Denver Fashion Week is fast approaching. This year’s eighth and final show is Sustainable Night, a night dedicated to fashion that in some way is created with equality, social welfare, animal rights or ecological impact at its core.
The night showcases designers and stylists committed to sustainability in fashion. The designers featured include The Pants Company, Rags, Scarlett Begonias Vintage & Thrift, The Lost Room, Killionare, Imaginary Friends and Uniqu U Jean.
Secondhand and sustainable fashion is experiencing a boom in popularity. However, shopping at thrift stores hasn’t always had a place on the runway. Considered unsanitary, buying from charity shops and flea markets has long been a symbol of lower-class status.
At Sustainable Night, secondhand clothing will have its moment on the runway. Secondhand resellers and consignment stores will show collections made up of high-end looks pieced together with secondhand clothing.
Rags Consignment is one of the resellers showing at Sustainable Night. Through their consignment program, where the community can resell their clothing, Rags helps to give the pieces that come through their shop a new life outside of the landfill.
The shop is a curated collection of gently-used secondhand pieces, from designer brands to vintage and modern clothing and accessories. Kimberly Rayfield is the manager of Rags Consignment and the stylist behind their Sustainable Fashion collection. To prepare for Denver Fashion Week, she’s using pieces from Rags to put together a collection that fights the stigma against secondhand clothing.
For this year’s Sustainable Night, Rayfield is styling looks inspired by cutting loose.
“We might be heading into a ‘roaring 20’s’ because of the pandemic. So I was really thinking about the freedom that fashion was finding in the 1920’s and in the ‘80’s, after the Vietnam War: hair got bigger, color got bolder,” said Rayfield of her inspiration.
For her DFW collection, Rayfield is combining themes from those two decades: “They were all about glam, sparkle, rethinking gender.” Her collection will highlight a key staple of what gives sustainable fashion its edge: her collection will contain one-of-a-kind items that likely cannot be found on the racks of a department store or from an online fast fashion platform.
Rayfield is prepping for Denver Fashion Week not only as a stylist: she’s also helping her customers style the perfect head-turning outfits.
Brett Lord and Kitty Koch, two regular customers at Rags, shopped the store’s inventory for the perfect DFW look – assembled entirely from secondhand pieces.
Combining their own style know-how with Rayfield’s expertise, Koch and Lord put looks together that stayed true to their personal fashion taste–while remaining sustainable.
“It’s all about utilizing what’s there,” Lord said of secondhand fashion. “Even when you’re donating, it still ends up in the landfill. If you use intention and bring it into a consignment store, you can help keep it out of the landfill.”
A key subsect of sustainable fashion, buying second hand has increased in popularity over the past five years. This boom has made space for collectives like Tristan Bego and Jenny Neal’s SPELLING to exist.
Bego and Neal own The Common Collective, a Black- and woman-owned collective of local vintage and second-hand resellers. Collectives like The Common Collective help to bring secondhand fashion into the mainstream with an inclusive inventory of unique pieces.
Bego is another stylist and designer showing at Sustainable Night of Denver Fashion Week. This year, Bego is curating a collection of her original designs with her company, The Pants Company.
At this year’s show, The Pants Company will highlight sustainability through handmade clothing made based on demand.
Together with the company’s seamstress, Michael Sullivan, the pair design every pair of pants custom to the person wearing them. For this year’s Denver Fashion Week collection, Bego and Sullivan designed the pieces custom for each model.
As the company’s designer and stylist, Bego is involved from the very first sketch all the way through to the runway. She designs each piece, works with Sullivan to create a workable sketch, and custom orders fabrics for the pants’ creation.
In being deliberate with the fabric that the Pants Company uses, Bego is committed to sustainable design. She sees her journey as a thrifter, reseller, stylist, and designer as an opportunity to shed light on the world of sustainable fashion. While doing so, she designs a collection that is both completely unique and deeply personal.
“This is a very personal collection. We were very intentional with the designs of the pants,” stated Bego.. “I wanted to bring my cultural background into the design: what makes me Black and the things I was brought up around.”
Not only simply representing her cultural background, Bego uses her platform to give back to a community that she cares for. By educating those around her about sustainability through thrifting and design, she acts as an agent for change in the fashion industry.
“I’m super grateful for the opportunity to be creative and present what’s in my head,” said Bego. “And as a designer with a sustainability background, I want to bring those together and be a resource to my community and teach those who don’t understand thrifting how to live completely sustainably. I want to be the change I hope to see.”
In doing so, Bego hopes to see a shift toward a more sustainable model of fashion across the mainstream. With her Sustainable Night collection, she is highlighting the opportunity within sustainable fashion design to create something that is, in her words, ‘never before seen.”
Calling the Sustainable Night show her “senior project,” Bego hinted at a show inspired by this desire to stay unique and creative: “‘Never seen before’ is the whole inspiration. I love digging in and creating something original, extreme, with a gag factor–’why would she do that?’
Sustainable Night brings attention to the versatility of sustainable fashion. Whether designed from scratch or with items from the thrift store, sustainable fashion presents an opportunity to create one-of-a-kind looks without hurting the planet. Showing up to support people like Rayfield and Bego can help to push sustainable and ethical fashion into the mainstream across Denver and the fashion industry as a whole.
Editors Note: In addition to managing her own brand, co-owning The Common Collective and preparing for Denver Fashion Week, Tristan Bego also writes for 303 Magazine.
Sustainable Night of Denver Fashion Week is Sunday November 20 from 4:00-8:00 p.m. at Denver Sports Castle.
Photographed and edited by Adrienne Thomas
Fashion Writer Kymberly Drapcho