Blame it on the pioneer spirit still dwelling within us (or maybe the fact that we just like to play with tools), but the craft culture is alive and well in Portland. These companies churn out consistently cool goods for the rest of the world to fawn over, from fashionable swimwear and accessories to built-to-last leather goods and stylish lighting fixtures.
Channel your inner Marilyn Monroe with these retro-inspired bathing suits. Popina Swimwear designer Pamela Levenson translates her love for the 1940s and ’50s into halter-top one-pieces, high-waisted bikini briefs and matching swim skirts for sexy modesty.
If Davy Crockett were alive today, odds are he’d proudly boast a Leatherman tool on his belt. The iconic brand of multitools, knives and related accessories has been a go-to for outdoorsy types since 1983. Still, this Portland-headquartered outfit knows how to keep up with the times — tool models like the “Juice” come in non-Crockett-approved colors blue, purple, orange and red. Shop at the Leatherman Store, or find the tools at downtown’s U.S. Outdoor Store.
Schoolhouse Electric Co.
Known for its retro-cool lighting and hardware offerings, including hand-blown antique reproduction shades, this 10-year-old company’s 23,000-square-foot showroom in the Northwest Industrial District showcases its made-in-Portland goods. Inside the reclaimed warehouse space, shoppers can also peruse Schoolhouse Electric’s softer (and more portable) side in the form of pillows, throws, rugs, and clever gift ideas like selvedge-covered journals and organic soap.
This North Portland shop is a go-to for heirloom-quality leather goods in the form of belts, bags and wallets. The buttery-smooth pieces are made from superior raw materials meticulously cut and shaped by Tanner Goods’ stable of dedicated craftspeople.
Betsy and Iya
Betsy and Iya‘s storefront is a tucked-away shop in the fashionable Nob Hill district carries its own signature brand of metalwork — hand-pounded pieces twisted into cool geometric shapes, with a runway-ready collection of etched and oxidized cuffs inspired by two of Portland’s most iconic bridges (St. Johns and Fremont).
Many locals wouldn’t be caught anywhere without their iPhones — or without a protective phone case from Grove. Each one is made from a single block of bamboo that’s been hand-sanded and oiled before being laser-engraved with either a signature design or your own custom imagery. Find the cases at Radish Underground in the West End.
Designer Rebecca Pearcy founded Queen Bee Creations in 1996, and quickly established her cute but sturdy vegan leather bags as standard issue for locally outfitted Portlanders. Nowadays, you can choose from those classic designs, as well as hand-printed handbags and accessories from the Rebecca Pearcy Textiles line.
Laura Irwin / Haunt
Northwesterners know the value of a cozy scarf or hat, and knitwear designer and author Laura Irwin offers an array of the most fashionable (and functional) around. Her hand-knit accessories made from pettable yarns like angora, combed wool and microfiber are offered alongside clothes by Holly Stalder and Rachael Donaldson’s Demimonde jewelry in their shared studio/boutique, Haunt.
Fashion-forward Portlanders obsess over Ms. Wood and her innovative collection of kimono-inspired womenswear, fringed leather bags, obi belts and wooden shoes and jewelry. Pieces are dreamed up by Alicia Wood and then crafted with help of husband Ben Wood in the couple’s North Portland home studio. Available at Mabel & Zora in the Pearl District.
Paper hasn’t been this cool since, well, ever. Local letterpress masters Egg Press give an age-old technique a total reboot, using sustainable materials like 100 percent cotton paper to make distinctive greeting cards, gift wraps and stationery. The whimsical art also comes with a good sense of humor, including graphics like “What’s growin’ on?” mustache charts and piles of bread that say, “Nice buns.” You can find the cards at many Portland stores, including Powell’s City of Books.
Red Clouds Collective
Red Clouds Collective got its start by asking local artists, photographers and others what kinds of products they couldn’t live without — or what they’d always wished they had. The result? Ultra-nifty carrying cases, leather iPhone wallets and signature bags stitched right here from sturdy materials like waxed canvas and Hermann Oak bridle leather with brass finishing for tough (and attractive) totes. Available at Hand-Eye Supply in Old Town Chinatown.