Thirty years ago, Carol Mier packed up her belongings, closed her storefront and traveled from New Mexico to Denver. With no money in her pocket, she remained optimistic about finding a new place to call home. She knew she wanted to have a storefront in an art district that also offered a place for her to live. Lucky for her, her realtor found a beat-up machine shop. Though the floor was covered in dirt and mold, and the ceiling was cracked — Mier knew it was the perfect place. After six months of rebuilding, her store was opened to the public.
Now, she is the first woman to own an art gallery in the art district.“It’s so important for women to know that I didn’t get it from a trust fund, I didn’t get what I have from an ex-husband, I got everything by believing in myself,” Mier said.
Becoming the first women-owned art gallery is only one of Mier’s many accomplishments. She has also won Colorado Designer of the year, has had her designs featured in the Buell Theater Lobby and the Dener Art Museum, and showcased a collection at Denver Fashion Week.
Mier began her fashion design journey in 5th grade after her best friend taught her how to sew. From there, Mier took inspiration from a magazine and created a pleated, nontraditional skirt.
“I would go to school with my designs and everyone would be like ‘where did you get those designs?’” Mier said. In the beginning, Mier was designing from her kitchen table until her friend encouraged her to open up a storefront. Though she was hesitant at first, Mier saw that talking to people wasn’t as scary as she thought it would be.
Mier’s designs are inspired by the beauty of the ‘30s and ‘40s and the richness of different cultures. She also takes pride in being as sustainable as possible, something her mother taught her.
“My mom grew up in the Great Depression and she taught me how to be very resourceful,” Mier said. “Even though we had money growing up, she still was very careful about everything and I learned that from her.”
It’s because of this that Mier recycles her scraps and turns them into wall art or an entirely new garment like a toddler’s dress.
“I want to work more towards educating people on how not to be so wasteful,” Mier said. Mier’s design process begins with fabric where she said that she can instantly envision what she wants to create because it just speaks to her. From there, she judges the weight of the fabric, how it looks, the way it falls, etc. Then, she begins constructing. When she starts designing, Mier said that she often finds herself in a “meditative state.”
This results in a double-sided scarf made out of a blue fluffy blanket, a long coat made out of a vintage curtain, or a simple Victoria’s Secret slip combined with vintage lace and an old skirt. For Mier, the possibilities are endless. With her unique design approach, it’s no surprise that it captures people’s attention. One person, in particular, is a singer-songwriter – Lon Van Eaton. He and his brother, Derrek Van Eaton, signed with The Beatles’ Apple Records and have released countless successful albums. Mier said that she knew Lon and his wife and he would throw elaborate musical gatherings at his ranch and invite her to attend.
Not only did she have the opportunity to design clothes for him, but Mier also watched him create and record his music.
“He would invite me and a lot of creatives from different countries to give our feedback [on his music],” Mier said. “I was really impressed that he wanted me to be a part of that process.”
While designing for Van Eaten was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Mier still finds herself gravitating towards encouraging women to stand out and feel confident in themselves, something that she finds is often challenging.
“I find that women are afraid to stand out and it’s not always about standing out but it’s more about being unique and having an interesting look,” Mier said. “They always say, ‘well that’s dressy’ and well, it’s not necessarily dressy but being expressive.” However, once a woman finds the right look, Mier said that their reactions are the reason why she loves designing.
“I like to see how good women feel when they try something on. You can see their spirits lift and it just makes me feel really good that I can help contribute to that,” Mier said.
Visit Mier during the First Friday Art Walk on Wednesday, June 1, from 6-9 p.m. at Denver’s Art District on Sante Fe.
All photography by Michael Hameister.