Dan Richters Brings Unconventional Designs to Parker Fashion Week

Design by Dan Richters
Design by Dan Richters Dan Richters
Fashion is an art just as much as any other medium. At least that’s how designer Dan Richters feels. The Omaha-based creative approaches garment making not with a needle and thread, but with clay and silicone.

“It’s a long process,” says Richters. “I discovered it just by doing it. You can’t find tutorials for the kind of stuff I’m doing. I think that’s how you make something original — you just do it differently than anybody else.”

For those who typically expect garment designs to come from cloth draped on a dress form, Richters’s approach is a little hard to grasp. “I think about how to get a certain silhouette, then get out my dress form and my clay and build the shape I want. I’m basically sculpting the dress,” he explains. He makes a clay mold and then casts it in silicon internally layered with mesh. This provides the stability and shape required to create wearable clothing.
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Design by Dan Richters
Dan Richters
The result is highly visual pieces that look like a cross between evening wear and a sci-fi movie. The garments cling and move with the body like a second skin. Perhaps that’s because they are, in a way. “Silicon is very malleable and moveable. That’s my preferred material,” says Richters, adding that he searched myriad fabric stores to find a material that would allow him to create what he wanted, but to no avail. “Then I was walking into a hardware store and discovered silicon. It’s what you use to caulk your windows, and I started experimenting with that.”

It became clear that Richters couldn’t have people wearing window caulk. “It smells horrible!” he exclaims. “And you have to ventilate properly when you use it.” He then discovered a silicone brand used in the movie industry to make prosthetics. “It’s certified skin safe. It’s safe for people wearing it and for me working with it,” he says.

It’s not a traditional way of manufacturing garments. But then again, Richters isn’t a conventional designer out to sell his designs to mass consumers; he sees his collections more as an art exhibit. His one-of-a-kind dresses go on the runway for a show, perhaps on the road for several fashion shows in several cities, and that’s it.
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Design by Dan Richters
Dan Richters
The pieces are sometimes purchased, which he says is a nice validation of their value. They’ve also been rented for special occasions or borrowed by celebrity stylists for red-carpet events. He recently had a dress worn to the Cannes Film Festival, and he sold pieces to a buyer from Japan to put in a shop in the famous Harajuku District.

Richters also makes pieces to order: “I’ll only do it if someone commissions me specifically for an idea. We get together and come up with an idea, and I’ll make it. It’s still a one-of-a-kind piece. I’m not into the manufacturing mentality at all. I’m more about handmade.”

Richters says he’s always been into various art forms, including sculpting, painting and music. He earned a degree in fine arts from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a thesis in painting, and has drawn a lot of inspiration from fashion, particularly designers from the 1990s such as Alexander McQueen and Thierry Mugler. His start in fashion design began with group of friends in Omaha who started putting on their own underground fashion shows, discovering a strong fashion community in the city.

Omaha Fashion Week started in 2008, and Richters has had a regular showing both there and at Los Angeles Fashion Week. He is currently gearing up for his first show at Parker Fashion Week on September 9 and 10. Richters says the Parker show came about through the producers of Omaha Fashion Week. “It’s cool because I know a lot of the same people involved here in Omaha, and I can tell that Parker Fashion Week is really invested and committed to making a quality event happen,“ he says.
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Fashion Designer Dan Richters
Dan Richters
The Parker audience can expect to find illuminated, otherworldly designs in metallic sheens that Richters pulled from his interest in the fashion of ancient aristocracy and royalty. “It’s very inspiring on an artistic level to look at how they dressed in a way that set them apart from the rest of their societies,” he explains.

However, don’t expect the collection to be up for sale in a store near you. Richters isn’t in it for the money. He has a day job as a photographer and videographer to support himself financially. He makes fashion for his own creative satisfaction, which he says sometimes confuses people. “I make things because I want to do it. I’m not really pandering to get them sold. I honestly don’t know how to turn what I do in fashion into a job, and if it became a job, I don’t know if I would still enjoy it.”

For him, just being in the studio making art is what makes him happy. He says he strives to develop a new method of making garments with every collection. “The process of making it is my favorite part,” he explains. “When you’re in the studio and you enjoy it so much, time just stops. Then seeing it all come together on the runway...I just like the idea of putting something out there that sparks the imagination.”

Dan Richters, Parker Fashion Week, 5 p.m. Friday, September 9, and Saturday, September 10, West Main Taproom, 18595 East Main Street, Parker. Find tickets, $75-$100, and more information at
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Kastle Waserman is a freelance contributor to Westword covering music and culture. Prior to Denver, she lived in Los Angeles and worked as a staff editor/reporter for the Los Angeles Times covering music, nightclubs, lifestyles and fashion. She’s been published in the New York Post, Women’s Wear Daily and Fodor’s Travel Books.
Contact: Kastle Waserman