Where Designers Shop

Fabric wholesalers cock-block independent designers by requiring unrealistic minimums that only giant companies can afford. One way local designers sidestep the bullshit is by heading to the International District, where the family-owned MacPherson Leather Company (519 12th Ave S, 328-0855) has been in business for a hundred fucking years. Its decor imparts a no-bullshit, blue-collar vibe—fluorescent lights and ugly workaday carpeting, and shelves and shelves of cardboard boxes stocked with garmentry hardware: buckles, clips, rings, studs, zippers, snaps, rivets. The skins are everywhere—hung in racks, folded into thick piles, dangled from hooks. And there's a good variety, ranging from the deeply normal (deer, goat, pig, elk, sheep, rabbit, and cow) to the deeply strange (ostrich, kangaroo, water buffalo, guitarfish, ermine, alligator, stingray).

There's also a python hide—crispy looking and draped over a ceiling beam because it's 30 feet long. And impala fur—patterned with blurred spotting and, along its spine, coarse hair rising into a ridge, immediately summoning images of animals in gangs, laughing and murdering each other. There's plenty of rawhide too, in milky yellow rolls, the color of death. Like many old-world goods, it's especially durable—so dense and bone strong. Ancient cultures used the material for torture devices. Even still, its edges knot up into beautiful little sculptures resembling body organs, and if you're crafty, you could use it as trimming in a line of your own.

Designers You Can Shop From

Jordan Christianson of Jonquil & Mr. Black shops at MacPherson—it's all the better to build his freakishly charming leather accessories with. Drawing upon traditional designs, his custom-fit suspenders ($30—$50) are secured at the waistband's button attachments, and the dual-strapped versions crisscross at the back, or unite to form an elegant Y, or keep firmly parallel. There's a modern single-strap version, too; it splices the body diagonally. Also for sale: zippered hand pouches (available in a range of sizes, $30—$50), a tie belt ($10), a sling bag ($150), and a belted sling pouch ("I'm not gonna call it a goddamned fanny pack, that's not what it is," $80). Find his work at www.jonquilandblack.com.

And Jon and Tracy Haaland of Chemical Wedding regularly hit up MacPherson's scrap-leather bins ($9.11 a pound). With the findings, they hand-build gorgeous leather bags—their intricate designs recall swirling wallpaper, medical sutures, and deep-wilderness animal traps. In their free time, the Haalands collect bones, carcasses, and other oddities. Bags are $110–$400, available at local shops Clementine, Twilight Artist Collective, MoMo, and Horseshoe, or at www.chemical-wedding.blogspot.com.

Malia Peoples of Lady Konnyaku goes to estate sales, rifling through the belongings of Seattle's dead grandmothers. Vintage fabrics and layers of deliberately clashing prints keep her designs fun, nonsensical, and heavily bright, with details pulled from doll clothes, Asian street fashion, and kung fu movies. Each garment is less than $100 at www.ladykonnyaku.com.

Harvesting his stock from pay-by-the-pound thrift stores, Boma Cho's original hand-drawn screen prints transform everything he finds: hoodies, leather jackets, dress slacks, rain gear ($15–$30). Because he grew up in Cameroon, he chooses images signifying "the myths of its culture," such as lions, giraffes, and elephants. Some figures are blocky and abstract, while other renderings are more delicate—with flesh rounded or piled into sinewy mounds. All of his art is charming and delightfully weird. Cho once created the most perfect garment in the world, starting with a vintage men's casual shirt—made of an oddly spongy synthetic, in a gruesome pale coral, with stark white stitching and short sleeves topped with epaulets. His lightly creepy Eastern Orthodox–style Jesus print lurked at the hem, off center, swirling with halos, and the contrasting styles invited a nice mix of connotations: drug trips, circus peanuts, big-game hunters, crucifixes, and retirees. He works from a mobile tent; watch for him Sundays at the Fremont Market and Saturday to Monday from 4 p.m. to close camped near 4100 University Avenue. recommended