Archives and Inspiration

In a recent ELLE magazine, The Portland Collection designers described a visit to the Pendleton Woolen Mills archives:

Escorted through rigid security that included a fingerprint-activated lock and a steel cage door, the trio were ushered into a room filled with hundred-year-old garments that had been frozen and thawed to preserve against moths. “It was a treasure trove of old fabrics, designs and advertisements,” Turk, 30, recalls. “We just had our minds blown and got all inspired,” says Crissman, also 30, “and went straight to the sketchbook.”

In the TPC video, you can see Rachel Turk slipping into a full-length blanket coat. Nice jazz hands, Rachel! But everyone has to wear white gloves in the PWM archives.

Inspiration is only a few floors away from me, so I put on my own white gloves and made a visit to take a few photos.

Here’s the coat that inspired TPC’s Toboggan Coat, as seen in the TPC video:

The original garment is a familiar Harding pattern coloration. This beauty has seen better days but it’s still striking and (obviously) inspiring.

Another coat that inspired the team is what we call “the airplane coat.” You’ll see why in a photo or two…

Here it is:

This car coat-length darling was sewn for passengers in open cockpit airplanes, and has the label to prove it. This is also a Harding pattern, a bit brighter than the full length coat above as it’s a little newer.

The strap-and-button details are charming.

Inspiration is all about what you make of it. The designers incorporated the classic elements of these garments and took them to the next level of design and function.

They also worked out a contemporary palette, using the faded ground color of the longer coat as a springboard for their own unique Harding colorations; one brighter and more traditional, and the other a very urban makeover in black, grey and tan.

Here’s the rack where both those coats live in the archives. And I’ll let you in on a little secret. The rack has a few “out” slips. That means other garments are busy inspiring the next round of fresh ideas for The Portland Collection.

I assure you, The Portland Collection will have its own rack of carefully curated designs, saved for the generations to come. Because that’s Pendleton.

You can all take off your white gloves, now…