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Portland Apparel Lab: Business Accelerator for Fashionistas

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Crispin Argento

Crispin Argento, founder of PINO and Portland Apparel Lab

Crispin Argento - founder of bow-tie company PINO - has a new venture launching with three parties this month and is set to attract a national audience to the city's fashion scene. Argento said Portland Apparel Lab is all about providing Portland’s fashion designers and entrepreneurs training and operational support in building their brands.

“PAL is open to anyone that is passionate and eager to launch the lifestyle companies of tomorrow or support those companies through services and expertise or patronage," said Argento. ”There are three types of membership you can apply to, Business, Resource, or Patron, each having different benefits like access to PAL coworking spaces, targeted marketing campaigns, or/and exclusive access to parties and fashion events." 

Argento is so pumped about the new company, he's inviting everyone to attend Portland Apparel Lab’s launch party at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 10 at the Museum of Contemporary Craft. The party will serve as an introduction to PAL via round-table discussions. Anyone at the party can also catch the exhibition "Fashioning Cascadia: The Social Life of the Garment," currently running at the museum. 

GoLocalPDX spoke with Argento about the inspiration behind the new fashion business and his hopes for its future. 

GoLocalPDX: You have a successful business, PINO, so why did you decide to delve into another fashion business, Portland Apparel Lab?

Argento: I started PINO as an experiment to better understand the challenges of apparel design and production in Portland. In starting PINO, we hoped to develop a business platform that other independent designers could adopt, ultimately making Portland a recognized leader in high quality, sustainable and innovative apparel design and manufacturing.

It came to a point that further growth in Portland was not possible without the resources, services and valued industry relationships [that PAL] proposes to bring to Portland-based lifestyle entrepreneurs. PINO needs PAL, to remain in Portland.

How did you meet Dawn Moothart and why did you start PAL together? 

Co-Founder of Portland Apparel Lab Dawn Moothart

Dawn is a well-respected product development and production professional in Portland who has served many designers/brands in Portland. She also manages all the Portland-made production and fulfillment for PINO. Dawn is incredibly smart; her approach to design is more aligned with engineering than it is with aesthetics. Sure, she can make a beautiful dress that is appealing to the eye, but its real magic is that it is meticulously crafted and perfect. The neckwear she makes for PINO are near perfect and sits amongst the best and most highly revered brands in fashion at Mario’s. 

She will bring her skills, tenacity, vision and customer service to PAL and will push and lead PAL's design team (pattern makers, sewers, etc.) to operate like surgeons. 

When did you start thinking that Portland Apparel Lab could be a reality? Why start PAL in Portland and what was the inspiration behind starting the company?

Portland has become in many ways the creative/artisan epicenter of the U.S. We are not LA, SF or New York; we do things differently. I have long thought that Portland needed a place like the Portland Apparel Lab. There are a number of factors that make this the right time to launch an organization of this kind. People don’t realize that Portland actually has a robust fashion industry, called "athletic and outdoor" (Nike, Adidas, Columbia, etc.).

Portland has all the expertise and skill sets needed along the supply chain and this could easily apply to launching brands outside of the "athletic and outdoor," moniker. e.g. fashion or lifestyle. The supply chain is relatively the same, bringing a Nike running jacket to market versus a designer dress. I

t’s like Ford manufacturing SUV and sport cars, they do both. Portland can do both. 


The inspiration came from hearing the stories and learning from my own experiences about the economic, geographic and psychological barriers that exists to launching an apparel company, particularly in Portland.

Further, there are a number of similar organizations in New York, San Francisco and London that serve fashion start-ups and the emergence of fashion and tech.There is incredible talent in Oregon from across the design support spectrums to build an industry that is globally recognized as a place for design experimentation, innovation, sustainability and creating the lifestyle business and brands of tomorrow.

The future of fashion is in smaller labels/sustainable brands and it will not be dominated as much by the large brands that have the money, distribution and ability to get in front of people. PAL is the Uber/AirBNB of fashion. 

In five years where do you see PAL?

Hopefully, we will have been instrumental in launching and growing many new companies and professionals that are operating successfully in Portland and contributing global apparel industry in a more diverse, dynamic and sustainable way. In five years, we will be welcoming our newest entrepreneurs and helping them launch the companies of tomorrow.

It’s the journey, not the end game. 


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