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Eco-luxe, conjured in the Bay, refined in Portland


November 22, 2010/11.57


Former fashion model and budding designer, Courtney Leonard, has no hidden agenda when it comes to conveying her love for luxury goods and the environment. The Oregon native, who has made her way back to the inspiring grounds of her childhood, creates what she calls ‘eco-luxe’ products, from accessories and dresses to one-of-a-kind leather handbags that are all produced within a 30-mile radius of the designer’s own home.
   Leonard uses nature, her love for vintage goods, and the pragmatic needs of a ready-to-wear woman (with a green heart) as some sources of inspiration. This fresh-faced designer is still a fashion student, yet already gaining popularity with her new accessories label, Midge.
   Midge was started by Leonard as a reference to her favourite Barbie doll, Midge Hadley, a fictional character that was the first red-haired Barbie by Mattel. Throughout Leonard’s childhood she would use her imagination to create stylish ensembles for her Midge doll. Leonard’s appearance herself is quite like a life-sized Midge Barbie and she proudly exudes the forged identity that she’s made her own. Just visualize a talking Midge (Barbie) in a vintage fur, floral dress, leggings, and statement necklace.
   ‘I feel as if I became like a spokesperson for her,’ Leonard says.
   It’s easy to see the reference in Leonard’s collection when viewing her designs. The vintage years are definitely prevalent throughout her line in addition to the good ol’ handmade feeling, and eco-conscious æsthetic. However, the Midge label takes it a step further by showcasing items that can also hang alongside your well established premium designer labels in their own right.
   Her jewellery creations are conversational starters. There are necklaces that illustrate the likes of a modern-day countess, bold-styled rings with an almost chimerical power, and trendy pendants with a customized quality. The handbags make heads turn as any woman wearing a Midge item, and leave you wanting to know more about the origin of its parts.
   Pieces from the Midge collection are very personalized. They foster the concept that eco-driven fashion accessories can look and feel luxurious. Materials such as discarded leather jackets, reclaimed hardware, and vintage items found during Leonard’s travels are used to produce her cherished accessories.
   ‘I want people to view my designs as functional and [as] wearable high-fashion art,’ she says.
   Leonard first studied fashion design at the Art Institute of San Francisco, Calif., and would design clothing for herself that she wore while attending classes. During this time she developed her style, and gained admiration by hip locals. But, while living in the Bay Area, Leonard had a nostalgic vision from her childhood. It was one that would have great impact on her future. That vision soon lead her back to the instinctive roots of Portland, Oregon to start what seemed to be a small concept, yet it would organically evolve faster than she ever could imagine.
   In fact, even at Midge’s inception period, some pieces from the collection have earned a spot in luxury boutiques on the impressive streets of Portland’s infamous NW 23rd Avenue, also known as the notable Nob Hill neighbourhood. The ambitious Leonard is a fashionable voice and inspiration for the youth of her generation. Her existing convictions of reducing her own carbon footprint is something that she passionately expresses intimately to her clientèle. As a Midge customer with every purchase, you receive an artful handcrafted token personally wrapped from the green-thumbed designer.
   At the moment, Leonard is working on a full women’s ready-to-wear, sustainable collection. She also plans to expand the Midge portfolio with a men’s accessories line in the future. With the amount of fashionable nods going her way, something tells me it may be much sooner rather than later. For more information, or to acquire a unique Midge original visit—Tamara Madison

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design / environment / fashion / Lucire / modelling / tendances / trend
Filed by Tamara Madison

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