Factory Fashion Academy is teaching its way to a thriving creative community.
Founded by Skye Barker Maa, Fashion Factory Academy is an offshoot of Factory Five Five nestled in the Stanley Marketplace. Its sleek industrial setting is interspersed with bright flashes of color and interesting light fixtures meant to inspire creative freedom.
Fashion is among the most exciting channels for the creative spirit.
From fabric choices to silhouettes to stitching, clothing designers have a plethora of variables to play with. Freedom of that scope means the possibilities are endless.
Obviously, this means designers need to know a lot about their craft. Successful execution requires lots of skill. Designers need to have both vision and technical knowledge to succeed.
Unfortunately, finding teachers in this arena is one of the biggest challenges facing would-be fashion designers. Enter Fashion Factory Academy.
Inside, the space immediately presents itself as open and free. The decor represents Fashion Factory’s purpose. Its minimalistic, modern concept encourages free association.
Fashion Factory is a space for open creativity. The basic skills taught there are the blank canvas upon which students paint their masterpieces.
We sat down with Barker Maa to discuss her inspiration for the academy, Denver’s creative scene, and how she hopes to contribute to the unique fashion community.
The Call to Colorado
As a child, Barker Maa moved around a lot. She spent her early years moving between European countries as her father served in the military.
When it came time to attend college, she decided Colorado was the place. Barker Maa moved here to pursue her bachelor’s from Metropolitan State University. Once here, she fell in love with the unique culture and community.
“I think I was just emotionally ready to have roots somewhere,” she said. Having seen a wide range of potential homes, Colorado captured her creative heart.
This was largely due to Barker Maa recognizing the budding creative community. “The arts community in the metro area has been evolving so fast,” she said.
When she moved here 28 years ago, she immediately felt the creative potential. It is precisely this that would inspire her to start Factory Fashion Academy.
The Inspiration for Fashion Factory
Barker Maa drew inspiration from her daughter. She set out to provide the experience she felt her own child wanted. What she felt her daughter was missing she contributed herself.
“All of my businesses have been started for one of my children. My daughter was taking a lot of sewing lessons. I didn’t feel like she was taking away what she really wanted from it,” she said.
Seeing as home education isn’t taught in schools, Barker Maa set out to teach designers the need to express themselves. She hopes to keep these skills alive for generations.
The Factory Fashion space is also the answer to the physical requirements of fashion design. With its multitude of different artistic endeavors, Factory Five Five quickly became too crowded for designers. They needed to expand to provide proper creative space.
“It happened shockingly fast,” Barker Maa said. “When I first started Factory, I wanted theatre, film, and fashion there.”
With so many creatives, the space quickly became cramped. “Designers need worktables, they need floor, they need space to move. Here we have all of that,” she said.
Now designers are free to spread out. They have the open area to visualize, create, and bring their ideas into the real world in a space that supports them.
Factory Fashion Academy Teaches Skills for Self-Expression
Building on these foundational principles, Factory Fashion Academy places students first. Their mission is to empower them both technically and creatively.
“We’re hoping they walk away with the skills to actually make their own clothes. I hope they walk away with the depth of what is possible and the skills to actually execute it,” Barker Maa said.
This extends beyond making T-shirts or sweatpants. Factory Fashion Academy recently launched multiple drag classes. Aimed at enabling the deepest form of self-expression, these classes are available for all age groups.
Kids and adults alike are encouraged to follow their own creative impulses. By providing them with technical training, the academy gives growing designers valuable tools.
Students of the academy learn valuable technical skills. Classes like intro to fashion, professional makeup, and costume design teach students the physical logistics of creating whatever look they desire.
But it doesn’t stop there. Factory Fashion also teaches the soft skills designers need to bring their personality to their projects. They learn how to reimagine trends and create conceptual sketches, allowing originality to flourish.
The end result is that students leave with the ability to imagine new pieces and the technical skills to create them. With classes for various age groups centering on everything from drag to basic sewing to advanced techniques, Factory Fashion Academy helps creatives grow at all levels.
At the end of every class, students participate in a runway show. Prior pieces have included everything from sandals to bucket hats to rompers. With newfound confidence and prowess, the unique personality of each student shines through in these pieces.
Supporting the Creative Community
While Fashion Factory Academy aims at empowering individuals, the community is deeply entwined. The uniqueness of each creator comes together to form a vibrant creative community.
Barker Maa wants to create a space for collaboration. “There’s so much diversity, the thread is that people need a space to create art,” she said. This is what Factory Fashion hopes to provide.
“We’re saying let’s share space and let’s work together. Let’s create a community together and support each other,” she said.
The creative community supports the individual, and the individual furthers the community in turn. This is what Factory Fashion is all about.
An Eye to the Future
The emphasis for Factory Fashion will always be the Denver community. The goal is to grow with the community, supporting innovation in new directions.
“We’re starting with just being an active member of our community. We want to provide space, provide opportunity, and collaborate as much as possible,” Barker Maa said.
As part of that mission, Factory Fashion remains open to anyone. Whether it’s a seasoned designer or just someone interested in fashion, everyone is encouraged to explore the space, hang out, or enroll in one of the academy’s classes.
One thing’s certain: the future of Factory Fashion will continue to be unique and inspired.
“What else can we do that’s nontraditional, that’s exciting? We’re just starting to really explore all the different ways that we can intersect with our communities. It’s vast openness for us,” Barker Maa said.
All Photography by Adrienne Thomas