It’s tempting to get Dickensian: The years before social media and South Lake Union resettlements were the best of times, and the worst of times too.
At least in terms of Seattle’s style. I remember walking into a boutique on First Avenue, a glare in the window obscuring my approach. “Oh, it’s you,” said the owner somewhat breathlessly, her eyes all lit up with inquiry and relief. “I couldn’t figure out who that stylish person was!” Back in the day—it would have been 2007—we were like Sasquatch.
Now the city fairly teems with sleek figures and expert silhouettes. In the years between MySpace on your desktop and Instagram in your purse, the whole world moved to town. A spike in career opportunities and a citywide brain trust, extending from tech to food and aerospace to sustainability, drew newcomers with good outfits and great bank accounts, which attracted luxury retailers and European brands. Local shop owners and designers dug in—hard. Belltown remodeled, Bellevue reorganized. Here a high-stakes fashion competition, there a multimedia popup. Meanwhile, Tacoma’s Adam Katz Sinding of Le 21ème—one of fashion’s most followed street style shooters—cut his teeth on the Pike/Pine corridor before going global in 2010.
We’ll always be more casual than they are in Milan, but the industry’s trending that way anyway. Modern collections are full of the very stuff we got derided for back in 2006: socks and sandals, flannel plaids, Filson gear.
Last year, while in Paris for Fashion Week, I had lunch with an international Vogue editor, and as we parted ways she asked me, “What is there to do in Seattle when you’re all dressed up?” I just shrugged and made a joke about rock bands and the rain. Traffic’s bad enough as it is these days; better if they think we’re just up here shucking oysters and whistling Nirvana songs. —Laura Cassidy, Seattle Met style editor, 2006–2014