly be interpreted as slavery. Obviously Paloma is aware of the message(s) she is sending - so could this outfit be looked at in another way??

Perhaps, in putting a woman in shackles - which are both broken and held by her alone - she is making a different statement. Kacy was graceful, strong, and radiated a kind of self possession. Looking back, she seems excellently and deliberately cast. Physically Kacy stands in opposition to smaller, thinner, and less powerful (in terms of symbolic space) potential models. On another body, on another women, the statement would have been vastly different and oppressive. But this walk felt more like a kind of victory - which is indeed a credit to Kacy and also the eye of the designer (and the combination of the two).

Sitting here thinking about it, I couldn't help but be reminded of Maya Angelou's poem Still I Rise where she refers to herself as the dream and the hope of a slave and references her powerful sexuality. "Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? 'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells pumping in my living room."

Maybe this is what that walk would look like. Head up, shackles broken, the curl of smile.
With each step - I rise, I rise, I rise.

p.s. here is a little more inspired writing on sexuality by my friend Cassy


  1. Um Sam. wow. I cried when I read this post. I needed to hear something similar for so many reasons. It moved me in ways for reasons I cannot begin to describe here. this is why you are a soul mate of mine. this is why we are inexplicably linked and always will be. You embody the exact woman Maya Angelou speaks of 100% and i admire you more than you know. thank you.


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