John Blasioli is a fixture in Portland’s apparel scene—perhaps best known as one of three original designers of The Portland Collection by Pendleton. Now he’s bringing his clean aesthetic to his own line of structured neutrals and to a handful of special projects. For Fall 16, we partnered with John on a limited menswear run, now exclusively in store and online.
Collaborating with John on this small collection was an opportunity to dress up a bit. This is Bridge & Burn in our finest—the same functional wearability, with a touch of sophistication.
We asked John about the line, about collaborating with Bridge & Burn owner and lead designer Erik Prowell, and about what the future might hold if these two Portland brands come together again one day.
Bridge & Burn: What’s the inspiration behind the collection?
John Blasioli: When Erik and I started talking about a small collection for Bridge & Burn, the idea was to use his fit and his base patterns but do it through my own personal lens. He wanted something a little bit more sophisticated than his usual line. I liked the idea of taking someone else's work, digesting it and putting my own hand on it. This was something I liked with Pendleton as well. I was very conscious that I wasn't just making new clothes—I was making new clothes for Bridge & Burn. I looked at the details he tends to use in his pieces and tried to carry over nods to those while making it different enough to feel like it is from me. The colors are more muted, there's a lot of grays, which I really like. You can see both of us in it—which feels like a success to me.
B&B: What do your designs have in common? How do they differ?
JB: They're similar in that Erik is really good at making clothes that are super wearable. They have nice details and thought-out elements, but are easy to wear. I think there's an overlap there. We both kind of deal with more traditional garments—versus anything super outside the box.
Where are they different? I think my designs operate in a smaller bubble. I don’t think of them as “adventurous”, but I can add things that maybe a smaller audience can relate to. I can get a little more nuanced where he's a little bit broader, but I think in a good way.
B&B: What makes a good collaboration?
JB: I think communication is key—being open about what your interests are, what your thoughts are, what you want the thing to be. The hardest part of any collaboration is trying to read people's minds, or holding a particular idea of what something should be that you're not communicating. This project felt pretty easy in that regard. I did the first jacket design and Erik came to me saying he felt there were a lot of design elements there for the sake of design elements, without being functional. It was good feedback. From that point forward, I tried to keep the Bridge & Burn functionality in everything—not adding extra little things that didn't need to be there.
B&B: What do you love about the collection?
JB: I really like the fabrics we were able to get. We're introducing a selvedge denim jean, which is fun both because my literal hand is on it but also because Erik has never done an actual jean before. It makes it extra special because it's something he hasn’t done before.
The overshirt might be my single favorite piece because of both the design and the fabric we were able to use for it.
B&B: How did it differ from your usual process? What did you bring to it?
J B : Designing both for and with somebody was different — even the initial thought process is different. I wasn’t starting with a blank slate. With my own stuff, there's exploration in the pattern making process. Here I was starting with his patterns, then I took those over, manipulated them and moved forward with them. I was working within the parameters of how I view Bridge & Burn.
I think I brought a fresh perspective. Erik’s constantly working on this and in the Bridge & Burn zone and I'm, obviously, not. I brought my own understanding of fit and my own aesthetic. I think it was a little different for him to be involved in that hands-on process.
B&B: If you do another collection together, what would it look like?
JB: I would love to do coats. I enjoy them, design-wise, because there's lots of parts to them. A coat is a piece where people understand the price tag—they’re going to wear it for a longer period of time. You can wear a coat every day for whatever season you're in. In that sense it feels more freeing, designing a coat, because you can put all the work into it with less of a worry. With a shirt, you have a limited margin of how much you can put into it because, as the price goes up, people are less able to identify with a really expensive shirt.
I think it’d be great to do some women's jackets and coats. Some women's pants, I think, would be nice as well. Bridge & Burn does a really good job with women's shirts and dresses so I’d like to add things they’re not doing as much of. Maybe, again, a sophisticated look—slightly dressed up coats. I think it would be fun.
Click to view the Capsule Collection.