Exposing Fashion in the Mile-High City
When people talk about high fashion, Denver isn’t the first city that comes to mind.
Fashion designer Troe Williams, proprietor of Vandalism Designs, is a veteran in the industry celebrating 31 years. Williams believes the Mile High City can become a must stop in the fashion world.
Colorado is a perfect place to enjoy the outdoors – meaning most people are comfortable wearing blue jeans and flip-flops for pretty much any occasion. However, Williams is working diligently to transform and enlarge the fashion world in the Mile High City– despite the unfortunate hurdles they continue to face concerning nationality.
“It should be more about the quality of a designers creations and less about the color of skin,” Williams says. “My goal is to bring national attention to Denver’s black fashion scene.”
William’s has been able to identify the perfect market: Producing one of the kind specialty pieces for his buyers. Inspired at a young age while watching Diana Ross on The Ed Sullivan Show, Williams knew then he would become an imaginative designer.
“One thing my customers never have to worry about is seeing someone else in the exact same piece,” Williams explains.
The pieces in Vandalism Design’s collection are Avant-garde and derived from a moment in fashion history like no other, according to Williams whose collections are described as futuristic black excellence.
Despite being reluctant to the idea of their nephew’s dream to sew, Williams’ aunts provided the material for his first garment. Full of passion, Williams designed a dress from a curtain in the fifth grade and never looked back. He prides in being different. Williams’ slogan punctuates his creative drive: “Sometimes you have tostandout, to fit in.”
The skills Williams learned and used to garner such an eclectic fashion house were developed in Detroit, under the keen eye of a cousin, who is a fashion designer. That single curtain dress extended itself into a phase of reupholstering furniture, customizing clothing for a wide range of clients, andeventually Williams’ talent established a following allowing him to move to Hollywood.
While residing in Hollywood, Williams created garments for big names such as Jada Pickett-Smith and Denverite Pam Grier, despite reaching an all-time high in a creative industry that doesn’t always fare kindly. Nonetheless, Williams used this as a tool for his success and motivation to climb higher heights.
“It’s important to follow your dreams,” he says. “Don’t give them up!”
Williams believes anyone with confidence and a little strut can fulfill their dream of modeling. His first upcoming event entitled ‘OLOS’ is slated for showing later this year. The social media fashion show will showcase Williams’ new leather and copper jewelry collection as well as new clothing designs. He will participate in the Denver Tattoo Convention on Sept. 29, promoting his abilities and expanding his horizons in the community before his big event.
On Oct. 6, Williams is scheduled to host the runway ‘Fashiontopia.’ This week-long event is meant to enlighten the local fashion industry regarding the talent and uniqueness of Black designers, an outlet where local and national Black designers can display their finest work.
Williams believes “Fashiontopia will acquire significant attention for our black fashion community and could provide a bit of competition for Colorado’s Denver Fashion Week, scheduled for Nov. 4 to 11.
Sewing, beading, hand painting or embroidery, if you can describe it, Williams can design it.
Williams isn’t alone in getting things on the move in Colorado. Vocalist Sheryl Renee, now producer, is a professional entertainer fostered in the industry and entertaining for 37 years. In 2009, Sheryl Renee had the honor of singing the National Anthem for President Barack Obama.
Although Sheryl Renee has sewing abilities, surprisingly she would rather spend her free time bargain shopping, saying she loves the thrill of the challenge.
At a youngage Renee’s grandmother Elizabeth Crowe inspired and validated her confidence in the saying that, “Black is Beautiful.” Confirming this to be true, it was essential to attend performances by the Ebony Fashion and the Traveling Black Models in the 70’s, to stimulate zeal and self-esteem. To this day, Renee says this to all Black women, “Accept who you are and love yourself.”
Renee will be hosting a fashion show at the Field House event center displaying the Wilbourn Sisters Designs on August 12. Additionally there will be a pop-up sale for those who wish to purchase customized designs before the main event, which starts at 5 p.m.
Renee is excited to bring the Wilbourn sister’s fashion collection to the Mile High City for the first time. While residing and performing in Atlanta, Renee met the creative Wilbourn family in 1991. Their relationship flourished in respect, admirationand support for one another.
All seven Wilbourn daughters were taught by their mother to become seamstresses carrying their legacy forward with the family tag: “To God be the Glory.” The Wilbourn sisters own two boutiques, one in Los Angeles the other in Atlanta.
Janice and Carolyn Wilbourn, owners of Wilbourn Sisters Designs Inc., are proud to say that God has blessed them to become international fashion designers. “We design and manufacture designs to soothe the soul,” says Janice.
They are two of seven sewing sisters originally from Jackson, Tennessee who learned their skills and talents from their mother, known as Queen Mother Elizabeth.
“Our mother taught all her daughters to sew, to be creative and become entrepreneurs at a very young age,” says Carolyn. “We market and sell our own line of fashions all over the world. Our family has been in business for more than 50 years.”
They have traveled and worked extensively abroad in West Germany, Paris, France and producing formal and informal runway fashion shows throughout the United States, as well as, traveling to the Islands. “We work with a passion and will travel wherever requested, whetherfor profit or nonprofit organizations,” added Janice.
Wilbourn Sisters Designs are exclusive original fashions for women and men of all nationalities ranging from soft, flowing ensembles to wrap dresses that fit all sizes.
The overall mission for Wilbourn Sisters Design, Inc. is to continue their Mother’s legacy by passing on the trade of sewing and designing to the next generation.
Equally important is the delightful Carol Mier who is amild mannered woman with an authentic passion to design clothing, and loving the idea of creating something different.
Mier eloped at the age of 17 and found herself in Colorado following her dream – which she has been operating for 20 years.
Carol Mier Fashions, located on Santa Fe Drive, offers assorted customized accessories. Every first and third Friday of the month, all the galleries on the block are open to the public and everyone is welcome. “It’s like being at the Mardi Gras,” says Mier.
Taught by her best friend in junior high to sew, Mier’s obsession exploded. She attended Emily Griffith Opportunity School in Denver when classes were $2 a semester, learning everything offered concerning sewing. She later worked seven years in alterations for the May D&F department store becoming proficient in her craft.
“I have always had an appreciation for fabric,” Mier says with a smile. “It draws me. I purchase and receive fabric from all over the world. I believe it’s connected to a higher power.”
“I had to work for everything I have,” Mier explains. “I’m grateful I can grab something out of the alley and make it beautiful. My mother taught me to be resourceful and I am grateful for that. It would be a sin not to believe in myself.”
Mier devotes her time to sewing and creating designs for various ages and gender from children to celebrities included. She teaches one-on-one sewing classes for those wishing to develop their talent, as well as offers an internship sharing her unique skills and flair.
“It’s not so much about the money; it’s about celebrating life while you’re living,” Mier says. “My inspiration grows from people looking and feeling beautiful about them.”
Mier desires to bring out the neglected beauty buried within. Her goal is to empower women to look pretty and feel good about themselves. She deems it’s a way for her to give back while remaining inspired by what she does best.
Likewise,Jaketa Rowe, the elegant soft-spoken owner of Filettas Couture Boutique, who recently relocated to 8246 E. 49th Ave. in Northfield, promotes unique garments designed by local, national and international fashion designers for the busy casual woman.
Filetta’s has been operating for two years. It’s open seven days a week and installed with a runway for fashion shows and clients who wish to walk the red carpet. The customers have their picture taken and presented as a gift of appreciation.
Rowe says her clients need to know the garments they wear are customized and unique, making them feel comfortable and good about them.
Rowe retired from 25 years of service in the financial realm of corporate America has a Bachelor’s degree in business and is studying to obtain her Masters.
Besides managing her boutique, Rowe is happily married with two children, two grandchildren. Her husband and daughter support the family business.
“I’ve always wanted to open a boutique,” Rowe says. “I was inspired by my mother and named the boutique after her. I love what I do, helping to enrich people and giving back.”
Filetta’s fashion model is, “We are a boutique who empowers women to look and feel elegant with confidence.”
Though Rowe is no seamstress, she collaborates with those who are, showcasing various artist fashion designs on a monthly basis. Her boutique is filled with customized garments from various places like Canada, New Yorkand California. She believes to take an old piece of clothing – cut, re-shape or add to it – defines altering. It’s creating something new with something old and that’s ingenuity,” she says.
“If I see something I like,” Rowe says, “I can visualize it on myself or other ladies, the skin tone, the uniqueness of the garment, creativity and the happiness it inspires.”
Rowe’s genuine compassion for people allows her to make a difference in the lives she has the pleasure of interacting with. Rowe understands if people look good they feel good.
Rowe is involved with the community and believes in giving back by partnering with organizations like Dress for Success and the Hope of Colorado, an organization that helps youngteen-age mothers turn their lives around and become responsible contributions to society.
Rowe relishes in holding local shelter fashion shows twice a year where she gives away garments, inspiring women to pull upward. She also collects toiletries for distribution to local shelters.
As a beacon of light, Rowe understands people are valuable and no one in this world is exempt from reality or the curves life brings. Rowe believes in confidence-building andprompting women to feel good about them.