Ten years ago, the Denver Design Incubator had only just begun, Mondo Guerra was just starting his design career as a contestant on the eighth season of Project Runway and a full, week-long series of events known as Denver Fashion Week (DFW) was but a dream in the minds of a few Denver fashion visionaries. It’s been an incredible decade. As we reflect on the milestones Denver fashion has experienced and ruminate about what’s to come, 10 local designers enter the forefront of our minds. Some of them have been around for years, while others are still in their infancy. No matter where they are in their own timelines, each one is sure to make on impact in 2020.
The Lowdown: This year, Prada, Gucci and Chanel all announced company-wide commitments to more sustainable practices and Zara released a statement that it will be organic, sustainable or recycled by 2025. The clothing industry’s environmental impact has taken center stage, and Denver’s False Ego is leading the local landscape. Not much more than a year ago, Jevon Taylor debuted False Ego — a brand that emphasizes the importance of responsible shopping. What made us stand up and take notice was how Taylor took the principles of sustainability and responsible sourcing and made them undeniably cool. His clean line of streetwear was a crowd favorite during his debut show at DFW Fall ‘19, leaving the community excited about what’s to come in the future.
“The Summer (June) of 2020 will mark year two of being a company and we’re definitely looking forward to establishing ourselves/getting a foot in the door with other segments of sustainability and environmental educational services while also, of course, continuing to build our brand, allowing our garments to tell more of our story through the growth of our designs and new fabric/materials we’re looking forward to experimenting with,” Taylor shared.
He has successfully merged the two worlds of edgy streetwear and sustainable fashion, a feat that will definitely have an impact in 2020 as Denver collectively moves toward existence as a more eco-friendly city.
Vincent and Saul Jimenez
The Lowdown: In a captivating dichotomy between individual modesty and strikingly bold design work, brothers Vincent and Saul Jimenez are gaining momentum in Denver with their design house, MENEZ. Their DFW ‘19 “Belisama Collection” truly showcased their evolution from accessory makers to sophisticated designers. The clothing ranged from tailored menswear to couture women’s wear in their signature flower silhouette cuts, both designed in a collaborative effort. It was impressive, to say the least, and left us begging to know what’s next. “We are working on a couple collections from couture to ready-to-wear. That includes clothing, jewelry and leather goods. We are currently working on something new that we have never done before, the MENEZ athletic line,” said the duo. If their past work is any indication of what’s to come, MENEZ’s new line will irrevocably change Denver’s definition of athleisure.
The Lowdown: Although Anthony Heimann founded Nicholas Anthony Clothing in 2007, his cerebral approach to fashion continues to enthrall us. His mix of modern and vintage, art and style, architecture and nature creates an aesthetic unlike any other. After a brief hiatus, Heimann returned to DFW for the Fall ‘19 with an inspired collection and a promise to create again in 2020.
“2020 will bring a new aesthetic for Nicholas Anthony Clothing. Designs will evolve into a romantically lighter expression from the apocalyptic glamour of 2012,” said Heimann. “While womenswear has always been our specialty, the androgynous looks of the younger generations have inspired designing for the male figure as well. For Nicholas Anthony Clothing, 2020 will feature flowing iridescent textures of futuristic glamour for an extraterrestrial feel. Additionally, replica textiles such as faux photovoltaic metallic knits and extreme organic shapes are intended to inspire the possibilities of technologically advanced outdoor wear. Now than ever before, the human body is an endless canvas of expression, individuality and self-confidence.”
The Lowdown: Designer Hunter Higgins started local brand, Royal Outerwear simply — with a crochet hook and thread.
“I have always been creative and when I was in high school, I had an assignment to create a mock business — name, logo, letterhead, etc. That’s where I came up with the concept of the brand. While I was still making hats and other products for people, I started Royal Outerwear for real. Essentially, a class assignment and endless hours of crocheting hats [are] where Royal Outerwear began,” he shared.
Today, Royal Outerwear is an elevated streetwear brand that includes tees, hoodies, pants and accessories that feature both original and collaborative art designs on quality fabric. To Higgins, it’s much more than a clothing line, it’s a way to create a modern sense of belonging, as everyone who wears Royal Outerwear is part of his “Royal family.” Higgins recently returned to DFW with a line that combined the cool factor of streetwear with the polish of clothing from the 1920s. “I am a big fan of the movie Public Enemies and the show, Peaky Blinders. There is something about that time period that I find really rad, like the way everyone dresses up just to go out and socialize. So, I did a bit more research into that era, mixed it with a street style vibe and ran with it,” explained Higgins. The combination worked, and worked well, firmly placing Higgins in the local scene as a modern Denver creative.
Kyle Theret and Parker Orms
The Lowdown: When thinking of Denver’s beginnings as part of the wild American west and the people who lived at that time, one accessory stands out above many others — the hat. The Stetson has been inextricably linked to cowboy culture. It seems natural then that this modern western city now has hat designers who are as much a part of Denver’s fashion community as its couture designers. Kyle Theret and Parker Orms, owners of Encounter Hat Co, took 2019 by storm with their bespoke hat company that offers a variety of styles to choose from. Although both Theret and Orms started their careers in sports, it wasn’t long before they returned to fashion as third-generation hat creasers. Accessory trends come and go, but we think Encounter Hat Co will be part of the evolving Denver fashion scene well into 2020.
The Lowdown: Crystal Lee started her label, C.R. Lee, in 2013 as a way to provide women of all sizes with quality, sophisticated designs. With a background that includes time spent in Miami and Southern California, Lee adds an undeniable beach vibe that flows through each of her designs, whether that’s in the silhouette or fabric choice. Her most recent line, “Tomboi 2020,” is a combination of versatile, flowy jumpsuits and dresses and edgy, laser cut tops, shorts and dresses made out of neoprene, all of which appeared on the Paris Fashion Week runway in September. In 2020, Lee plans to continue the momentum created in 2019. “I have really grown as a designer both creatively and professionally and really planted some new C. R. Lee seeds to harvest in the new year,” said Lee. “This next year, I will be focusing placement in a couple retail locations and continuing to grow my online and custom clientele base and continuing to be open to whatever the universe, God, etc. has planned for me.”
The Lowdown: Steve Sells has been a designer for more than 20 years and has even appeared at New York Fashion Week, making him a long-standing, celebrated creative in this community. His Shibori/tie-dye, silk garments are all created impeccably by hand to accentuate their shape and flow rather than detract from them. As a member of the “Art to Wear” movement, Sells treats fabric as a fine artist would treat a canvas, his needle and thread are his brush and paint. His most recent collection — which graced the runway for DFW Fall ‘19 — showed his ability to marry the concept of youth with sophistication, a talent Denver needs as it garners national attention.
The Lowdown: Thomas Jefferson High School student, Kajuanee, founded his own streetwear brand called Overseer Productions in April of this year and debuted at DFW in November. What started as a t-shirt line quickly evolved into hoodies, sweatpants, overalls, goggles and lingerie. Kajuanee built Overseer as a way to inspire others to control their own destiny separate from the traditional daily grind working for someone else. “When you put on Overseer, it’s grind time. Let me wake up, and let’s go get some revenue and build our future. In the future, you have full control of your time and money,” explained Kajuanee in an interview with 303 Magazine. As for what’s next, “Whatever I see in my head or envision, I’ll make it. If it’s good, you’ll see it. If it’s not good, then a different design.”