Duane Toppings at the White Party

What were your obsessions growing up? 

I’ve always been obsessed with art.  It started out with my desire to be a cartoonist, then shifted to art history as I got older. Now, I love the artistic development of fashion.  Seeing my art in motion is a wonderful experience. 

How did fashion become the symbol for your creative expression?

After I retired from military service I had a difficult time adjusting to my new life.  Numerous combat deployments took its toll.  One day I bought a sewing machine and found my niche.  Now, my clothes have become an expression of who I am.  I’m a soldier, a biker, a feminist, a scholar, and an artist.  Being a clothing designer allows me to embrace all of that at once.

Do you see a stylistic connection between the things you do in your daily life that is reflected into your collections?

My clothes absolutely reflect me as a person.  I try and keep a cohesive line but also diversify my aesthetics with each garment to match my personality.  I’m always perfecting my construction and readjusting my design which is a replication of my own life changes. Being retired allows me to devote more time to my art and the softness of the textiles and the flow of the garments is an allegory to that freedom.  Having the opportunity to bring people along on my journey is important to me.  Women’s clothing, I think, expresses the feminist in me, so I always strive to design with that feminine power in mind.  Every woman deserves to look and feel good regardless of the hegemony of the world.

What is your research process like before starting a collection?

I study every woman I see.  What they wear, and how they walk has given me insight into how I can recreate that confidence.  In terms of inspiration for the lines, I love talking with real women.  That allows me a greater appreciation of how they express themselves through their clothes.  I then strive to capture that internal character and translate it into something that can be worn.  Every day is an opportunity to be inspired.

How has fashion impacted you? 

Fashion has become my world.  I’ve been able to shift from a very rigid environment to something magical.   Designing clothes has opened my long dormant artist side and I’ve embraced that whole heartedly.  I hope to use this new passion to make an impact in other areas of my life.  Namely, I’m beginning to work towards more philanthropically focused endeavors.  I’m not hoping to be rich, but I hope to share my good fortune with causes that deserve the support.  Bringing my art to life, in the end, is what it’s all about.   

What is your opinion on the fashion scene in Denver from a designers perspective?

Being new to the industry, I’ve got a lot to learn yet.  But, I was able to attend the Denver Fashion Week and was very impressed with what I saw.  The local designers were brilliant and approachable.  The turnout was amazing and I sparked me to pursue this fashion dream.

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