When window shoppers pass by Velvet Edge Boutique in the 5th Street Public Market, they never know quite what they’re going to see. In addition to lovely skirts and tops on the mannequins in the front windows, they might also see dresses made out of decks of cards, sheets of music, Halloween candy, or even old Scantron tests. Owner Marjorie Taylor regularly displays her own whimsical sartorial creations, and they’ve made a big impression. “People sometimes tell me they always stop by to see them,” Taylor says. “I think it put us on the map a little bit, made us a little different.”
Taylor and her daughter, Amber, first opened Velvet Edge downtown on East Broadway in 2014. A longtime psychology professor at University of Oregon at the time, Taylor had been preparing for retirement from her academic position and was looking for something new to do with her life. Opening a boutique with her daughter offering interesting, contemporary clothing to the women of Eugene seemed like just the thing.
Over the years, Taylor had regularly made art pieces to give as gifts to friends and family. Her efforts evolved in the past decade to include crafting a Marie Antoinette-style dress for 2008 SLUG Queen Slugtoinette and winning the 2009 Mayor’s Art Show with a scientifically accurate fabric art and embroidery rendering of her husband’s brain (“Warm Glow, or: fabricMRI: Bill’s Brain”).
So, when the Taylor women opened their boutique, Marjorie started putting her artistic talents to work, creating eye-catching window displays. “I wanted the store to have a certain look to it, a different look, so it wasn’t like any other store,” Taylor says.
Velvet Edge moved to the 5th Street Market in August 2017 and last spring, Taylor made a beekeeper-inspired outfit, calling attention to the worldwide decline in bee populations. “The Bee Whisperer” earned a finalist position in the 2018 WOW competition. Mom and daughter attended the awards show in New Zealand. Taylor describes the show as “Lady Gaga on steroids.” It makes sense that her creations have shown there because, as Taylor says, “I don’t like making regular clothes. I never make regular clothes.”
In May, Annika Andersson, who earned her PhD in psychology at UO, returned for a visit to Eugene and heard about the bee dress. Andersson is a professor at Linnaeus University in Sweden and attends the annual formal Nobel Banquet in Stockholm with her partner, who is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science. She thought it would be great to wear the bee dress to the December banquet, which receives global media coverage, to bring attention to the bee crisis. Because Taylor knew the dress wasn’t quite “formal attire,” she and Andersson decided she should create a gown made out of recycled materials. “The thought of making a dress that was elegant enough to go to the Nobel Prize ceremony and not be disrespectful, but was completely made out of recycled materials—that was just too good of a challenge, right?” Taylor says.
Taylor created a ball gown featuring a beautifully draped, Bubble Wrap skirt (with some bubbles filled with shredded pieces of the journal Science) and a bodice made out of folded pages from Science woven together. The open neckline is adorned with old circuit boards as well as dazzling, bead-studded bottle caps. “I am amazed by the dress,” Andersson says. “I like how it is, looking like an amazing ball gown, and then when you look at it again, you start noticing the recycling and artwork.” Andersson plans to wear the gown to the December 10 gala and hopes it will stimulate discussions on the environment and recycling.
Meanwhile, at Velvet Edge, in addition to dreaming up wondrous window displays, the Taylors will continue to provide striking clothing to the women of Eugene. “We like interesting clothes,” Taylor says. “We like art. And so it kind of combines those things.”
Velvet Edge Boutique, 296 E 5th Ave., No. 15, 541/632-3284, velvetedgeclothes.com