Erica Lurie has entrepreneurship in her blood, and judging by the success of the newly opened second location of her popular clothing store, Garnish, we’d say she is making her family proud. Every aspect of Garnish—from the seamstress who brings Erica’s designs to life, to the complementary in-house alterations that prolong the lifecycle of the garments—is local and sustainable. Garnish customers are viewed as friends, and their input is an integral part of the design process. Some lucky “friends” may even get pieces named after them! We hung out with Erica in the original Garnish location on Alberta (opened in 2006) and had to refrain from buying everything in there.
E+E: How did you go about opening your own store?
Erica Lurie: My mom taught me how to sew when I was little, and when I was in high school, I had a little polar fleece hat business. I used to be a ski racer and I’d sell them at races, so that was sort of my first taste of having a business. In college, I was a sculpture major and clothing textiles minor and then I moved out here and got a job at Adidas. I learned a lot at Adidas, but it wasn’t really creative, so I started this on the side. Adidas was great, they gave me a three-month leave of absence to work on my business.
EL: Yeah, my boss was awesome. So, I had different studios around town, but never in a great retail location. I was selling some pieces in the shop here before me, and when the woman that owned it was ready to get rid of the business, I was like, “Yes, I totally want this place!”
E+E: What inspires your clothing designs?
EL: I would say my design inspiration is both from my customers’ needs and desires, and also from the fabrics that I buy. When fabric vendors come to town, I just basically pick out ones that I like and ones that I think my customers will appreciate too. I look at my existing styles while also thinking of new styles, and then go from there.
E+E: You just opened a second location in the Pearl. How has that been?
EL: Overall, it’s been good! I got to a point where I felt like I was ready to take on another challenge. Because Portlanders are so neighborhood-centric, I think you can have two shops not too far apart and have totally different customers, so I just decided to try it.
E+E: Tell us more about more about your unique way of sizing.
EL: Instead of traditional sizes, we use adjectives. For example: extraordinary is extra small, and extra-hot is extra large. We just want women to feel good about themselves and not focus on a number. With the adjectives, people are more likely to get in a size that really fits them, rather than choosing the size they think they should be in.
E+E: What do you love most about Portland? What keeps you here as opposed to designing in another big city?
A lot of things. The people here are so friendly and laid-back, we like the biking community, and there’s so much culture. I would say the food is probably #1 though!
E+E: We couldn’t agree more.
1524 NE Alberta St.
Portland, OR 97211
404 NW 12th Ave.
Portland, OR 97209
Written by: Lauren Kodiak