MasterMind: Tricia Hoke, clothing designer

Tricia Hoke does so much more than design clothes — but she does even that with an intense artistic flair. An excellent illustrator who teaches classes on the fine art of fashion sketching, Hoke creates clothing from the most cozy material on earth — sweatshirt — but the pieces magically convert from one thing to another like giant fabric pop-up cards. They are sexy, frilly, scrumptiously comfortable and unlike anything else you've ever seen, the delightful culmination of Hoke's long journey through the local fashion world that began with schooling in sewing and design at the Emily Griffith Opportunity School in downtown Denver. But really, her roots as a manipulator of fabric go back a lot further.

"I have been designing and making clothing from a very young age," she explains. "My father taught me to sew on a sewing machine when I was five. When I was just out of school, I made lots of varied themed collections, including a beige cotton-candy collection and a '50s collection where all the poodles jumped off the skirts and left poopies behind...or a Rottweiler appeared and ate the poodle." Then came an admitted failure, Numbskull Knits, followed by Potential Fashions, a joint clothing upcycling venture with a friend that she promoted with fashion shows in alleys and gardens. "This was geared toward people who wanted 'real clothing,'" she says. "We did crazy 'couture' looks, but really tried to design more commercial-looking garments. We were told that it would never work, and we might as well just design clothing that 'looked' recycled. Well, that wasn't the point, was it? Look at how many recycled clothing lines there are now! Unfortunately, life works in mysterious ways, and my business partner and I called it quits for many, many different reasons, and life went on."

Hoke went on to work as a technical designer for a golf apparel line, display her creations in major local fashion showcases, and take on other commercial sewing and custom design jobs. For the last two years, she's put out a Signature Collection that's all Tricia Hoke, without compromise. "It began on a whim," she says, "meant to be a three-year project to just do whatever the eff I wanted with clothing design. I was looking to reinvent myself — wow — and people actually liked it when I made all my weird ideas. I am on my third year, and I think I'll re-evaluate when I'm done, but I would certainly consider it successful...following my bliss and all." Her bliss, it seems, turns itself inside out with a lot of free thinking: "You know, I really want to find a better way," she continues. "I am really into slow fashion and reconnecting to what clothing is and how it's made. I really want to do something thoughtful, meaningful and relevant. I would love to involve other designers, but I don't want to give up being one myself. I think it's really important to always keep my work going; it's like air to my lungs. 

"I'm not sure what I want yet; it involves my own clothing line, but it's more than just that. I want to do something, and I don't know quite what it is yet. But I'm close, so very close to finding it. I want to have something that brings people back to real clothing, real ideas, and I want to be able to do it without compromising any of my integrity as an artist or a human being on this earth, you know, a human being with foresight, brains and a heart. Fashion is a really strange, fantastic industry. I'm going to keep exploring, and I'm sure I'll find it. Hell, I'm probably standing right on top of it." Hoke is a humble person — a mother, a bartender and a sometime waitress, a quiet dreamer who doesn't like to make too much of herself. But she has no shortage of personal flair. "I remember always being a very 'unique' dresser," she recalls. "In my early days, I was going mainly for shock value. In high school, I often was not allowed to leave the house because my parents were embarrassed by my crazy get-ups. I have since grown out of the shock value for a more modest, minimalistic approach, but don't be fooled, because now I get my 'shocking' in with the transformable pieces. It's not enough to design a pair of pants; they have to turn into a purse, too!"

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd