Where We Live: Tech, fashion collide in Portland

Seth Aaron has created the first-ever 3-D printed designer shoes

Seth Aaron on season 3 of Project Runway (Courtesy: Lifetime)
Seth Aaron on season 3 of Project Runway (Courtesy: Lifetime)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Normally, Portland wouldn’t be considered the center of high fashion. But the city boasts some world-class designers and a fashion week show that’s considered one of the best in the country.

Seth Aaron, one of Portland’s top designers, is diving feet first into high technology, putting fashion at the forefront of where we live.

Aaron is a two-time Project Runway winner who creates everything from high fashion clothing to designer leather bags. His curiosity about where technology and fashion designing meet led him to his latest project: the world’s first-ever 3-D printed designer shoes, which he’ll debut at Portland’s 4-day show “FashioNXT,” starting on Oct. 11.

“It’s always been a fascination of mine,” Aaron said, “and that’s the future. It’s sustainable.”

Two-time Project Runway winner Seth Aaron meets with KOIN 6's Ken Boddie in studio to discuss his 3-D printed shoes (KOIN).
Two-time Project Runway winner Seth Aaron meets with KOIN 6’s Ken Boddie in studio to discuss his 3-D printed shoes (KOIN).

The shoes are made from tires and other forms of recycled rubber, created at the San Diego company, Feetz. The creation and recreation of the shoes are both green and cyclical.

“When those shoes wear out, you give them back,” Aaron said. “They melt them down, and make you a new pair.”

With new technology, you’d expect new challenges. But Aaron says the process, divided among himself and 2 others, is actually very simple. Aaron can take anything he can imagine, sketch it out, give it to a friend who does a 3-D rendering and then send it out to get printed.

“In a couple of days I have a printed prototype,” Aaron said.

The innovative design method will make life easier for customers, too. Aaron said a mobile app will scan a person’s foot precisely and help create the perfectly fitted shoe.

Tito Chowdhury is the CEO of FashioNXT. (KOIN)
Tito Chowdhury is the CEO of FashioNXT. (KOIN)

“People with a lot of shoe challenges — maybe off-the-rack shoes don’t fit them perfectly, in some way, shape or form — with this system we’re able to fit anybody.” he said.

Aaron said FashioNXT is one of his favorite fashion weeks to attend. The 4-day extravaganza includes what’s the 2nd-best runway show in the nation, just after New York. Oregon is home to some of the best marketers and companies in the world, as well, featuring Columbia Sportswear, Adidas and Nike.

“It is one of the biggest revenue creators for the city, for the state, and we have these world-class talents that are here,” said Tito Chowdhury, the CEO of FashioNXT.

Talents like Aaron and fellow Project Runway winner Michelle Lesniak are paving the way for Portland’s new talent, where technology is meeting fashion.

“It’s about bringing fashion and technology and innovation under one tent, or one space, and exploiting all that in a collaboration,” Aaron said of FashioNXT.

Below is a courtesy video from Lifetime of Seth Aaron appearing on Project Runway