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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Portland's Own

Posted by Marjorie Skinner on Wed, Jul 18, 2012 at 11:59 AM

We see variations of the "shop to benefit" model all the time, but a new web site that just rolled out, Portland's Own, takes it to a new and hyper-local level. The basic premise is that it's an online store selling only locally made goods—bags, tees, ceramics, home goods, jewelry, clothing—and 1/3 of all gross profits go to a local charity that switches out every month (currently it's the Portland/Metro East chapter of Habitat for Humanity). The idea is that Portland's will be the template for a similar scenario in major cities across the country. In addition to that fairly standard idea, they're also doing a "monthly feature," best explained in the site's own language:

Every month we work with a different designer/design studio and have them create a unique graphic that reflects the mission of the charitable nonprofit we’re supporting that month. The graphic is sold on a bamboo Plywerk panel and a locally manufactured t-shirt—meaning it’s hand cut and hand sewn. We think that’s pretty rad! We also recruit a different influential person in the community (a business owner, an artist, a politician, etc.) to model the shirt for us every month. The graphic is screen printed on the t-shirt by a local screen printer. The model is photographed by a local photographer. And everyone involved gets paid for their services. This means that when you buy a shirt, you’re supporting multiple local businesses with one purchase. The cherry on top of The Monthly Feature is that $7 from every sale is donated to the local charitable nonprofit of the month.

I've seen retail projects with similar motives lose momentum, usually (by all appearances anyway) because their inventory is low and/or lackluster—it's all fine and well to tack on good vibes to the shopping experience, but shoppers essentially just want good shit at the end of the day. That said, Portland's Own is off to a good start, with popular local companies like Make It Good, Pigeon Toe Ceramics, Seaworthy, Stone & Honey, Studio Olivine, The Good Flock, Vanport Outfitters, and Wood&Faulk all involved. Plus, the July featured designer is none other than design darlings OMFG Co., the model is Koi Fusion owner Bo Kwon, and those locally manufactured tees are from Portland Garment Factory. In other words, all the cool kids are involved, so maybe this thing has legs. Now they just have to market the hell out of it.

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