Positivity has always been Brandi Shigley’s greatest asset, and a hallmark of her designer-promoting entrepreneurial platform Fashion Denver, which began in a tiny nook in the Golden Triangle in 2004. Shigley, who got a head start in business in her early twenties by making and selling her own line of handbags, led Fashion Denver down a morphing trail of designer showrooms, fashion markets, children’s fashion camps, marketing, consulting and emceeing public events, but after fifteen years and some heart-tugging personal travails, her motto still remains: “Do What You Love and Love What You Do.”
That has never changed, though it sometimes meant changing gears. For a long period in her Fashion Denver journey, Shigley, a member of Westword’s inaugural class of MasterMinds, became known for her eclectic pop-up fashion markets — a seasonal local-designer incubator that was as likely to go down in a historic mansion as it was to show up in a brewery. In Denver, it was uniquely ahead of its time.
But when her mother, Vicki Shigley, began a rigorous cancer treatment regimen with surgeries and chemotherapy, Shigley threw her all into supporting her parent. Running markets was the last thing on her mind.
“Over the past year, I spent every Monday going to treatments with my mom,” Shigley recalls. That came to an end last summer, when Vicki Shigley lost her cancer battle. Since then, Shigley has faced an uphill struggle of her own, dealing with grief while managing a business. “Without needing to be there for my mom, I’m opening up more of that inspiration to get back to Fashion Denver,” she says. “I see Fashion Denver’s fifteenth anniversary as a way to celebrate my mom’s life. She’s the one who first instilled creativity in me, so I want to celebrate her and start that new chapter of focusing on fashion again.”
To that end, Shigley will return to hosting markets — most likely twice a year — starting with Fashion Denver's Fifteenth Anniversary Celebration, on Sunday, October 13, at the Rackhouse Pub, 2875 Blake Street.
Shigley has seen Denver’s local-fashion scene grow more sophisticated, in a city where retrospectives of couturiers like Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior have become common. “Denver has turned into an ‘un’ cowtown,” she muses. “And Denver Fashion Week highlights designers in a professional way — it’s transformed Denver's fashion scene by stepping it up by a whole few notches.”
Denver designers are getting more savvy, too, Shigley says: “The young ones are coming out of school and getting their feet on the ground, and the older designers have more time; as their kids grow up, they have more time to focus. Fashion is a thing where it’s for everybody who has the passion inside them — whether they are stay-at-home moms or or making it big with couture studios, it comes in all shapes and sizes, small or full-fledged, and that’s where my heart is: encouraging and wanting to see all types of fashion businesses grow.”
To fill the void left by losing a loved one, Shigley’s also had a chance to reflect back on her entrepreneurial career. “I feel like Fashion Denver has gone through many ebbs and flows,” she says. “Now there are huge markets that are much bigger than the little markets I used to put on. It’s cool to see how even more designers and makers are getting more exposure, but I began to think, 'Where do I fit in? Am I just a sad little somebody who doesn't matter anymore?'"
Shigley happily talked herself out of that thought. And while she no longer showcases local designers in a designated boutique environment, Shigley hasn’t forsaken her clients. “I’m just about figuring out where Fashion Denver fits into the ever-changing, growing fashion community," she explains. "I love to be able to spotlight, encourage and be alongside designers as they begin and grow businesses, and to see them turn those into flourishing businesses.”
And she’s finding that helping designers get revved up at a younger age speaks well for the future of fashion. “My favorite thing to do right now is Fashion Camp,” Shigley says. “I think back to when I was little, making paper purses, and how I then turned that into a real business. That’s when creativity really starts. We work with kiddos ages four to eleven, and it’s amazing to see these kids with their fresh ideas. They’re not jaded at all, and they having so much fun creating. It’s a joy to experience their innocent creativity. The sky’s the limit.”
At the moment, Shigley’s mostly excited to be returning to the fashion-market model: “We’ll have old-school people who were with us from the start, like Deb Henriksen of Equillibrium and the screenprinters at IndyInk. Igor Tkac is the first entrepreneur I ever knew — I met him when I was in high school, and he had a shop at the Aurora Mall. He was the first one to inspire me, in his early twenties and already having his own shop. He makes trucker hats and apparel, and to look back and see him now after 25 years of doing is encouraging.
"We’ll also have dresses and jewelry by designer Crystal Sharp, and two athleisure-wear companies — Space Jungle and Tidal — that are creating yoga fitness gear," Shigley continues. "Considering the diversity of culture we now have in Denver — from yogis and mountain-climbers to stylish, trendy street-fashion people, as well —we want them all to be represented.” That shouldn’t be problem at all, considering the variety reflected by the thirteen-plus vendors participating in the market.
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Shigley is also pleased to welcome hairstylist Lawrence Rivera from Marfa, Texas, who will be giving free haircuts and beard trims in return for a donation of gently used clothes for the homeless. A longtime advocate of the homeless community she's met in the RiNo neighborhood where she works, Shigley promises that after the show, "I’m going to load up my wagon and head through the streets, giving clothes away to people who need them. When you look good, you feel good, and it changes everything.”
What goes around comes around.
Attend Fashion Denver's Fifteenth Anniversary Celebration on Sunday, October 13, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Rackhouse Pub, 2875 Blake Street. Fashion shows are scheduled at noon and 3 p.m., and the first 75 fashion lovers in the door will receive a commemorative anniversary Fashion Denver tote bag, screen-printed by IndyInk. Admission is free; learn more about the market and other Fashion Denver projects online.