Denver Fashion Week has never fit into the same mold as some of its bigger city counterparts, which is something the bi-annual event is quite proud of. Held in the heart of downtown Denver, the weeklong event features local designers, boutiques, hair stylists, makeup artists, and models, as well as national and international designers. In its public mission statement, Denver Fashion Week claims “Producing a world-class fashion week unlike any other” as one of its goals, and it certainly holds to that.
World-Class Fashion at Denver Fashion Week
Denver Fashion Week started in 2006 as a hair show, exhibiting hair stylists and products in an event lasting 3-4 days. In 2018, Denver Fashion Week gained necessary support from the city and became a full-fledged fashion week. As its primary sponsor, the show boasts 303 Magazine, Denver’s most prominent lifestyle and culture magazine. Brittany Werges, editor in chief of 303 Magazine and co-producer of Denver Fashion Week, explains the event as “A representation of the Denver Fashion industry and everything Denver culture has to offer.”
The lineup for a Denver Fashion Week includes theme nights, as well as nights dedicated specifically to local designers, national designers, and international designers. While the 2020 shows have thus far been cancelled due to COVID-19, the “Street Fashion x Art” show of September 2019 included work from local designers and handpicked artists to put on a collaborative “mash-up” for the runway. According to Werges, this is the primary show for industry up and comers.
One collaboration for “Street Fashion x Art” included the work of Denver-based streetwear brand Royal Outerwear and traveling muralist/photographer Savannah Pitts. In an interview with 303 Magazine, lead designer of Royal Outerwear, Hunter Higgins, said that the collaboration was inspired by “vintage Hollywood glamour with a streetwear kind of edge to it.” The show was just one of many well-executed and well-received exhibitions.
Staying true to its roots Denver Fashion Week also always includes an iconic hair show. The theme of the Fall 2019 show was “Avant-Garde,” and included collaborations from local stylists and designers. Denver-based designer Rachel Marie Hurst, who is known and respected for designing for women of all shapes and sizes, worked with Denver hairstylist and salon owner Joe Denny to create some truly Avant-Garde masterpieces. Other iconic collaborations included El Salon with Ammunition Couture, Swank with Idiot Cult, and many more.
And while the themed nights are not to be missed, the national and international runways have consistently been the most popular shows the world-class Denver Fashion Week has to offer. The shows feature designers like Maxwell Bresler, who has famously designed edgy pieces for musician Billie Eilish. Prominent international designers have included shows from Amor & Rosas, Fabrica Social, and PAY’S, all from Mexico City. According to Werger, Denver Fashion Week was excited to add some London based designers into the 2020 mix, but unfortunately has had to put that debut on hold until it is safe to host fashion week again.
In the local shows, designers and brands work to represent what sets the Denver fashion industry apart: diversity and community. “Diversity has been an emphasis for Denver Fashion Week since the beginning, and we’re excited to see more of the fashion industry putting a focus on that,” says Werger. In fact, according to Werger, it is now a requirement that designers showcasing at Denver Fashion Week must include an array of models, including non-traditional models. Werger strongly emphasizes the importance of this inclusivity. “We are community focused and diversity focused – this is what really reflects the Denver community,” she says.
When talking to 303 Magazine just this summer, local African American designer Tyne Hall said that positive strides have been made in the Denver fashion industry. Hall stated that while there is still progress to be made, “There are more designers of color and we’re seeing more of a commitment to diverse model choices.”
While there is always room for improvement, Denver Fashion Week has committed itself to being an event that truly represents every aspect of the city’s fashion community.
Also in the lineup for local shows are brands like False Ego, which has become internationally recognized as a trendy yet eco-friendly apparel company. With the fashion industry beginning to catch on to the sustainability bandwagon, Denver has been more than happy to take part in the movement. According to Werges, Denver Fashion Week worked in 2019 with Biennial of America’s, an organization built to unify North and South America through art, music, and culture, to host sustainable fashion workshops. The workshops, which were held in Denver, emphasized sustainable fashion trends such as upcycling, and discussed the effects of fast fashion.
It is no surprise that Denver and its fashion community have been able to pull together such a well-rounded and respected fashion week. According to a 2019 article from Forbes, arts and culture expert Stephen Rabimov argues that Denver has been “positioning itself as a major cultural hub” since a 2005 tourism boom. In just 15 years, Denver’s art scene has exploded and become nationally respected. In fact, the Visual Arts program at the University of Colorado Denver is nationally ranked, and the Denver Art Museum was one of a few U.S. locations chosen to display the renowned “Dior: From Paris to the World” exhibit from 2018-2019.
Unfortunately, just like the rest of the world, the runways in Denver have gone dark this year due to COVID-19. However, this certainly does not mean that the lights in the Denver fashion industry have been extinguished. “In terms of the fashion industry, I think COVID has given people a chance to reflect on their consumption habits,” says Werges. “More and more people are becoming aware and active in their purchasing, which could lead to a great impact for smaller businesses and designers.” For a growing fashion industry and art scene, this focus on local designers and businesses would certainly be a positive. So, while the shows may be cancelled this year, industry professionals far and wide should be keeping an eye out for Denver Fashion Week.
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