Clara Berg Likes Our Style, Thanks
The Museum of History and Industry curator knows Seattle fashion’s got a past—and a future.
What can we do about Seattle’s eternal identity as the home of puffy coats, flannels, and people who don’t give a damn about what’s trendy? Celebrate it—it’s as much a part of our city’s history as its famed outdoorsmen and rugged logging days. Nobody’s more proud of it than Clara Berg, the keeper of MOHAI’s thousands of pieces of fashion history, from Eddie Bauer’s earliest down jacket (a Seattle invention) to a plaid shirt straight from the grunge era.
“Why are we so eager to dismiss it?” Berg asks of Seattle’s trademark industrious aesthetic. Even those iconic elements of our fashion history haven’t been thoroughly explored. That’s part of what drew her to the field in the first place: “If you want to be a civil war historian, that’s some pretty well trod ground,” she says. Working at MOHAI allows her to do original research into topics like Seattle’s history of functional fashion that are far from obscure.
But for Berg, it’s equally important to present a lesser-known side of Seattle style, like the circa 1920s era when boutique buyer Helen Igoe would embark on frequent weeks-
long journeys by plane, train, and steamship to bring the latest Paris fashions back home to the Northwest. “There were enough people that were hungry for that,” Berg says. And there still are: Downtown Seattle houses the flagship location of a hometown department store with nearly 100 locales nationwide, while couture designers like Luly Yang thrive just down the street. The pervasive idea “that it’s somehow anti-Seattle to care about clothing,” Berg says, “it’s just absolutely not true.”
The art of vintage is in good hands: Garcia’s Capitol Hill shop, Indian Summer, creates a space for self-expression, while their work curating a size-inclusive collection and hosting events like MOHAI’s Big Mood helps drive fat-positive activism throughout the city.
Faris Du Graf
The Faris Jewelry founder’s stunning architectural pieces—asymmetrical ear cuffs, hand-carved chain bracelets—represent the best of Seattle on the international stage. The locally raised designer launched her bauble brand in 2012; less than a decade later, it’s sold worldwide, from Du Graf’s hometown Nordstrom to boutiques in Melbourne and Zurich.
Fran Dunaway and Naomi Gonzalez
TomboyX’s origin story is the fashion version of the now-classic garage-founded business narrative. But this time, a couple looking for undergarments that reflected their tomboy style ended up disrupting the underwear industry and marching confidently to the forefront of the movement toward gender- and size-inclusive clothing.
From Nordstrom’s successful Pop-In shops to its dip into selling pre-worn fashion, just about every pivot that’s revived interest in department store–style retail is an Olivia Kim original. Leave it to the vice president of creative projects to keep a 120-year-old Seattle institution feeling fresh.
How did wildly popular sustainable clothing brands Reformation and Everlane both wind up opening their first Pacific Northwest brick-and-mortars at University Village? Under Plummer’s management, this mall is far from dead.
Perhaps best known for her couture wedding dresses and going-out looks, Yang is behind the most glamorous designs the city has to offer. But you’ll find her influence in more classic Seattle contexts too, like her 2018 redesign of Alaska Airlines’ employee uniforms.