Last night, fighting the urge to stay home like a bum, I drove over to see the Ace Hotel’s big CONTENT showcase of the latest in Portland apparel and jewelry.
The event was like a giant hotel party after prom: Each designer took over a hotel room and decorated it with products, and some were artfully conceptual, like a museum display. Trendy guests slid past each other in the narrow hallway and into crowded rooms while dance music played.
I was most impressed by designers who took advantage of the public exposure to not only display products but to share an idea.
For example, in one room, guests were ushered into a black dome of lights that beamed according to the level of noise or chatter and the music. The experience led me to think about the relationship between people and technology. The way the lights dimmed and glowed in sync with our voices made me realize, on a larger scale, how dependent we are on light and electricity.
In another room, guests were invited to put their hands on a glass with an outline of a hand. When I touched my palm to the glass, the impact started a sound loop. One hand was a thumping bass, and another was a synthesized melody. If the guests combined their loops successfully, a symphony emerged. I thought it would have been cool if products related to sound and technology were arranged below the glass, like sophisticated headphones.
Those two rooms stuck out to me in particular for their interactive technology, but others presented products in creative ways, too. Pendleton wools were stashed in one corner room. Sturdy leather bags for men, wooden sunglasses, chunky jewelry of mineral rocks and spools of yarn at the foot of a bed for the Portland Garment Factory were all scattered throughout the hotel’s second floor. There were also live models wearing lingerie or clothing the color of the room’s wallpaper.
At ground level, a pop up shop sold products that were previewed on the second floor. I really enjoyed the artsy installations, but the point of sale was lost amid the exhibitions. If a designer was hoping to make a few bucks, it would have been better for the purchase to be made right there in the room, before the customer forgot all about the bow tie he wanted.
All in all, I loved seeing all the creativity. In a city like Portland, which has been drawing more and more college-educated young creatives in recent years, according to an article in The Atlantic, creativity is always brewing but often goes unseen. It’s nice to see more of it out in the open.