Nathaniel Crissman, Rachel Turk and John Blasioli have joined talents as the design team behind Pendleton, The Portland Collection.
John Blasioli moved to Portland from New England. His educational background is in environmental studies, and his earlier work includes making stage clothing for the Decemberists, his first menswear line, a broken spoke, and his eponymous line of menswear, John Blasioli. Nathaniel Crissman is a Portland native who attended the Art Institute of Portland, where he studied fashion design. Rachel Turk went to school for environmental science, and then worked in design, production management and visual merchandising. Nathaniel and Rachel first met in sixth grade and later went on to form the independent label church & state.
I met with the design team in early April to discuss their backgrounds and inspirations. But before we began to talk, the team watched a short film put together by Portland photographer and videographer Chris Hornbecker. They were still excited by the movie when we sat down.
Karen: I take it you were happy with the video?
Rachel: Yes! It offers a real grassroots insight with this series of glimpses into production. It’s almost shocking what goes into it. When we were out at the mill, I forgot they were filming.
Nathaniel: To see the Astoria plaid in its untreated state was awesome and strange. It was inspiring in a way I hadn’t expected.
John: As a designer, it’s amazing. The general public doesn’t usually have any insight into production, but most designers don’t, either.
Karen: We’ll be showing it soon. So, let’s talk about your team. Can you tell me a little about your specific design roles?
Rachel: (laughing) We really didn’t have specific roles. From the beginning, the design vision and actual design work were all collaborative.
Nathaniel: I started as the lead, but we quickly moved into such equality on the team that we didn’t need a lead.
John: My background is 99% menswear, so I thought that’s what I’d be doing, but the three of us worked together on every piece.
Karen: So you didn’t divide up design by men’s and women’s?
Nathaniel: No, we thought we would, because Rachel and I have more of a background in womenswear and John has a menswear background. Once we started working, it smushed.
Karen: It happened organically?
John: Yes, it was a very natural way for us to work because we had unified design conversations. We’d be working on a garment, and one of us would step back and the other would step in.
Karen: But you must have had some task division.
Nathaniel: John and I did the pattern making.
Rachel: I did the nitty-gritty project management, and acted as a liaison with Pendleton.
John: And you did the knits, Rachel. None of us had experience with knits and Rachel came forward and took it on.
Karen: The knits are great! And like a lot of the pieces in The Portland Collection, they are shared pieces that can be worn by men and women. When I saw the full sample line for The Portland Collection, I was intrigued by just how many of the garments work for both men and women. Was it always the plan to have so many shared pieces?
Nathaniel: It actually happened in the Pendleton archives. During our first trip down there, we found a coat, I think it’s the Timberline?
Rachel: It’s a long toboggan coat.
Nathaniel: And we all three tried it on, and we all looked super killer in it.
John: I don’t think we knew it would be such an emphasis at the beginning. But we kept working on pieces that worked for men and women, like the original trench, and the knits.
Rachel: Raglan sleeves make it possible.
Karen: Well, I know how many women shop our Pendleton men’s line, so I think it’s brilliant. And The Portland Collection goes across all three of our divisions; Womenswear, Menswear, and Home. Can you talk to me about the blankets?
Rachel: We actually started with the blankets. They were the bookends for the collection. We used the Harding pattern and colored it with the palette of the toboggan coat from the archives. I think that coat originally had a white ground, but it had aged to a richer color, so we used that. And we really liked the solid blanket as a pause point.
Karen: And the bags and scarves?
Rachel: Those came out of the blanket designs.
Karen: The bags are fantastic. I understand that you were all fans of Pendleton before this opportunity came your way.
Nathaniel: We’ve all used Pendleton wool in our own lines. I think the design community in Portland really appreciates Pendleton, and romanticizes it based on vintage pieces we find.
Rachel: Well, my parents have the blankets. One of my early memories is touring the mill with my grandfather. And the company has a great reputation with the younger consumer, too.
John: We were excited to work with a company that’s in this region. It adds authenticity to what’s happening with design here. I think for local people, the Pendleton brand is a place they call home.