Octopus Fashion: Nylons, Pillows, Jewelry

By Erin Flesh and Karen Vitt,
Portland style, shopping, trends.

What has eight arms, three hearts and no bones? Why, the latest trend in fashion, of course. No, it’s not some freak “living coat” hybrid, specially engineered to keep Anna Wintour warm at night. The trend we’re referring to is… the OCTOPUS! We’ve recently been spotting this mysterious sea creature’s lovely visage on everything from T-shirts to tights to jewelry and home decor, and what can we say – we’re happy to hop aboard.

“Octopi have universal appeal,” said Chris Stevens, owner of Northwest Shirts, which makes a local line of Octopus inspired Kraken motif T-shirts and scarves. “They’re really otherworldly and exotic, and they have a bit of sinisterness to them – but they’re not. If you’ve ever seen an octopus or looked into its eyes, it feels like they have an ancient wisdom to them. They’re beautiful and smart creatures.”

Portland itself is no stranger to the charms of the octopus. For years a giant inflatable purple octopus drew attention from the top of the Greek Cusina restaurant, serving as a sort of unofficial downtown mascot. Due to the restaurant’s closure in January, however, big purple has found a new home. He’s now perched atop Brick’s Barber Shop in Southwest Portland, where he’ll remain for the next two years. Random, yes, but we’re happy he’s still around.

So why is this maritime motif suddenly showing up on our radar in such a big way? Both Stevens and Carla Lichter, owner of ZimZim, say the Octopus has been as a solid seller for years. They come and go in waves (pun intended), alluring shoppers with past-meets-future imagery. “I love all those ocean images of the old schooner on the sea, with the great arms of the giant Octopus wrapped around it,” Lichter said. “It’s Steampunk style, evocative of an old Jules Verne novel, like ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.’ I like it because it’s kind of futuristic, but also very Victorian and romantic.”

We risked life and limb swimming around the PDX retail sea-ne (sorry) and hit the motherload. Here’s a look at our catch:

Flutter – Our fave Mississippi Avenue shop for charming home decor and found objects proves itself on top o’ the trends two weeks running. Last week we found gorgeous Brehan Todd key necklaces, and this week the shop is awash with Octopi! They have a charming new line of Sea Pillows illustrated with starfish, sand dollars, squid and… a darling Red Octopus Hook Pillow (above right) and a Blue Octopus Hook Pillow ($62 each). We say why not adopt both. 3948 N. Mississippi Ave.; 503-288-1649. www.flutterclutter.com

ZimZim is swimming in a sea of so many octopus themed jewelry and gift items we’re going to nickname owner Carla Lichter “Octomom.” We love how affordable everything in her shop is, too. Find Octopus flasks from The Life Imagined ($34.50); Gray Kraken screenprinted scarves by Northwest Shirts ($21); Stainless steel octopus water bottles from Blue Q ($18.50); pretty silver Octopus bracelets ($13), earrings ($8) and necklaces ($12); plus cute handmade Octopus motif notebooks and cards. ZimZim, 2805 S.E. Ankeny St.; 503-236-7178.

Presents of Mind, also on Hawthorne, is a haven for octo-printed T-shirts and gifts. Most of the tees are designed by their in-house team Seasons K. Designs, who makes our fave navy scoop-neck Octopus T-shirt ($28). We also found more Octopus flasks from The Life Imagined, and this charming Bungalow360 octopus-print satchel ($30). 3633 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.; 503- 230-7740. www.presentsofmind.tv

Northwest Shirts in Vancouver, Wash., has the Octopus trend all wrapped up with their pretty lilac Nimrod of the Deep Sheer Spring Scarf (similar to the style available at ZimZim, above), plus a whole line of soft cotton tees and scarves for women and men. The line is handmade locally by Chris Stevens, who we mentioned above, and can be found in select shops, online at etsy.com, and in his small Vancouver storefront. 807 Grand Blvd., Vancouver, Wash., 98661; 503-319-9298. www.northwestshirts.com

Elsa+Sam dishware boutique on Hawthorne Boulevard has a pretty sweet collection of octopus adorned dishware by Dovetail Ceramics. Graphic and hand-built, choose from plates, pitchers and mugs ($28-$40), each detailed with a perky black-on-white ‘pus to keep you company at the dining table. 4314 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.; 503-517-9942. www.elsasam.com

Online shopping plays second captain to shopping local, of course, but while fishing around for Octopi we found two pieces too cool to not mention. Check out this amazing Cubic Zirconia encrusted Black Pave Jules the Octopus Ring from Noir Jewelry ($150), with glittering black tentacles that wrap around your fingers. And must-have sheer Octopus Tattoo Tights from etsy.com ($23, top), which appear as though you love the Octopus enough to make it a permanent party of your life. And just maybe you do!

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