Meet the 2014 MasterMinds: Lisa Ramfjord Elstun, fashion/design

Westword has always covered the local arts scene. But ten years ago, we recognized that if the arts were really going to grow in those town, they could use some some fertilizer in the form of cold, hard cash. And so we created the MasterMind Awards, which every year gives no-strings-attached grants to five local artists and arts organizations; the 2014 class of MasterMinds will be introduced at Artopia tonight. This year's MasterMind Award for fashion: Lisa Ramfjord Elstun.

A sublime couture designer who works privately with individual clients, Elstun goes much further. She's also a teacher, mentor and consultant to others in the design business who's more than ready to help Denver's fashion community move forward, and she helps propel the industry as a behind-the-scenes force with Fashion Group International and the Denver Design Incubator.

See also: Take ten -- meet the latest class of MasterMinds

Westword: What's your favorite thing about the Denver arts scene? Lisa Ramfjord Elstun: The diversity of activitie -- the fusion of mediums like fashion and music, fashion and ink, fashion and sports, fashion and art, all create a vibrant atmosphere. There is always something to do and it is accessible. Mayor Hancock's initiative Imagine Denver 2020 will lend a cohesive format to searches and accessibility.

If I could change one thing about the Denver arts scene? Explore creation of an "SCFD type" financial resource to promote and support Denver artists without competition for the same funds that SCFD organizations require for operation.

How did you wind up in Denver? I grew up skiing every weekend and despise winters that last from September to May. When a teaching position in a medical profession was offered with the question of "How soon can you be here?" we gave our notice, packed up in a blizzard and headed out here!

How did you wind up doing what you do?

Three weeks of retirement from teaching prompted soul-searching of "Now what?" So I made the commitment to do one creative thing every day to minimize boredom. On frustrating teaching days, I would shake it off with "one of these days, I'll get my sewing business going full-time." By the beginning of retirement week #4, LRE Couture & Design, LLC was a reality.

Four years ago, I discovered there wasn't a comprehensive resource to go to for answers and guidance in Colorado for the fashion industry. One morning I realized that I had become the resource I was seeking. My years of experience as CEO, in diverse leadership roles, advancing technical education through the active learning process with critical and abstract thinking along with the skills of a couture designer, are rarely possessed by one passionate innovator. My epiphany was "Stop looking for someone else. Just do it yourself!"

With that rationale, the Fashion Design Center (FDC) vision became my passion.

And what should people know about what you do? The FDC is established to be the fashion industry hub with everything a designer needs to create, produce and sell their brand in one place. And buyers, both wholesale and retail, will have showroom access to the latest designs and trends from our talented Colorado designers.

This quote attributed to Sir Henry Royce sums up my inspirations for all that I do: "Strive for perfection in everything. Take the best that exists and make it better. If it doesn't exist, create it."

The formulation for the "revolutionary garment district" in Denver highlighted the mindsets of the designers and artists like me who:

• Are ready for growth of their fashion businesses, apparel and accessories, through brand development and marketing opportunities

• Require a professional workroom capable of fulfilling samples and small orders at high end industry standard manufacturing that embraces detailed design construction with exquisite fabrics

• Work with professionals that value innovation, accountability and integrity

• Prosper in a collaborative work space

• Will rarely leave Denver or Colorado to pursue these goals

All of the above will be offered as concierge services in addition to studios and a unique rental space for meetings and events.

Longterm goals are: • Host Denver Fashion & Market Week for buyers seeking diverse inventory between shows in NYC and MAGIC in Las Vegas in conjunction with the Fashion Association of Denver (FAD)

• Collaborate with the film industry, small theater production companies and indie musicians to accomplish their goal to incorporate locally produced wardrobes

• Raise capital to purchase technology that increases efficiency, productivity and advance innovative IP

• Expand into a large production facility to promote CO Made brand and Made in USA

• Transform the STEM grant opportunities (Science, Technology, Engineering and Manufacturing) into STEAM by integrating the Art of fashion with the Sciences giving middle and high school students more career paths

Connect with us on Fashion Design Center Denver Facebook group page to keep up with fashion events, new designers and the styles of the season!

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun