A week in Portland with Window of Imagination’s Jen Szeto

We’re completely in love with Jen Szeto’s Instagram, Window of Imagination. Her appropriately named feed gives us little peeks into her inspired life, where the San Francisco native travels to the most swoon-worthy places and takes gorgeous photos along the way. Recently, she went to Portland and, naturally, we asked if we could virtually tag along on the ride. Jen was nice enough to pen us a little travel diary documenting her adventure, on which she stopped in to visit our friends at Stand Up Comedy to outfit her trip.

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Jen wears the Electric Feathers Short Infinite Rope Dress and Suzanne Rae Kimono Dress (similar here) from Stand Up Comedy.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR TRIP! WHAT TOOK YOU TO PORTLAND? Portland is an amazing city. I hadn’t spent much time up there before now – it had always been just a few days stopping in and out along a road trip. I had the chance do some work travel there for an entire week, and since the trip fell close to the 4th of July weekend, my husband and I took it upon ourselves to stay through the holiday. The weather was perfect – we arrived just as a mega heat wave was dissipating, so it was pleasant t-shirt weather the whole time. We had access to a car (which was key), and we rented an Airbnb right in the heart of Alberta Arts District, which provided endless amounts of restaurants, bars and ice cream to try. And the coffee! So. Much. Coffee.

WHAT DID YOU DISCOVER ABOUT THE CITY? After being there for a week, I found many similarities between Portland and San Francisco. Like SF, Portland is really health conscious and offers a variety of outdoor activity options, healthy & alternative restaurants, and a slower paced way of living (compared to say, New York or LA). Portland is seeing a surge in tech companies and creative agencies migrating north, so they are also experiencing a population boom like the Bay Area.

Aside from that, there is just a ton of great, diverse food in Portland, which was pleasantly surprising to discover. I ate out every day and gained about 6 pounds, no joke. I was also wowed by all the fantastic boutiques in the city. There are ton in a few concentrated areas that are all very diverse and well curated. When you combine that with no sales tax, the shopping really couldn’t be beat.

window-of-imagination-portland-lbd“Since I travel a lot, I’ve grown accustomed to packing clothing that are comfortable, versatile and durable.”

TOP 5 MUST-SEE/EAT/DO SPOTS YOU’D RECOMMEND? We explored, ate, and drank a lot, and these are the top 5 things that left me yearning for more (many thanks to Britt, Helen, and Diana for the fantastic recommendations):

Nong’s Khao Man Gai. Their famous thai-style chicken and rice is so simple, yet so delicious. There are three locations for the restaurant – two food carts and one brick and mortar. The food carts serve only chicken and rice, but the brick and mortar serves up a wider variety of rice-based dishes. The magic lies in the fat-drenched rice, as it completes the dish with its extra juiciness and succulent flavor.

The soft serve at Cheese & Crack. We stopped by to try their signature soft serve, which has chocolate ganache filling at the bottom of the cone and espresso dust sprinkled on top of the ice cream. It was the perfect summer treat!

Broder Øst. During the July 4th weekend, Colin, myself, and a friend of ours escaped to the coast and explored Hood River. At sundown, we went into town and had dinner here which serves the most delectable Scandinavian comfort food I’ve ever tasted. We ordered a mishmash of things and everything was a hit. We sopped up the juices, licked our plates, and topped everything off with a few rounds of traditional cocktails. I believe there’s another location in Portland, too!

Ira Keller Fountain Park. I absolutely fell in love with this landmark. The fountain is located in the heart of downtown, and is an architectural sight for sore eyes. Heavy waters cascade from towering, mountain-like sculptures that can be observed from layered concrete platforms. On hot days you can wade through the water (though not recommended) or sit atop the plaza and lose yourself in the soothing roar. It was very quiet the day we visited, so we were able to meander without disruption.

Stand Up Comedy. It’s the most avant grade, nondescript boutique in all of Portland, which houses some of the most forward thinking labels to date. The store’s owner/founder, Diana Kim, has spent the last seven years meticulously curating her selection to perfection, carrying timeless items that perfectly compliment my minimal color / maximum volume palette. Her current location is the shop’s second home. It has unique bones and rare stone from its old jewelry store days that Diana has consciously kept intact.

WHAT HIDDEN GEMS DID YOU FIND? Well, for starters, I realized that the second Voodoo Doughnuts location in the NE is waaaaay less crowded than the one in the SW. So if you’re desperate for that sweet dough, head there.

Secondly, the floral shop inside of Alder & Co, Hilary Horvath Flowers, is one of the best places to pick up an arrangement! Hilary was very sweet and super accommodating… and while I shopped around Alder & Co, she quickly whipped up one of the best bouquets that I’ve ever received!

Lastly, if you ever feel like adventuring outside of Portland, there’s this cool little swimming hole about an hour outside of town called Mosier Creek Falls It’s tucked away from the main road but easy to access via a narrow trail. Once you get there, you’re greeted by a cascading waterfall and two picturesque pools where you can swim, mini-cliff dive and sunbathe.

window-of-imagination-portland-layers“I can imagine coming up with at least a week’s worth of outfit combinations with just these two pieces alone.”

HOW DO YOU PLAN YOUR TRAVEL ITINERARIES? Honestly, by the seat of my pants. I’m not much of a personal planner because I think it takes a little fun out of exploring. Many years ago when I was traveling through Japan, I received some great advice by one of my bed and breakfast hosts. He was a retired Frenchman living life slowly and happily with his wife, and when I checked in, he provided some great to-do recommendations during my stay. Just before we wrapped up our meeting, though, he said, “Most importantly, don’t forget to get lost.” And that has always stuck with me. Since then, I’ve tried not to over plan, but instead take a few cues from friends and leave the rest up to the internet on the day-of.

WHAT IS YOUR GO-TO OUTFIT FOR TRAVEL? I’m a forever fan of Jesse Kamm’s sailor pants – I have two, soon to be three, pairs – so I never leave home without them. Since I don’t have TSA pre-check (yet), I always wear a pair of easy slip-on shoes, like the Martiniano glove shoes, and a non-constricting tee. San Francisco has taught me how to layer, so I also never leave home without a coat (which can double as a pillow on long flights or road trips).

While you’re planning your trip, you can shop our favorite Portland boutiques in one handy place. This way >

Meet the Designer: Lindsey Reif of REIFhaus

Walking that cool line that balances originality with approachability, Lindsey Reif designs for those defining moments in your wardrobe. You know the kind. The ones that can even make taking the bus to the dentist feel like a satisfying expression of your personal style. With a swimwear line newly launched and a fresh collection for Spring 2016 on its way, we sat down with the Portland-based designer to talk thrifting, sewing and studio rituals.

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WHEN DID YOU FIRST KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE A DESIGNER? I don’t think there was an exact moment, but I do know it was always inside of me. As a child, I remember making dresses for my dolls out of tissue, then covering them in clear tape so I could take them off and the dolls could re-wear them. I got my start designing clothing for real people at 18 when I first moved to Portland. I’ve always been an avid thrifter, and I loved repurposing and redesigning pieces I would find at thrift shops. It taught me so much about garment construction and I was able to hone my sewing skills.

Meet the Designer: Marisa Howard of Seaworthy

There’s something about the fluid jewelry from Seaworthy that hints at a bigger story behind a minimalist piece. We went behind the scenes with self-taught jewelry designer Marisa Howard to find out more.

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TELL US HOW YOU BECAME A JEWELRY DESIGNER. I studied Journalism and Communications at University of Oregon, with a focus on magazine writing. I thought I was going to write long feature stories and learn about people’s lives, but once I was out in the “real world”, I learned that I didn’t like pressing people for their stories and I didn’t like the publishing industry in general. So I moved into Marketing and PR and worked my way into the lighting industry somehow. My “career” before starting Seaworthy was in the commercial lighting industry. I worked with clients like Nordstrom and Costco and worked on casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, as well as other large projects all over the US. I traveled constantly. I can see now that all my random jobs prepared me to run this small creative business.

In the lighting industry, I worked as an operations manager for a couple years. So I hired and fired, I managed a budget, I did sales and customer service. I also managed a warehouse and implemented shipping schedules and inventory management. I also learned the creative side of lighting design and layout. In that career though, I could see the end of what I wanted to learn and accomplish. I had burned out and I knew I needed a change. In January of 2010, I just quit. I had a couple part time things lined up: a retail job and a freelance editing job for a Canadian publication, but I really had no idea what I was going to do. I was making a little jewelry as a creative outlet and a way to build community. Eighteen months after I quit my “career”, I was making jewelry full time. That was four years ago in August.

Fashion Photographer BriAnne Wills on inspiration and cats

When you have a background in journalism, telling a story becomes second nature. While attending journalism school at the University of Oregon, BriAnne Wills discovered the intimate portraits she could use for storytelling through photography, dropped her pen for a camera and never looked back. Now based in Brooklyn, she’s behind the wildly successful blog Girls and Their Cats (now an addictive Instagram feed) and works on fashion shoots for clients such as Teen Vogue, WonderlandNylon, and even our pals at Gamma Folk. We caught up with her to get a look behind the scenes.

HOW DID YOU FIRST FALL IN LOVE WITH PHOTOGRAPHY? When I got my first polaroid camera in grade school. I loved forcing my friends and family to dress up and pose for me.

HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT FINDING INSPIRATION? I’m obsessed with creating mood boards. I love finding old photos from various decades and compiling them into a storyline. I could honestly trawl the internet for hours looking at beautiful imagery.

Meet the Designer: Kristen Robison of Minoux Jewelry

Developing a signature look should always involve that one piece of jewelry you never take off and goes with everything. Bonus points if it’s also made in a way that doesn’t kill the environment. Enter Minoux Jewelry. Designer Kristen Robison creates simple rings and statement necklaces from her studio in Portland and we’ve fallen hard, for the metal work and for the woman behind it. Extra bonus points for that signature piece when you know the story behind the person who made it. Here, Kristen talks to us about sustainable jewelry making, the beauty of bronze and doing away with the stress of your morning #OOTD.
HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START IN JEWELRY DESIGN? I went to India during an exploratory time in my life. I had just graduated with a degree in political science and an intention to go to law school, but was realizing that law wasn’t what I really wanted to do. In India, I learned how to solder metal using traditional techniques. It was the first time I had ever soldered or made a ring. I was incredibly struck by the skill of the artisans I learned from, and the labour-intensive techniques, which required very few tools. I think that ethos has stayed with me to this day.

Meet the Boutique: Parallel

Have you ever had that moment when you walk into a boutique, chat with the owner or the girl or guy behind the cash desk, and think, “We are going to be best friends”? Shopping kismet is a phenomenon where you discover your style soulmate at a boutique and realize their racks and shelves are basically your dream closet and you’re never leaving. We’re willing to bet this happens over and over for the bubbly, wonderfully sweet and hardworking Tez Hartney at her Portland boutique, Parallel. Visiting her shop is a lot like shopping with a best friend and finding out their closet is full of Rag & Bone, Loeffler Randall and a whole lot more. Here, we quiz her on multitasking as a business owner and the designers she can’t wait to get in for fall.

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Behind the scenes with Wildfang’s Creative Director

It takes a certain amount of badassery to leave a solid 9-to-5 and launch a fashion brand with your friends. It takes even more to launch one with a vision to shake up the status quo. Thankfully there are people in the world like Emma Mcilroy, Julia Parsley and Tara Thuot. They left jobs at Nike to launch Wildfang in 2013 and have since created a massive force of a brand that celebrates all things tomboy. Whether Ruby Rose is your style icon or you just prefer pants over skirts, the Portland-based fashion boutique and brand has something inspiring, and empowering, for every woman. We fell in love with it when we walked through the doors of their Portland store so we had to find out more about what goes on behind the scenes. We caught up with their Creative Director Tara Thuot to talk about building a business, gender politics in fashion, and all of her favorite things.

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HAVE YOU ALWAYS HAD TOMBOY STYLE? I have always loved to mix masculine and feminine. Even when I was 4-years-old, I rocked pants under my dresses. Pretty sure I am still rocking that style today.

WE LOVE THE EMPOWERING ATTITUDE OF YOUR BRAND. TELL US MORE. We believe being a Wildfang and a tomboy is as much about spirit as it is style. By having a two-way conversation with women and featuring real and empowering women in our content, our hope is that we are building a brand that is inclusive and inspiring.

Three Things We Love In Portland

We fell in love with Portland long before Chloë Sevigny rolled through Portlandia, but getting to know our rad boutique community in the city has made us fall for it even more. We had a chance to visit Oregon on our #BOUTIQUELOVE tour this year and met three amazing women who gave us the expert lowdown on where the locals love to eat, drink and play in Portland.

NONG POONSUKWATTANA, OWNER OF NONG KHAO MAN GAI

Named one of the best food trucks on the west coast by Condé Nast Traveller, Nong serves up traditional khao man gai (an aromatic poached chicken dish that is SO GOOD) from her hometown of Bangkok, Thailand. She moved to the US in 2003 with two suitcases and $70 and today she runs three Nong Khao Man Gai locations in Portland.

 

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WHAT IS YOUR WORK UNIFORM? Big smile and a good hat.

WHAT ARE YOUR TOP THREE FAVORITE PLACES IN PORTLAND?  Maurice, Kim Jong Grillin and Sen Yai.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT RUNNING A BUSINESS THERE? Being able to bike to work surrounded by trees, birds and a lot of good energy. Being around people that care about how your day went because they eat good berries and other good food everyday.

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MEGAN ARAMBUL, OWNER OF FIELDWORK FLOWERS

Every bouquet by Fieldwork is made of hand-picked, locally grown flowers and every single one is Instagram worthy. Seriously, follow them now. Megan has been ruling the floral game in Portland since 2009.

 

Aboutfieldwork

WHAT IS YOUR WORK UNIFORM? My uniform isn’t as feminine as I’d like but it’s super comfortable and practical for my work: just a soft cotton tee, Levi’s and a pair of Converse All Star high tops do the trick. Mentally, beautiful lingerie helps me balance my tomboy appearance.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP THREE FAVORITE PLACES IN PORTLAND? In Portland I love Una, Forest Park and Castagna Cafe for the burger and sea scallops. But geez there are many incredible places to visit. I could list them for an hour plus.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT RUNNING A BUSINESS THERE? Portland is such a supportive city. We receive a ton of positive feedback to keep doing what we’re doing regardless of how difficult we can be to locate. That said, I love this city’s sense of community. But the best thing about operating Fieldwork here is having a world class selection of locally grown flowers cultivated by farmers who treat me like their daughter.

 

ANNIE PORTLOCK, OWNER OF ANNIEPIES

Focusing on standout flavors and local, seasonal ingredients, you haven’t had pie until you’ve had the bite-sized goodness baked by Annie. Her handcrafted pies are a major hit on the party circuit in Portland and you can stop by her storefront to stock up for the trip home.

Meet the Boutique: San Francisco’s Conifer

Based on the scenic coast of California, Amy Mautz brings a literal lifetime of retail experience to her boutique Conifer. She grew up at tradeshows and went on to work with New York’s Built by Wendy before opening her own shop back home on the west coast in 2010. Now focusing full time on her online store, it seems Amy has that work-life balance thing down. Add to that her amazing eye for creative designers like Uzi, Ace & Jig and Lauren Manoogian. So of course we had to ask for all her secrets.

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YOU’VE ALWAYS BEEN IN RETAIL. TELL US ABOUT THAT. I worked as a disgruntled teen at my mom’s store, The Arrangement, in Portland, OR. She has been in business for 35 years! I grew up going to the gift shows in San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles, so I have known the process of owning a store since I was young. I sewed in high school, went to school for interior design, then went back to pattern-making school in San Francisco, and then went off to New York. In New York, I worked for Built by Wendy in her stores and as her Sales Director. I moved back to San Francisco in 2008 to open her 4th store. After it closed, I freelanced for a bit and then spotted an available space in Mill Valley, CA. I ended up opening Conifer in San Francisco instead and was open for four years. We closed the brick and mortar in 2014 and shifted our focus to our online store. I have always loved design, clothing, vintage, textiles, interior design, and supporting independent emerging designers. I’m drawn to creative people, what they make, and their processes.

 

Meet the Boutique: Portland’s House of Commons

Originally from Bloomington, IN, Delia Tethong has lived in some amazing places: London, Thailand, Los Angeles, and now Portland. Her world travels have racked up on her resume too, with jobs in galleries, founding an online publication and more. Lucky for us, she’s decided to put down some roots and live out her dream of owning a boutique. Just like Delia’s lifestyle, House of Commons is always on the move. With pieces from designers like 7115 by Szeki, Objects Without Meaning and Morgan Carper, she stocks up the boutique with serious style and also uses the space to show off the city’s amazing local artists with a rotating schedule. We caught up with her to find out about her approach to curation, the boutique’s rad playlist and more of her favorite things.

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