Hosted by Void Studios, an Upcycling Challenge on Saturday, May 14 featured five stylists and an array of stunning looks meant for the runway. Over 50 models took the catwalk wearing carefully curated pieces that were thrifted, upcycled and pieced together to make a statement.
Upcycling, a relatively new phenomenon, takes something that already exists and uses the blueprint of the item or piece to design an improved version. According to UpcycleThat.com, upcycling is “the act of taking something no longer in use and giving it a second life and new function. In doing so, the finished product often becomes more practical, valuable and beautiful than what it previously was.”
In the fashion industry specifically, upcycling is a great way to prevent waste and to refurbish garments that are no longer in style or “trendy.” Rather than tossing or giving the piece away, upcycling can bring new life to apparel. The beauty of the process is that anyone can upcycle clothes in their wardrobe. However, designers are embracing this practice as well to prioritize sustainability and take advantage of materials and pieces that already exist.
Therefore, the turnout for this show was strong due to the interesting nature of upcycling and its popularity in sustainability-driven fashion industries like Denver. Spirits were high as audience members mingled in the studio prior to the show. While the night itself was quite toasty due to a lack of air conditioning in the space, a little bit of sweat didn’t stop the Denver fashion community from coming together to celebrate local designers and stylists. The open bar was a fabulous touch, too.
The show began with a few words from local stylist and artist Quana Madison. To follow was a collection from Lauren Walker, a familiar face for many in the Denver fashion community. While this was Walker’s first runway show, she is an experienced model that has walked on a plethora of runways in Denver.
Walker’s collection was sleek and sexy. In true upcycling style, each look was created by layering fabrics to create dimension. From silk to satin to velvet, the materials used in each look accentuated the collection and made for a classy ensemble. As the models walked down the runway, they interacted with one another. It almost felt like they were flirting with each other, which elevated the looks and contributed to the alluring collection.
Madison presented her collection next with looks that were colorful and artistic. It’s clear how much work went into this collection by the beauty and artfulness of each piece. With splatter-painted textures and symbols on blazers, gowns and more, this collection bridged art and fashion in a unique and captivating way. The looks were abstract, yet elegant, funky and stylish.
Prior to the show, Madison met with each of her models to learn their stories. This was the first time that a majority of her models were walking the runway. As a result, she opted to design each look based on the individual that was wearing it.
“It feels good to uplift and provide the opportunity to make them feel good,” Madison said. “Every person really is a masterpiece of art just being who they are. [We’re all] living works of art.”
Following a brief intermission, Davry Ratcliffe, stylist and owner of Twiga G Styles, presented a lively collection that made a statement. Accessories were the focal point that brought each look to the next level. Models wore shimmery socks, elaborate pearl jewelry and even a necklace adorned with shark teeth.
When one thinks of true vintage fashion, these looks are the image that comes to mind. In mixing prints and patterns, Ratcliffe brought the essence of upcycling fashion to Void Studios. He proved that transforming a garment elevates its appeal and creates an entirely different fashion statement. Along with the energy of this collection, the colorful looks and the sassy attitudes of the models made for a tremendous segment, leaving audience members feeling inspired.
Kimberly Rayfield, manager at Rags Consignments, brought a phenomenal collection that was cohesive and full of energy. Model pairs took the runway together for each look with matching pieces. The intention behind every look was incredible, with specific color schemes, accessories and textures that took the audience through eras in time with a spin on upcycling and vintage fashion. From bright neons to intricate patches on jackets and blazers, this collection was groovy yet stunning.
Following Rayfield’s Denver Fashion Week debut this past season, it is clear that she is making a name for herself as a talented stylist and designer in the Denver fashion scene.
Matilda Marginal, a Denver-based designer and owner of the brand MARGINAL, closed the show with an enthralling collection. Marginal is known to create looks that are much more than just fashion. They make a statement on social issues or societal problems that are relevant to both the fashion industry and everyday life. MARGINAL designs tell a story and leave the audience questioning the premise of the looks in order to develop their own interpretations of the pieces.
The collection featured plain black dresses with human organs attached in their respective places. What looked like it was created with pantyhose, the anatomy of the human body was on display. From the lungs, the testicles, to the esophagus and more, each model wore a different organ. With natural hair and makeup looks, the models walked down the runway barefoot and straight-faced, in an almost life-less trance. The looks exemplified both the models’ inner beauty as well as the inner beauty of the human body.
Through intricate and abstract designs, Marginal is known to make a statement that leaves room for the audience to interpret. In this case, upcycled pieces defined the idea that fashion is much more than what can be seen from the outside.
Marginal’s take on fashion is instrumental in the Denver fashion community because her runway collections tell a story. Not only do they make an impact on the audience, but they share a message that is much larger than fashion. The creativity and intention behind MARGINAL is a force to be reckoned with, making it a privilege to experience Marginal’s growth as a designer right here in Denver.
READ: Celebrating Local Fashion in a Transformative Runway Setting – What You Missed at Denver Fashion Week Night 4
Overall, this show introduced upcycling to the runway in a meaningful way. With five incredibly different and unique collections, the audience was immersed in the process of upcycling fashion pieces. Additionally, each collection featured exquisite hair and makeup looks that tied the entire show together.
All photography by Roxanna Carrasco.
Editors Note: Updated on May 17 to include more accurate terminology when referring to models.