In 1937, American socialite, Wallis Simpson graced the pages of Vogue in a custom silk gown created by artist Salvador Dali and fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. It ignited a new way of looking at art and fashion — as one explosive force able to achieve societal, cultural and historical significance. Today, designers such as Maria Grazia Chiuri, Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada routinely incorporate artists and artistic references in collections and on the catwalk. It is no surprise then that when 303 Magazine announced the arrival of The Best of Denver Fashion Week Exhibit at the McNichols building, the local community stood up and took notice.
Denver Fashion Week (DFW) began in 2007 as one single night dedicated to celebrating the talented hair stylists and makeup artists around the city. Since then the event has transformed it into a week-long event with runway shows, pop-ups, workshops and parties. In 2018, Denver Fashion Week became a cultural partner with the City of Denver — marking a turning point for fashion in Denver. The Best of Denver Fashion Week Exhibit is a result of that partnership and chronicles the decade-long journey through visually stunning photography and looks taken directly from the runway.
With a flow that travels from ethereal to edgy, the exhibit includes lifesize images of garments in both runway and lifestyle settings, as well as actual garments from pivotal moments. The romantic collection included bridal and red carpet dresses by Allison Nicole Berger, creator of Allison Nicole Designs and beautiful gowns by designers like Rachel Marie Hurst.
“As a designer, you always dream of this moment where you know it’s kind of an art piece so seeing [my dress] in a place where fashion and art come together is really a magical moment in my career so I’m so grateful to 303 and everyone behind it,” said Hurst. “It’s kind of an emotional thing but it’s very beautiful at the same time. You never think you’re going to get recognized and to have so many people here come together is really amazing.”
As airy and magical segued into dark and bold, Duane Topping’s Obsidian collection commanded attention. Obsidian — a series of three dresses that tell a story of a chained mythical creature freeing itself and regaining its magnificence — was part of Topping’s 2018 lineup. Created using leather, sheer black silk and chain detailing, the collection was a pure triumph for Topping that left a lasting impression.
Another awe-inspiring runway moment was when metalsmith and artist, Jesse Mathes’ work appeared on the Denver Fashion Week(end) Fall ’17 runway. Models dressed in all black donned Elizabethian-inspired metal collars, often several feet in length. Yet another moment where art, fashion and laser-focused creative vision came together to magnify the power DFW has to highlight the sartorial innovation found in Denver.
Representing the new class of designers was designer Mariah Hodges. Her Lisa-Frank-esque brand, Electric Bubblegum, brought pops of whimsy as part of her debut collection on the DFW Fall ’18 runway — a tribute to lip gloss. Set against bright backdrops, photographs taken by 303 photographer, Rebecca Grant, further celebrated Hodges’ ability to single-handedly liven and uplift with creativity, novel fabrics and fearlessly youthful designs.
From designers to photographers who captured the magic happening, the exhibit celebrated all the pieces that have made DFW the city’s premier fashion event — something that continues to innovate and showcase what is new and exceptional in Denver’s fashion community.
“I think the exhibit is really impressive. I love the layout. The space is absolutely brilliant the photography and designs are exceptional so overall it’s great,” said local photographer and attendee, Johnny Edward. “I think  did a very good job curating things — with variance in color and some pieces that are little more lifestyle with some avant-garde — so overall this really represents the designs in Denver fashion very well and the variety and diversity of Denver Fashion Week.”
The Best of Denver Fashion Week is on display now through April 7 at the McNichols Building at 144 W Colfax Ave., Denver. Admission is FREE. Art exhibit viewing times are Monday- Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday & Sunday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. The event is a part of the Cultural Partner Program at the McNichols Civic Center Building and is part of the McNichols Project Series.
All photography by Amanda Piela.