Story by: Katie Pusateri
Photography by: Nino Silva and Vy Pham
Backstage at the Colorado Fashion Week Main Runway Presentation, local designers calmly and collectedly prepped their models in a sea of hissing hairspray cans and whisking makeup brushes. While waiting for show time, designers split their time between styling backstage and manning their welcome booths set up just outside of the showroom doors. Each designer beamed with personality and each model spiritedly sported their one-of-a-kind look that Saturday, October 4, 2014 at the beautiful Four Seasons Hotel Denver.
Diamonds, pearls, flannels, ultra-trendy fanny packs, schoolboy scarves. Models were dressed head-to-toe in the latest trends and even the finest jewelry from sponsor, Shane Co., but there was a factor of uniqueness about the event that I couldn’t quite define. This show was more enticing, more appealing than any other fashion show I’d been to. Was it the bubbly models backstage, filled with vibrant personality you’d never see on the runway? Was it that effortlessly cool style that only Coloradoans can really master? Was it the humility and friendliness that came from the stunning models and bustling designers? Was it the fact that I and other guests were able to have a one-on-one conversation with some of the designers in the lobby before the presentation? The welcoming was warmer, and I felt more involved in this show, but I still couldn’t figure out exactly why. Then Justice Kwesi Kwarteng, Founder of Colorado Fashion Week and President of JTA Group, nailed it on the head: Functionality.
“I want it to be accessible. I want it to be authentic,” says Kwarteng to his audience in between designer presentations. “I want you more involved.”
Those words were almost a breath of fresh air. Runway fashion the audience could actually wear!? Yes, please!
Fashion entrepreneurs like Kat Dudden of Katybelle Boutique featured trendy pieces that were wearable and reasonably priced. These were pieces someone in the audience could fall in love with and buy from Dudden after the show or go home and order online.
Kat’s online boutique, Katybelle.com, offers a curated collection of unique pieces that are “lady-like but fun,” as Dudden describes them. Think sequins, fur vests, flowy pants, boho patterns, all trends that are spot on for the 20 and 30 something female who wants to look good without being uncomfortable.
“I don’t think most girls under 35 are looking to invest in expensive staple pieces,” says Dudden. “Everything I sell is under $60, and these are pieces you can wear out on weekends but also wear to work.”
Stitch Boutique featured pieces of somewhat similar styles–very trendy on every end of the spectrum, from chunky infinity scarves and gorgeous yet practical fall jackets to sleek leather, snakeskin details and perfectly fitted black and white dresses.
A more experimental take on current trends came in the form of designer Amy Cabrera’s line, Lotti by Amy Cabrera. Cabrera featured enhanced basics that once again, were runway dazzlers that female viewers could see themselves wearing, whether to work or out to happy hour.
“I like to play with texture, then color,” notes Cabrera, who’s online boutique, Lotticlothing.com, will be launching soon.
Cabrera mixed bright, fun patterns, like a gorgeous orange bubble skirt with a basic white crop tee, a playful but classy outfit that was neither too revealing nor too straightedge.
Adding a splash to the show was Hilary MacMillan, who’s models sported fresh, nautical brights in unique cuts that could easily be worn day-to-day while still remaining high fashion.
In a separate collection, Hilary MacMillan offered an unmatched uniqueness with a three-piece pheasant-print suit, a surprisingly beautiful design with an incredibly well-tailored execution. While Hilary’s designs were intriguingly fearless and would most likely only be worn by a daring fashionista, she featured a few pieces that could easily be seen walking the streets of Denver, like a black and white cocktail dress or her flannel shorts and button-up suit topped off with a casual beanie.
The featured menswear line from Sully and Co, was another collection that viewers could easily see themselves wearing off the runway. With classics like perfectly-tailored schoolboy blazers, varsity scarves, and v-neck sweaters, in trendy mod colors like mustard and burgundy, any male with a sense of style could rock these ensembles.
So who was it that stepped outside of the box when it came to sticking to current trends? Quirky LA-based designer, Sarah Ake featured basic bold red, white and black fabrics mixed with not-so-traditional shapes and cuts. She combined trends like lace, leather and fringe with risky details like bulky florals and mini fanny packs, all of which worked its way into one impressively cohesive collection.
Some may say it was the texture–the leather, the fur, the flannel, the sequins; the patterns–the plaid, the pheasant print, the snakeskin; the colors–the aqua, the gold, the bold red; the cuts–the fitted, the boxy, the sporty; or the one-of-a-kind styling–the beanies paired with business suits, the fanny packs with gowns, the men’s scarves with blazers–that made this show unique, but I say it was the face behind the collections.
On the runway, in the lobby and backstage, designers radiated with enthusiasm and excitement. It was the never-give-up entrepreneurial attitude that made these designers unique and this show glow with an unavoidably positive spirit.
Take Sarah Ake, the young designer who’s bright red lipstick and contagious smile beamed with confidence, positivity, and in my opinion, the perfect amount of quirkiness that mirrored itself on the runway.
Dedicated entrepreneurs like Kat Dudden and Amy Cabrera, who fairly recently built their business from the ground up, exuded excitement while experiencing the thrilling, sometimes grueling world fashion can be.
“I’m definitely seeing first-hand the hard work and time it takes,” says Cabrera about launching her career in the fashion world.
Cabrera also impressively holds a full time job as a hairstylist.
“I’d heard about the sleepless nights that come with being in the industry, and now I get it,” says a poised Cabrera amidst the backstage chaos. “But I love it. And I love doing hair along with fashion.”
With young, talented, hard-working designers like those featured in Colorado Fashion Week, Denver is gaining recognition as a fashion hub of the west.
“There’s definitely a lot of potential in Denver,” says Yaslynn Mack of the New York-based Mack Agency. “There are many talented artists and designers here who don’t get the exposure they deserve.”
Mack, who represents both the Hilary MacMillan brand and Arturo Rios’ beautiful collection of fasteners, which have been seen on Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and even on Rihana for a recent cover of Bazaar, see the emerging designers of Colorado Fashion Week succeeding thanks to visionary doers like Justice Kwarteng and the designers featured in Saturday’s show.
Vibrant looks. Vibrant personalities. Vibrant talent. Colorado’s fashion scene is alive.
Pictures from Colorado Fashion Week 2014 Night 1