From disaster came beauty. Following the 2006 shooting at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, where Cameron Levin worked in its Young Leadership division, “it took about two years for the dust to settle,” she said. “When the dust settled, I was like, ‘I need to do something beautiful and just special, personal, and about art.’”
Growing up as an artist in Portland, Cameron had actually moved to Seattle to earn her master’s degree in Middle East Studies at the University of Washington while working at the Federation. But she had always loved fashion. So she deferred her degree and went to fashion school.
“Fashion completely saved me,” Cameron says. “It was my anti-anxiety, it was my escape and support system.
But then something happened. “Slowly, I started to realize this is where I wanted to go,” she says.
She had left the Federation by then, and was selling advertising for JTNews. But she was designing at night and even planning fashion shows, such as the Pink Carpet Project in Portland and Seattle, which raised funds for Planned Parenthood’s clinical preventive breast exams. It’s an event, she says, she never could have pulled off had she not done the same thing for the Federation’s community campaign kickoff. Pink Carpet Project returns, incidentally, this March with an additional show in San Francisco.
Cameron moved to Zulily, the fast-growing online apparel retailer, in 2012, where she styled the photo shoots for the ever-changing images on the site’s homepage. The fast-paced and frenetic atmosphere “was fascinating, bewildering, sometimes we didn’t have a lot of answers,” she says.
But Cameron missed the artisanship and the manufacturing process, as well as that connection to clothing makers whose roots go back generations. She continued to design in her off hours, and a connection from her Federation days brought her to the attention of high-end fashion boutique Butch Blum.
“They’re really good at identifying strong talent and brands, and bringing them to the Pacific Northwest, and that’s what they focus in on,” Cameron says.
This past summer she began working for the owners, Butch Blum and Kay Smith-Blum, as the store’s stylist and designer-in-residence, as well as its e-commerce curator. But most important, her own collection of women’s apparel will be available there in February.
“To be featured at the best specialty boutique, in my opinion, in the Pacific Northwest, is a huge honor and an opportunity to learn so much,” she says.
Smith-Blum told JTNews she was honored to have Cameron in her store’s collection.
“Cameron has a great sense of style, clean elegant — a perfect fit for Butch Blum,” said Smith-Blum in an email. “We have prided ourselves over the decades as having the most discerning taste level in town. We believe Cameron’s collection fits that mode and her styling expertise is a plus on our selling floor as well.”
The Blums build personal relationships with their clients, but they also stay connected to their local community. Smith-Blum, for example, sits on the Seattle School Board. That ethos resonates with Cameron, who also serves on the local board of Fashion Group International, a nonprofit that was started in the 1920s by a group that included Eleanor Roosevelt and Edith Head to provide business opportunities for women through fashion. Cameron has helped launch a mentorship program for young designers with business executives in Seattle.
“It is an industry of privilege,” she says, “and with that comes responsibility to get involved and give back and do something positive.”
In addition to helping Butch Blum build its e-commerce site, she is working with the store’s clients and getting to know them, while ensuring her line fits their needs.
“There are very few stores that feature a designer that’s working there full-time, to interact with the clients, which the clients get excited about,” she says.
Her designs run from playful — one line was based on flamenco styles — to casual to cocktail, but all of it with an elegance that reveals an eye that can see beyond the next fashion season.