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On February 18th, Denver Fashion Week is holding an Emerging Designer Challenge. This opportunity will provide five local designers with runway experience, a platform to share their designs and the chance to participate in DFW Spring 2023 on April 22 – 30.
Read: Denver Fashion Week Hosts Second Designer Challenge
The five lucky designers chosen have shared insight into how they got their start in the fashion industry, as well as dive into the line they will be showcasing on the runway.
InspireD’Signs makes handmade, zero waste luxury couture for the free spirited. Designer Faye Ashwood works alongside her team of creatives — Daize Elice, Rowan Ambrose, Stephanie Lee Panos and Jovana Popic — to create zero waste products for a better future.
Ashwood got her start in the fashion world early on from her love of Barbie dolls. Her grandmother was a costume designer in the late 60s – early 70s and encouraged her curiosity for designing.
“I would spend hours on the phone with her as a child, designing things like: crushed satin and marabou feather robes, paired with fabulous old Hollywood glamor,” Ashwood said. “She would send them all to me in the mail, finished miniatures, perfectly tailored to Barbie and Ken.”
Ashwood’s creative personality came from watching her mother and father work. “My mother designs beautiful hats and jewelry. My father is an electrician and sculptor,” Ashwood said. “As a child, I would see my father build beautiful and detailed wire designs from his work scraps. My mother created delicate jewelry with the same supplies.” She described her upbringing as a zero-waste household and being “nurtured as an artist, from a very early age.”
Ashwood branched out on her own for the very first time and took a mentorship with Raquel Lopez of Venus in Velvet, an empowerment apparel Couturier. Through her relationship with Lopez, Ashwood was able to learn the skills and techniques necessary to take her designs to the next level.
Anticipating the DFW Designer Challenge, Ashwood is looking forward to meeting fellow designers, as well as viewing their collections. “The more resources we have within our communities to empower each other to learn and grow as designers and creatives, the better we all are,” said Ashwood. Regarding her line for the DFW Designer Challenge, Ashwood said, “InspireD’Signs Spring/Summer 2023 Collection represents empowerment, freedom, and love.”
Afterwards, she will begin preparing for Burner Bazaar, a pop-up outdoor marketplace outside Burning Man summer 2023.
“I aspire to curate portals for empowerment, for people to wear as fashion. A place to feel accepted, loved, nurtured, and let your imagination free.”
Hyacinth is a one-woman show and sustainable boutique that focuses on up-cycling material that would otherwise be discarded or forgotten. Designer Rachel Hazelwood will work alongside her assistant, Zach Curtis, and models — Nylah Langford, Saide Morales, Tyler Raymond, Hailey Sorensen, and Maya Otoum — during this year’s DFW Designer Challenge.
Hazelwood’s career as a clothing designer began this past year, but her love for designing came from her childhood of painting and jewelry making.
“I’ve been making jewelry and accessories for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved creating, and my maximalist style kept me interested in all kinds of fashion,” Hazelwood said. “I love transforming clothing that’s “dead” into something beautiful. All of the materials I use are thrifted and repurposed — from the fabric to the beads. I love creating pieces for the people I dress, and it’s truly the best feeling when it all comes together.”
Hazelwood’s first experience on the runway was last summer when she upcycled eight outfits, completely unique and one-of-a-kind from head to toe.
“My line was somewhat of a hybrid Victorian/80’s theme, and I had spent about a month creating each look,” Hazelwood explained. Hazelwood looked back on this time as a learning experience and has been challenging herself within her work ever since.
Hyacinth will be officially launched after the DFW Emerging Designer Challenge. It will be centered around sustainability and focus on pieces fit for everyday wear. Currently, her pieces are available via Instagram, with a website coming soon.
La Adorna, founded by designer Brittany Schall, creates one-of-a-kind pieces of ‘wearable artwork’. “La Adorna is an expression of color, form and the rebirthed childlike wonderment through the lens of fine tuned craftsmanship” said Schall.
Schall prides herself on wearing all the hats to keep her operation running. “From organizing the programming for my personal shows/events, to graphics/design, to creative makeup/photoshoots, to sales/consignment contracts, to designing/making the actual garments — I love having full creative authority over my brand on all levels,” Schall explained.
After 15 years, the birth of La Adorna came from an unexpected injury. After finding out she was numb on the entire right side of her body, Schall was forced to find a new way of creating art.
“At this time, I was a full time fine artist. I was unable to draw or paint due to limited mobility,” said Schall. “Out of necessity, I started creating headpieces from repurposed materials to sell at local markets. Eventually, I gained more movement in my body, including full use of my right arm and hand. It was then I could start sewing.”
After recovery, Schall decided to dive into her new found skill — designing. Her fine art background took her to the streets of New Orleans, where she found inspiration through trips to CDMX and the Mardi Gras culture of New Orleans.
In the past few weeks leading up to the DFW Designer Challenge, Schall is looking forward to finally having a platform to share her latest bead collections, as well as meeting fellow designers and diving into the Denver fashion scene.
Outside of her participation in DFW, Schall is beginning to create immersive art studios for clients in the Denver area.
“Each guest is dressed from head to toe in my wearable art and given a full face of creative makeup,” Schall shared. “Once every guest is outfitted, we proceed to engage in conversational prompts and activities pulled from Alastair Brotchie’s compiled collection of Surrealist games. Here, individuals are not only invited to create and speak art, they themselves become the art.”
SPYTFUL was created by designer Darlene Cancino and team — Carla Stout, Rick Brisse and Alvaro Gomez. Like her fellow competitors, Cancinno got her start designing clothing for her Barbie dolls and slowly worked her way to designing for real bodies and women. SPYTFUL produces boutique clothing for all women, regardless of lifestyle.
SPYTFUL originally began in 2019 — while Cancino was living in Miami — and was called IVORO. IVORO specialized in athleisure but was quickly cut short after factory fires and manufacturing malfunctions.
“That was my sign! I moved away from athleisure and never looked back,” Cancino said. “I began designing dresses that in ‘Spyte’ of everything happening would make women feel inspired, confident, sexy and powerful.”
As the daughter of Mexican immigrant parents, Cancino works hard every day to make them proud. “I am so proud of SPYTFUL. I am the daughter of Mexican immigrant parents — living the dream that my parents fought so hard to provide for me. I am showing other little girls that your dreams are possible in spite of challenges you may face.”
After the DFW Designer Challenge, Cancino and her team will begin preparation for a fashion show in Miami this coming July.
Feel You! In Spyte of it all.
specializes in handmade sets and individual pieces. Designer Jaida Fatou curates everything she sells individually, with support from her close friends and family. Fatou’s first experience with a sewing machine was as a young girl. Her love for tennis inspired her to design tennis outfits, which led to her mother teaching her to sew.
“I was so bad at it and everything I made did not look like my designs. I continued to sew by altering some of my clothes and my mom gifted me a sewing machine when I graduated from high school,” Fatou said.
Fatou began designing more seriously in college, where she became more comfortable working with different materials. Today, she continues to challenge herself when it comes to her work and thinking outside the box.
“Now when I design, I’ll include more advanced styles and skills that I’m trying to practice and master,” Fatou said. “I’m working really hard to gain more knowledge about materials and notations for my clothing so I can make anything I design.”
Unlike her fellow designers, Jaida is an athlete and incorporates that part of herself into her designs. However, the line she will be showing at the DFW Designer Challenge is a step outside her comfort zone.
“I’m an athlete so I usually make clothes that solve the issues I see in the athletic world. The line I’m showing in this challenge is more streetwear and ready to wear,” said Fatou. “I really wanted to showcase the different skills I’ve been working on and this opportunity has allowed me to do so. I also used sustainable and recycled materials in this collection as I want to create positive change and reduce waste in the fashion industry.”