The 4th annual Better Living Show kicked off at the Portland Expo Center last Friday (March 25), for a three-day extravaganza presenting the best of sustainable living solutions.

This is one of the largest gatherings of sustainably-minded people nation-wide, with an average of 18,000 attendees and 300 exhibiting companies last year.

This year again saw thousands of attendees, milling about booths devoted to every aspect of ecological, ethical, and organic solutions for modern lifestyles.  With demonstrations, seminars, kid-themed activities, giveaways, and samples, the show had a collectively educational feel.

Daffodil varieties and a dress made entirely of coupons.

A dress made out of skeletalized leaves by artist Michael Sage.

Anything and everything imaginable was available for sale, including beauty and hair products, eco-friendly accessories and jewelry, upcycled clothing, eco-rated windows, doors, and home improvements, books, organic snacks, local wines, essential oils, and even an electric vehicle pavilion.

Hand-forged, recycled metal jewelry from Knot a Diamond, also featured in the fashion show.

Ovie Mughelli in the middle of his “recylcing gridiron” drill.

Also in attendance was the World’s #2 Eco Athlete, Atlanta Falcon fullback Ovie Mughelli, with a mission is to teach underprivileged kids how to go green and become more responsible stewards of the planet.

International makeup artist Kristen Arnett also shared her expertise with attendees in talks and demonstrations throughout the weekend.  Having worked on editorials for Vogue Accessori, GQ, and Woman’s Day (among many, many others!), and with such icons as Pat McGrath, Kelsey Grammer, and Angela Missoni, the New York-based industry veteran stressed the importance of starting with the skin as a “start to greening up your beauty routine.”  (But if you had to start with one thing to eliminate in your routine, it would be any product containing foaming agents, specifically Sodium Laureth Sulfate, which causes skin sensitivity, trigger allergies, and strips the skin of its natural moisture.)  Citing makeup as a merely an enhancement for one’s natural features, she founded the Green Beauty Team as a way to address beauty as all-inclusive of makeup, skincare, and self-care.  Of the many makeup artists I’ve talked to in the past, she was one of the most up-front – stating flat-out that she can’t recommend a specific type of makeup for everyone, since such choices are highly personal, influenced by lifestyle, climate, and personal preference.  (i.e., liquid foundation vs. pressed powder vs. mineral foundation, etc.)  Trends for Spring?  “Anything with bright and bold colors!”

There was also a variety of fashionable offerings on display at the many booths.

Sterling silver-wrapped found rock pendants from Rock On Jewelry Design, also seen in the runway show.

Loopt top, made from the fabric remnants and overruns discarded from large manufacturers – 100% industrial excess!

Hats and accessories from Luminata Millinery, also featured in the runway show.

Handmade shoes, made from leather salvaged from old jackets.  The shoe at the far back right, though it is more of a piece of art, is actually wearable!  (Though not for very long.;-)

The organizers of the fashion show: Semper Fashion.  President Tod Hunter Foulk on the left, who is quite a character.

A fashion show featuring some local and sustainable designers was held in the the very back of the center, a.k.a. the “Main Stage.”

Chloe Hauser from PDX TV emcee’d the shows.

Unfortunately the line-up onstage was a little different from what was displayed on the website – Lizzie Parker was not there, and there were a number of designers participating who weren’t even mentioned prior to the event.

Dresses from Saffrona Classics.

The only really established clothing brand shown was Saffrona, a regular on the eco-scene here in Portland.  The rest of the brands seemed relatively new, with little-to-no web presence, marketing materials, line development…and some even a little unprepared for a runway show.

Pieces from a new line from Silkwood Boutique, a notable exception.

The pieces from dress code garnered a burst of applause each time they emerged  – likely due to their careful and adorable detailing, in stark contrast to some of the other designs on the runway.  Here is a designer who truly knows her customer and isn’t afraid to produce something eco-friendly, but unique at the same time!

Models in Moontess by Mihaela Munteanu – chrome-dyed pigskin and silk.  This line included leather swimsuits.  Yes – bathing suits and bikinis made from pigskin!

From Fashion Fusion: a beautiful print that probably would have been even more lovely on a dress that did not have crochet on its back.

Hats and accessories from Luminata Millinery.  Do you hear the purse screaming to be DIY’d?  Oh maybe that’s just me.;-)

Nevertheless, it was always a huge effort put in by Semper Fashion to organize and accumulate the myriad and independent lines that exist here in Portland.  Sometimes the independence of the designers here in Portland can lead to a very scattershot appearance, and a refusal of mainstream “fashion” to take this city seriously.  As I understand it, trying to round up established local brands to form a cohesive unity and participate in a fashion show can be somewhat…like herding cats.  I applaud Semper Fashion’s perserverence in trying to share the message of ecofriendliness, fair-trade, and environmentally-minded fashion with everyone, despite the few lines that were showcased.

What do you guys think?  Is this “Fashion?”  Does it belong on a runway…or more on retail shelves?  (Note I’ve edited down a large portion of the show and only presented a few photos that I felt stood out from the rest.)  Is this kind of sustainable fashion something you’d like to see more of?

Dish it to me in the comments!



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