bill cunningham

Cynthia Rowley’s visit to SAM, where the fashion designer spoke with the artist Nick Cave about public displays of fashion and visual expression, was among the notable Seattle style events of 2011.

Despite a still-crummy economy, diminishing resources, and world-wide strife (hey! happy Friday to you, too!), the last year of style in Seattle wasn’t one long bummer. Quite the opposite, really.

Sure, some local notables left town—as much as I enjoy checking in on Adam Sinding’s street style photos in New York, I still selfishly wish he was shooting them here—but more often than not, when one door closed, another opened soon enough.

Remember the gray cloud that shrouded Ballard when it was announced that Curtis Steiner’s Souvenir was closing? It wasn’t long after that Blackbird buoyed the Northwest with news of a Portland expansion, and by the springtime, Steiner was welcoming collectors into his new, light-filled shop just forty paces away from the old one.

Seattle made a few style and retail short lists last year; this time twelve months ago we were excited to see the downtown Nordstrom shop launch the Wedding Suite, one of only 14 such shop-in-shops in all the world. And when Hermes sent a team of their skilled artisans around the world in February, Seattle—or rather, Bellevue, Chicago, and D.C. were the only U.S. stops. That felt pretty cool.

Speaking of feeling pretty cool, the style movie of the year was Bill Cunningham New York, which Seattle devoured along with the rest of the country, even though the documentary opened here a full month after it premiered elsewhere.

For the sartorial set, the art show of the year was at SAM. That Nick Cave, huh? Not only did the exhibit bring fashion designer Cynthia Rowley to town for a live discussion with the artist himself about style, substance, fashion shows, and art galleries, but when the Olsen Twins visited our little seaside port in April they stopped at the show and referenced it, and Seattle, as a major influence for their spring 2012 collection.

In terms of media, the spring months revealed the Stranger’s first fashion show (I enjoyed helping out on the judging panel), the first Northwest-based style slideshow on style.com (captured by frequent SM-contributor and friend Kyle Johnson), mags like Elle feted the launch of Pendleton’s Portland Collection while W named our nail lacquer tops, and an issue of Town and Country said our slip-sized lingerie boutique on Fifth Avenue was among one of the top such stores on the planet. Again, it’s great to see Seattle in a short sentence that also includes the words ‘Paris, London, and Milan.’ Likewise, the Nordic Heritage Biennale, which based its worldly celebration of exciting Nordic design in a semi-obscure neighborhood on the north end.

Sonic Boom and Velouria left the hill, but Gilt came to town. Ballard’s Dolce Vita shut its doors but downtown hosted its first big Fashion’s Night Out festivities.

Stacy London came to town and invited me to discuss high-heeled booties and pattern mixing with her in Southcenter. It was an odd afternoon.

And while many folks will recall the Target x Missoni madness when they recall designer collaborations this year, I hope we’ll also think of the artisan co-ops that go down around here with increasing success. I don’t expect we’ll see early-morning queues and thrashing deal-makers for the handmade, modern, sleek-but-earthy and minimal-yet-smartly nuanced design products at markets like Blanc and cool, cutting-edge gift galleries like Object but they’re where our future lies.

I suspect that this time next year, provided earth is still on its axis, we’ll be talking about the Seattle innovators who pushed out into the bigger picture in 2012.