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Style to Spare

Gino Velardi and his model have had two picture-perfect finishes.

Even Cydney Payton had big hair. Yes, the director/curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art/ Denver once teased and sprayed her hair into a voluminous cloud -- and all in the name of fashion. But she's certainly made up for that transgression and is fast becoming one of Denver's most fascinating style icons. She likes black and high heels, Miu Miu and red lipstick. She listens to TV on the Radio, eats at Z Cuisine and shops at Max. Her favorite accessory is her wedding ring.

So the Cat's Pajamas, Westword's fashion blog, enlisted the chic one to judge a special challenge as part of the Tamarac Square Fashion Project, a design competition modeled on Bravo's Project Runway. For the past month, twelve local designers -- Mona Lucero, Stephanie Ohnmacht, Crystal Sharp, Gino Velardi, Lisa Ramfjord Elstun, Tricia Hoke, Jose Clark, Nancy Sedar Sherman, Deb Henriksen, Armando Guerra, Kandyce Hudson and Alec Smith -- have been in a fashion frenzy, whipping up creation after creation and sending them down the runway on Wednesday nights, all in hopes of scoring two tickets to the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York this fall. (For you non-fashionistas, that's the style-world equivalent of seats on the glass to see the Avs in the finals; to get to the full Stanley Cup, they'd have to go to Paris.)

The first week, the designing dozen had to interpret the little black dress, a challenge that Velardi won with a kicky cocktail dress featuring a box-pleat skirt. The second week, they had to create a garment with materials from Ace Hardware, and Ohnmacht took home the prize for her summer dress made of painter's cloth, birdseed, macramé and a fiberglass kit (for the hat). Last week, they were all given the same material -- a heavy brown-and-teal polka dot fabric and a light mesh embroidered with a teal vine -- from which to construct their outfits; Velardi scored again with another cocktail dress, accessorized with gloves and "nylons" he constructed from the mesh. For the final show, at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 25, they were asked to design a day-to-evening outfit for a busy career gal.

Someone like Payton, perhaps? After all, she's just returned from Taipei, is hosting The Peace Project installation by Miami-based artists Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt at the MCA's Temporary Contemporary, and in her spare time keeps raising funds and making plans for the new museum building slated to debut at 15th and Delgany streets this fall. Already, the big question is: "What to wear to the opening?"

Henriksen, Elstun, Lucero, Ohnmacht, Sharp, Clark, Velardi and Hoke all sketched their visions for the woman who embodies Denver's merging of fashion and art; the winner of the Cydney Payton Design Challenge will receive a big prize package that includes a meet-and-greet with Payton. She named Clark, Hoke and Lucero as finalists, but to find out who won -- and who's shipping off to New York this fall -- visit the Cat's Pajamas at http://blogs.westword.com/latestword/ the_cats_pajamas/ .

Sew cool.


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