This past weekend marked the 13th year of Denver Fashion Week (DFW) and this year’s bi-annual event was a showstopper to say the least. Produced by 303 Magazine and held at the Forney Museum of Transportation in RiNo, DFW brought together designers, models, stylists and show-goers alike for a much-needed celebration of fashion after a year of social distancing and isolation.
This year was special because the crowd gathered at an event unlike anything we have seen in recent months. Fashion can be based on a social premise of sharing one’s identity and self with others through their appearance. This idea was challenged during the pandemic, but with the return of DFW this year, Coloradans flocked to connect with fashion in a social setting once again. Here’s what you missed:
Night One – Vintage
Thursday evening began with a show featuring local brand Freakish. Owner and designer Emelia Castro was a model prior to creating her brand that offers handmade, 100% sustainable and one-of-a-kind pieces. According to Castro, this collection is the polar opposite of what Freakish has offered in the past. Her spirits were high leading up to the show because this “last year has been painful,” she said. COVID-19 affected the fashion industry drastically and DFW allowed designers like Castro to showcase their work in a public setting once again.
The Freakish show was straight from a beach to the runway. Models were barefoot and wearing bright, floral two-piece sets with bold patterns. Some of the outfits alluded to Y2K summer trends with large hoops and gold jewelry to accessorize garments sporting oranges, pinks, browns and blues. The collection was brought together by sunkissed models with braids or slicked-back hair and natural makeup. Each piece is perfect for the beach or even a night on the town and the collection is ultimately quite fresh and trendy.
Next, Machete & Sons took to the runway with a collection that, according to designer AJ Machete, resembles a scene of “soldiers on a holiday.” The pieces were very European-esque with bold trench coats, oversized bow ties, large blazers, a variety of textures, cuffed pants and more. Mismatched colors and patterns alluded to a unique play on formalwear that included darker hues with a mix of bright shades as well. One model wore a lime green tie along with burgundy pants and a tan coat. Machete purposely included colors in his collection that encompass the natural world present in Colorado.
Overall, Machete & Sons was definitely a hit. The crowd erupted into applause as several female models walked the runway sporting dapper coats and a male model took the stage with a high-collar and tie-less look. Machete was joined by his wife and child on the runway at the end of the show, smiling ear-to-ear.
Following a brief intermission, Overseer took to the runway and blew the audience away in the process. Owner and designer Kajuanee’s collection consisted of denim, spray paint and patchwork streetwear. A variety of materials were used in each piece including paneled jeans, pieces of fabric from flannel shirts and even a skirt that resembled a unique vintage blanket. Several garments in the collection shared similarities with graffiti-like artwork, emblazoned with spray-painted words and phrases. Others boasted Pablo Picasso-esque faces.
Every piece in this unique and trendy collection stood out in a different way and for a different reason. The talent and meticulous craftsmanship that went into creating the pieces showcased by Overseer is inspirational and cheers from the crowd throughout the show cemented that.
Garage Sale wrapped up the night and the energy that the show established was phenomenal. Audience members had smiles plastered across their faces and were clapping along with the beat of the music. The store is unique as it is made up of different vendors bringing vintage pieces to be sold in a storefront located on Larimer Street. According to Lexi Wilson, a vendor at Garage Sale and owner of LTG Vintage, or Lexi Goes Thrifting, “[Garage sale is] very collective and so is our collection. It’s cohesive, but there’s definitely all sorts of different stuff.”
Seven different vendors brought vintage pieces for the event. The items displayed at DFW were from a variety of different eras, ranging from the 1930s to Y2K. “What’s so cool is that the styling is intermingling all of these different eras and that’s the cool thing about Garage Sale is that you can do that when you shop there too,” said Sarah Moretti, owner of Astral Plains and vendor at Garage Sale.
The first model to take the runway had two prosthetic legs, and the crowd exploded into cheers as she walked. The looks were bold and featured sparkles, sequins, patterns and an overall sense of positive energy. “It’s like a vintage salad,” Moretti said about the concept of bringing vintage into any era, allowing fashionistas to make vintage pieces their own.
Each model was meticulously styled and represented a different era. The looks consisted of lots of floral touches, a ’70s ambiance, a Y2k corset and assless chaps, a mullet alongside an entirely denim outfit, Doc Martens, silk pants, cowboy boots and much more. The Garage Sale show truly had it all – even a model sporting a vintage raincoat and umbrella that was opened mid-runway walk.
Garage Sale vendors were excited to be a part of DFW this year, especially after the past year and the hardships faced during the pandemic. Moretti was grateful to feel “the creative energy of everyone around you … it’s just really nice to be back in that kind of a community.”
Overall, the first night was filled with diverse interpretations and meanings of vintage. Each show differed from the last but the essence of vintage fashion was represented by all four designers and their collections.
Night Two – Glam
On Saturday night, the first show started off with a bang as models sported Femme Fatale Intimates’ newest collection. Designer Angel Macauley was excited to share her collection at DFW this year and her show was meant to incorporate aspects of how life transformed during the pandemic.
“The beginning part of my show is very intense and I wanted to give an example of the experience that we went through this last year,” she said. “It was so chaotic and like the riots and then the pandemic and all of the like chaos and now it’s like we’re lightening up and we’re getting so much more into the light … so my show is really going from crazy chaos to beautiful and happy!”
Femme Fatale Intimates’ looks included fur coats, shimmery tops, lacey lingerie, elaborate gold chains and black satin ensembles. Each model’s faces were decorated with shimmery gold makeup and gold stars. At the beginning of the show, models wore looks with jackets, pants or cover-ups. The second time around the runway, the layers were ditched to show the pieces as lingerie. This unique take on runway structure proved that lingerie could be worn as an outfit or alone – which was an intentional addition to the show.
“I’m trying to inspire people to wear more lingerie casually. So it’s a combination of casual streetwear lingerie-wear and also lingerie,” Macauley said. Featuring models of all ages, sizes and genders, the essence of the show cemented a powerful statement where lingerie is represented as feminine yet bold and beautiful.
Next, Marie-Margot Couture displayed a beautiful collection of wedding dresses, receiving “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience throughout the runway. The first look of the show was an elegant black wedding dress with cascading tulle. Pieces to follow were intricately designed with white satin, lace, floral embellishments, pearl buttons, beading and more. Each look was incredibly unique yet included similarities that made it obvious that the dress is a Marie-Margot Couture signature piece.
While some of the dresses aligned with traditional bridal looks, founder and head designer Maggie Burns created a look unlike any that she had ever designed before.
“I have kind of an outside my DNA look that I’m premiering,” she said. “It’s a nod to the mountaineering people in Colorado and my experience this year has been that there are so many people who have chosen to elope out in the mountains. And so I made a dress that can be converted into a short dress so they can climb rocks and hills and valleys and jump waterfalls and everything. And when it’s time for the actual ceremony, they can let it back down again.”
Burns walked alongside a family member and her new dress following the end of the show, as the crowd erupted in applause.
Menez, one of Denver’s leading fashion houses, brought a collection that is completely new for the two brothers and designers, Vincent and Saul Jimenez. The ‘GENESIS’ collection features activewear for men and women with a mythological twist.
Models adorned massive braids extending from the tops of their heads as music transcended throughout the room. Mesh sports bras and leggings featured a sleek Menez logo and each piece was simple yet flattering, stylish and couture. The show began with traditional activewear and transitioned to include velour puffer coats, gold belts and more upscale activewear. Overall, the show was fierce, daring and ravishing.
According to the Jimenez brothers, living in a state accustomed to outdoor living was the inspiration to design athletic wear. “We’re actually very active,” Saul said. “We didn’t like the athleticwear that was available, so we wanted to make like an edgier type.”
Following a brief intermission, the newest Nicholas Anthony Clothing collection stunned the crowd. Each look followed a signature style with purple and gold hues and iridescent tones alongside floral embroidery. Models wore mesh purple masks that were only visible at a closer look. This nod to the past year and the perils of the pandemic contributed to the futuristic theme apparent throughout the entire collection.
Gold platform sneakers and massive heels were accompanied by white lace tights and sequined jackets or tops. While each piece fit a specific mold, every look was also incredibly unique.
READ: Nicholas Anthony Clothing Gives a Behind the Scenes Look at their Denver Fashion Week Collection
According to designer Anthony Heimann, the collection, called CicadaX, “represents the merging of the present (symbolized by the cicada) and the past with glittering throwback silhouettes inspired by the ’80s and ’90s.” A majority of the materials used in the looks presented in the show are reused or sustainable, making this collection even more stunning and inspiring.
An energetic show from celebrity designer Stevie Boi concluded the night. The collection, titled “SK8T,” began with subtle and simple looks in order to showcase the elaborate eyewear. Each model wore different shades that stood out as the focal point of the outfit. Two-piece bandana sets, denim overalls, a mirrored skirt and mesh fitting pieces evolved into models wearing nipple stickers, leather ensembles, fringed jeans and mirrored sleeves. Overall, the collection was focused on an elevated persona of looks that allowed each pair of sunglasses to stand out.
Boi’s impressive repertoire includes styling celebrities like Lady Gaga, Elton John and Beyoncé. Surprisingly, when he was joined on stage following the show by models wearing some of the most extravagant looks of the collection, he appeared shy and humbled to be here at Denver Fashion Week. Wearing a feathered jacket and an entirely black outfit, Boi looked fashionable as ever.
Overall, the night could be described as the definition of glam. Each designer brought new and fresh collections to the runway. It proved to be a night that will go down in DFW history.
Night Three – Ready to Wear
The final day of Denver Fashion Week 2021 kicked off with a show from local designer Mona Lucero. The collection consisted of colorful, flowy scar-like kimono dresses that were elegant and very Parisian. The looks were delicate yet each piece had a lot of depth in regards to the physical shape and the patterns displayed.
Before the show, Lucero shared that “all of the prints that you will see are my own, they have my own artwork on them,” she said. “And the artwork ranges from when I was in high school to about a year ago.”
Lucero attended art school initially but fell into the fashion world later in her career. “Art was my first love, and then later I fell in love with fashion … and as I’ve been going further into my career, I try to integrate them more closely,” she said.
The show itself was free-spirited and fun as models walked down the runway the final time, grinning from ear to ear, clapping along to the music and waving to the crowd. Each model’s makeup included a mole on their right cheek, which may have been of some significance to Lucero and her brand. While some of the looks were more delicate, others were playful as one dress was bright pink and featured several cats.
The next show introduced an entirely different theme. JyLewis by Jasmine Lewis was futuristic and intricately designed with incredible attention to detail. Rather than the typical appearance when one thinks of space themes with sharp edges and galactic undertones, this collection was light and airy. A majority of the looks were multidimensional, asymmetrical and deliberately designed.
From white ruffled sets to an entirely black look modeled by a woman with prosthetic legs, this collection felt like the audience was taken to a galaxy far away amongst the stars.
Next, owner and designer of Sliv Life Cameron Connolly debuted his collection in a show featuring bright colors and impressive looks. “I just really tried to make stuff I haven’t made yet,” Connolly said on his vision for this collection. “I made over 1,000 things by hand in a [couple of] years, so I just tried to come up with unique colors and really try to push my color patterns.”
READ: Owner of Colorado Brand Sliv Life on How Clothing Design Helped Him Overcome Addiction and Cancer
Each look was different and more complex than the next. Asymmetrical tie-dye jackets and pants with matching hats and shoes defined a unique rendition of streetwear. Each outfit took on a different color scheme and some of the garments were adorned with iridescent accents and studs. In the final runway walk, models clapped excitedly and Connolly motioned a heart to the camera.
For Connolly, presenting his collection at DFW was a dream come true. “I walked in Denver Fashion Week in 2019 and I went just as a guest in 2018. And once I came to this event … it just inspired me to keep making clothes and to be a part of it. I’m just so extremely grateful to achieve this goal.”
After an intermission, Electric Bubblegum took the runway and did not disappoint. Neon pinks, purples, greens, yellows and blues lined the runway with plastic butterflies and hearts defining most of the looks. Dresses with game boys, sparkly clips, clear bags and matching shoes made this collection unlike any other. Several raincoats made it feel like a rainy day in CandyLand. As the models walked the runway together towards the end of the show, it was astonishing how each look in the collection fit together so seamlessly.
For this collection, founder and designer Mariah Hodges was inspired by “toys I had as a little kid … So different things like game boys, Tamagotchis, there were like these things called water wigglers … liquid glitter, neon bracelets. Like all this crazy 90s-2000s stuff.”
The final show of DFW 2021 was the cherry on top. Melanie Joyce’s collection was elegantly simple, but her presentation was absolutely captivating. The show began with a Maya Angelou quote echoing through the room: “I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love, because that liberates. Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold – that’s ego.”
A soothing ambiance and little-to-no makeup and hairstyling allowed each garment to stand on its own. The dresses were textured and flattering and defined by bold primary colors like red, blue, green and yellow. The shapes of each piece were so unique, there was really no need for excess accessories or styling. Many of the looks were unconventional two-piece sets with shapes, unlike the typical set.
After a brief pause, the finale of the show caused the audience to erupt. A standing ovation gave way to a model wearing a breathtaking headpiece followed by several other models walking alongside her. Joyce appeared in a stunning red jumpsuit as the crowd cheered and clapped along. This phenomenal collection truly took shape when all of the looks were displayed side-by-side and proved to be the best way to end the long-awaited Denver Fashion Week 2021.