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Portland Made Fashion: xobruno

Monday, June 15, 2015



This week is our final feature on Portland's fashion scene, but don't worry, you can find more feature stories including video profiles at PortlandMade.com.

Starting next Monday we will start to focus on the local retailers who carry Portland Made products. In addition to their own retail locations and online stores, more and more local makers are selling their goods at local retailers. Some of these retailers are multiplying their local economic impact by joining the Supportland network of businesses. 

"Besides the awesome gift cards and stellar rewards you get using Supportland also gives your community the most drool-worthy rewards by strengthening locally owned businesses. Locally owned businesses 

  • Recycle much of their revenue (about 3x more than national chains) back into the local economy.
  • Create more jobs locally and, in some sectors, provide better wages and benefits than chains do.
  • Give communities a one-of-a-kind, distinctive character and have a broad range of product choices.
  • Help to sustain walkable town centers which reduce sprawl, car use, habitat loss, and pollution."

Supportland retailers that carry Portland Made products include MadeHere PDXOrox Leather Co., Hand-Eye SupplyQueen Bee by Rebecca PearcyTender Loving EmpireLark PressThe Herb Shoppe and more (check em all out at supportland.com)

Portland's top fashion designers are also opening up their own retail locations. Recent openings include North of West and xobruno

Portland Made contributing writer Eric Gold sat down with Michelle Kline of xobruno to find out what drives her.

If you’re in search of a satchel, Michelle Kline has your back. The designer, who produces a line of handbags as xobruno, thinks there aren’t enough good unisex options when it comes to carrying your keys, phone, or wallet. “When I was in Italy,” she says, “there were a lot of men carrying leather bags, and you don’t see that as much here. I’ve talked to a lot of men and women that would like to find a simple, utilitarian leather bag.”

North of West

When Kline moved to Portland in 2003, she had no intention of starting a handbag business. Instead, she was looking for a space to rent so she could start an art and music venue like the one she’d run in Olympia. To support herself, she used the sewing skills she’d learned from her maternal grandmother (whose maiden name is the Bruno in xobruno) to do production work for, among others, clothing designer Adam Arnold. For a holiday bazaar, Kline made some bags out of vintage vinyl she’d bought from a car upholstery shop. When the bags took off, she made more, then unexpectedly had wholesale requests and individual orders. Eventually she started a line of leather and canvas and wool bags under her current moniker, xobruno. “I like leather because the more you wear it, the more character it has,” Kline says. “It personalizes to you over time.”

For her designs, Kline starts with her own needs, asking herself, “what do I want to carry?” European styles of the 1970s, early twentieth century letter carriers’ bags, and old Western satchels have all inspired her work. She sketches before making the first of three of four prototypes to get the design just right.

As xobruno grows, Kline has hired a sewer to help her. “A big part of owning your own business,” she says, “is learning how to delegate tasks. When I first started doing this, I was under the impression that if I wanted it done right, I had to do it myself, and that’s so not true. It’s probably more true that there are people out there that are better at half the things you’re doing for your business.” Marketing, sewing, and selling wholesale, Kline says, are areas she’d like to delegate to others, so she can focus more on new designs. “We’re entrepreneurs because we are control freaks in a certain way,” she says, “so giving up control is a really big thing. It can be challenging, but I think once you do that, you can focus on the creative end, which is the thing I love most.”

Buy locally made products and watch your money circulate throughout our local economy!


Want to be part of Portland's Maker Movement? Get involved with ADX and Portland Made. Be a mentor. Take a class. Buy locally made products. Donate to our scholarship fund through The Equity Foundation.

Kelley Roy is the founder of ADX, a 14,000 square foot Makerspace where artists and designers work along side each other to prototype and launch new product lines. ADX is also open to the general public and teaches people of all ages how to make. And if you don't want to do it yourself, you can hire ADX to make it for you. For more information check out adxportland.com

Portland Made is a digital storytelling platform and advocacy center for Portland's Maker Movement. We do 2 features a month on Portland Makers; connect makers with more local, national and international markets; connect makers with local professional and manufacturing resources; advocate for makers with politicians at all levels of government; work with PSU on an annual survey that captures the economic power of the Maker Movement; help makers find real estate; and promote Portland makers with local and national media.


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