We had quite an experience this month, as the “headliner” for Portland Fashion Week with our Imperial Knits Collection. It’s very rare for a hand knit collection of patterns to be featured on a ready-to-wear runway, but we were. The ongoing relationship between Imperial Yarn (Imperial Stock Ranch) and our knitwear designer Anna Cohen, an internationally known sustainable fashion designer from right here in Oregon, has been developing into a leading story of connecting urban and rural, fashion and craft, and bringing audiences and discerning consumers along on a journey to the source, and to the very roots of fashion…natural sunlight fibers and traditional skills.
We see people in general, shifting toward the “local” movement which is most evident in food, seeking to know where it comes from and connecting with the source. This is growing in the needle arts arena as well… knowing where the yarn comes from and connecting with the story of the farmer/rancher and the fiber animals which provide these wonderful natural and renewable materials to us. We are receiving more and more requests from apparel / fashion companies to connect with Imperial Stock Ranch/Imperial Yarn as a source of traceable yarns for knitwear….tending toward a chunkier texture and a return to “comfort.” I personally think this derives from a deeper need to reconnect with the very landscape which supports us literally and spiritually.
As the finale of the Imperial Knits Collection left the runway that night, everyone began asking, “What did you think?!” “Are you pleased?!” I found myself unable to express any opinion – speechless. I wasn’t sure at first why I couldn’t craft a response that would sound at all intelligent, but my mind just seemed to be blank. It took me a few days to process the experience and realize that how I felt about those pieces on the runway was constant. They are evidence of an evolving work that has been 11 years in the making. It all began in 1999, when we lost our traditional market for wool. Those lovely knitted pieces come directly from our efforts to remain viable as a family ranch, to preserve the presence and relationship of sheep on the landscape and to mankind, and to reach a hand across the rural/urban divide to work together for a richer future. I love those garments!
What’s really amazing, is that others appreciated it too, as you can see in the reviews quoted below. Pretty incredible. It warms my heart to see the shift today toward “knowing where it comes from” or “the source.” This was strong evidence that it is about more than food and wine. The fashion folks truly appreciated the fact that it was “make your own fashion”…..utilizing traditional skills.
Here are a couple examples:
“Stealing the runway, though, was the launch of the first ever, in-house hand knitwear collection by Anna Cohen, along with guest designers, and Imperial Yarn, a division of Imperial Stock Ranch. The designs, which varied from knitted sweater dresses to knitted belts and knee high socks, are the first knit-it-yourself kits, versus ready-to-wear designs, to be featured at fashion week.”
“Imperial Stock Ranch, a 140-year-old, family-owned ranch based in Shaniko in central Oregon, is known for its mindful and sustainable ranching and land-management practices, including being an honorable mention for the National Patrick Madden Award for Sustainable Agriculture.”
-Gretchen Holzgang, Sustainable Business Oregon, powered by
PortlandBusiness Journal Oct. 7, 2011
“Finally, Anna Cohen’s line for Imperial Yarn strutted down the runway and my slouched posture perked up into a proper state. The line of knitwear (non-knitwear pieces were from Cohen’s design archives) consisted of cozy, wanna-snuggle-up-inside, chunky pieces in shaped silhouettes. The line is Oregon 100% with the sheep raised here, wool made, garments designed and created. That makes me love it even more.”
Portland Monthly, Oct 07, 2011
It really was amazing….