COALESCE :: Brand Highlights : Part Deux

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We're a mere week and a half away from our incredible pop-up shop where you can shop the goods of some of Portland's most talented brands and like all locally made goods, there are kick-ass people behind the scenes creating. What makes this line-up so wonderful? Let's find out more from Laurs Kemp and Machine Apparel.


Laurs Kemp is a fairly new designer who's work I first saw materializing in Portland about a year ago at Haunt and Animal Traffic. She's steadily made a prominent mark on Portland's fashion face and has recently solidified it by becoming Backtalk West's designer in residence, which is pretty damn cool. She has a knack for present trends; the all-seeing-eye-pyramid, half moon stamped vintage silk tops, the contemporary reinvention of cubism and overall chic cohesiveness. She's been making and selling online since 2010, and in 2012 moved from a small town in Arkansas to Portland to become a part of our city's creative culture.

How did you get in to what you're doing?
Laurs: I had a fashion merchandising background, but when I discovered films I found my wellspring of design inspiration. I developed my line part-time for years, and finally last summer I quit my day job and tried my hand at designing full-time.
When did you open up shop?
Laurs: I've been the designer-in-residence at Backtalk West since it opened in June of this year, but I've been selling pieces online since about 2010.
What do you love most about living, designing, creating in Portland?
Laurs: There are so many talented artists and makers in Portland that you're constantly inspired to hone your craft, but there's also such a willingness to collaborate with and encourage others.

Where else can we find your stuff?
Laurs: Besides my website,, you can buy my collection right from my studio at Backtalk West.

What are your other interests/ passions?
Laurs: As I mentioned, I am a film fanatic and I try to watch at least one film a day. My go-to directors for fashion inspiration are Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Eric Rohmer. I'm also obsessed with old raglan sweatshirts, kimonos, Eastern Europe, red wine, plants, Indian food and vegan cheese.

What do you listen to while working and/or creating?
Laurs: So much! Music like The Cleaners from Venus, Arthur Russell, and Cass McCombs - as well as documentaries, TV shows like Broad City, foreign language lessons (currently Hungarian), and podcasts like "How Did This Get Made?"

What's next after Coalesce?
I'll continue to work on my line - and any collaborations that pop up - at my studio in the back of Backtalk West. I'm also going on an inspiration trip to Lisbon in November.
Balktalk West
421 SW 10th
Backtalk North
3962 N. Mississippi



Jessica Caldwell is the designer behind Machine Apparel. We showed together last summer at Alley 33 and were writing colleagues as Mercury on Design contributors. She's a multi-talented human who's also fun to hang with. She started her creative career in the online world. Needing a more hands-on approach to making her art come to life she learned the skills to become an apparel designer and integrates her graphic design talents in to her line of work.

How did you get in to what you’re doing and how long have you been at it?
Jessica: My path into fashion design is actually a branch off my first career as a web developer. For several years, I worked at design agencies, which gave me a chance to work with some amazing designers and develop my personal design taste.
Over time, working on a computer all day was creatively draining. My entire body of work existed in a digital world, and I was searching for a new outlet. I took a sewing class here in Portland a few years ago and was instantly hooked. The transition into fashion design came pretty naturally once I developed my sewing skills. I finally found the new creative path I’d been searching for.
When did you open up shop?
Jessica: Machine officially kicked off in 2014. I participated in Portland Sewing’s Fashion Forward program, an accelerated development series that prepares you to launch your brand and your first collection. The program concludes with a runway show to officially launch your new line to the Portland community, including local boutiques and buyers. I’ve learned a lot over the past year and I love being a small business owner.

What do you love most about living, designing, creating in Portland?

Jessica: Portland is such a creative city. Everyone seems to be a maker/artist/designer/musician of some sort. The creative community is really supportive of each other. We celebrate local accomplishments, share ideas, and there are a lot of amazing collaborations that go on here.

Where else can we find your stuff?

Jessica: You can shop our looks over at the Machine website, and from time to time at Backtalk on Mississippi. 

What are your other interests/ passions?

Jessica: I feel most inspired when I’m traveling. Exploring new places (even in my own neighborhood) spark new ideas more than anything else. I love reading books and magazines, looking at photography, and chatting with friends over coffee. Sometimes the best ideas come out of those conversations.

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