As the fashion community in Denver continues to grow, a large community of designers is emerging. One of the most impressive Denver designers is Elizabeth Kay, founder of The Seventh Guilt and her own namesake couture. Kay recently shared with us the inspiration behind her designs and her thoughts on the Denver fashion scene.
Westword: Tell us about yourself. Where are you from, and how you got into fashion?
Elizabeth Kay: I'm from a small town in Massachusetts but I have lived in several places on the West Coast over the last eight years, finally settling in Denver about a year ago. Fashion is something I have always been drawn to. I grew up as a dancer performing on stage and fell in love with the costumes. I would wear them around the house as much as I could. I dreamed of creating my own business and having my clothing label in all the major stores. I started young with habits of a designer, ripping out magazine pages, drawing clothes for my friends and creating scrapbooks -- never knowing years later in college I would be asked to create a sketchbook filled with the very same tools to inspire a collection. What was the first thing you ever designed/made?
The first thing I made was hideous! It was a Victorian-inspired dress. I think I used one of those McCall's patterns, and unknowingly picked up a costume pattern for experts. It was completely overwhelming; there was a corset with boning and a train! What was I thinking?! Yuck! I didn't know how to start, so I just started cutting pattern pieces and sewing them together. By the time I was finished it didn't look like the picture on the pattern at all. I didn't care; I was proud of my ugly duckling dress and showcased it in a fashion show at school. Looking back, I can see my taste level has improved.
You currently have two clothing lines: The Seventh Guilt and Elizabeth Kay. What is the inspiration for them?
The foundation for both lines is quality. I love the feeling of putting on a brand-new shirt and knowing that I can wear it more than once, unlike the pieces I have bought from Forever 21. Fast fashion is great because it's trendy -- but that is just not where I want my brands to stand. I think we can all appreciate pieces that will last more than a few washes. I want to create pieces that are current but also have a timelessness to them.
Most of my inspiration comes from traveling and everyday life. I will see something that catches my eye and snap a photo or hear a phase that I like and write it down. Sometimes I like to pick things out of the norm. Odd things such as rocks, bacteria and bones have inspired me in the past -- and believe it or not, I have made great collections from it.
I love to research the topic that I am currently obsessed with and find out as much as I can about it. Friends of mine have said that I consume myself with my current inspiration and that's all I think about. Maybe I do get a little carried away -- but that's me. Each collection is an adventure and I love not knowing where the inspiration will take me.
Give us your thoughts on the fashion community in Denver. What are we doing right, what needs work?
I was pleasantly surprised by the fashion community here in Denver. Everyone really wants to succeed as a team by putting Denver on the fashion map. This community is great; I have met some wonderful people who truly want their peers to excel. It is so refreshing to be around people who want to help each other. I feel this is a great place for me to build my brand. I am constantly inspired and motivated by the designers here. There is something to be said about this community. There is a lot of drive but just as much heart. Right now it is a small group, but I have a feeling it won't be that way for long. In the next five years I can see Denver's fashion scene really evolving and becoming a place people associate as a fashion destination.
Keep reading for more from Elizabeth Kay.
What is your fashion must-have?
Hmm...this is a hard one. I constantly change my personal style so there is not one particular item I always wear. But I do love a good coat. I love buying and making outerwear. I definitely own more coats, jackets and sweaters than dresses.
For my customers, I would suggest a good graphic tee. It is so easy, comfortable and can be worn to the gym or out on the town under a boyfriend blazer. I love how versatile T-shirts are; maybe that's why I make my own. Haha.
Who is your favorite designer?
Don't judge to quickly... but it's Alexander McQueen. I know every fashion student says they love him, but I didn't choose him because everyone knows his name. Sorry! Now that he's gone I am not a fan of the brand -- just the person. I really felt a connection to his process and pieces. He had a dark side that I liked and was a genius with engineering fabric. He took risks in a big way with bazaar inspirations that were both refreshing and bold. And I don't know about you, but I love a rebel. Which celebrity best represents The Seventh Guilt and Elizabeth Kay?
The Seventh Guilt -- a mix between Cara Delevingne and Rihanna. They both have that edgy and free look about them. Elizabeth Kay -- Miranda Kerr; she wears sophisticated clothes well.
Where do you see the Seventh Guilt and Elizabeth Kay five years from now?
I would hope that we have lots of followers and loyal customers, who grow with us as a brand and lifestyle. We want a customer we can connect with on a personal level through social media, events and in person. We want them to feel special and heard. The customer is number one.
In the next few years our goal is to become more sustainable and keep quality at the top. Even though it is more costly, it is something that is important to me and I don't want to give that up. Keeping it all American-made is something we are also considering. We want to build a reputation of cool and have an innovative strategy in business and fashion. We want to be the label everyone wants to work for -- the "Google" of fashion houses, if you will. I believe in a healthy and fun work environment and a strong team. I am ready to grow with my brand, and I can't wait to see what happens next.
How can we purchase the Seventh Guilt and Elizabeth Kay?
What advice do you have for those starting out in the fashion business?
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Follow your gut! It's a tough industry, so be prepared and make sure you love it. You have to have a thick skin and like Michael Kors always says, "Fashion is not for sissies!"