In this city's fashion community, there’s no one more savvy than Mona Lucero, an artist first who became a fashion designer second. After years of running studios and boutiques in and around Denver, Lucero is now segueing into a role as a grande dame of local design — and she’s ready to open a new brick-and-mortar that continues the legacies of her advanced and innovative fashion outlook. Lucero, who first answered the Colorado Creatives questionnaire in 2013, updates us below.
Westword: How has your creative life grown or suffered since you last answered the CC questionnaire?
Mona Lucero: In addition to designing clothes, I've become involved in other fashion matters, such as a talk on 1960s fashion for History Colorado in conjunction with its 1968 exhibit; a design and promotion I did on Royal Gorge Bridge in conjunction with its Artist Series; a recent talk for Creative Mornings Denver (a monthly international meetup); and a fashion exhibition I organized for Doors Open Denver at the Botanic Gardens.
My designs have also become more demi-couture. In other words, they're made to be bought off the rack, but I'm adding little details that feel more handmade and special. A funny thing, though: I've found that every time I think I have a new idea for my work, a friend inevitably says, "Oh, you've been talking about that for a while now," or "Aren't you already doing that?”
As a creative, what’s your vision for a more perfect Denver?
I would like to see Denver do more for the homeless and for mental health. I would like to see all children be given equal opportunities. I would like to go back to the way the weather was when I first moved here (even though it was always so cold in January and February!). I would like to see rents and housing prices be something everyone can afford. I would like to see community support for creatives, whether it be attending their events or buying their work. Also, I would love to see the City of Denver create financial incentives for creative businesses. You know — the usual!
It’s a challenging time for artists and creatives in the metro area, who are being priced out of the city by gentrification and rising rents. What can they do about it, short of leaving?
I've seen creatives figure out their own solutions, probably not always ideal, but currently, it's each artist for herself/himself. Maybe we, as creatives, need to come together more. I have accepted that I'm a fashion nomad, and with each move comes a new experience. My creative spaces have been in LoDo, LoHi/Northside/Highland, Five Points/RiNo, near Federal Boulevard, and soon the Golden Triangle. I'm here to do the work that I love. I do the best I can to contribute to Denver and Colorado and the world in a positive way.
What’s your dream project?
That's a secret until the dream project comes to fruition. And then I will send you a message first thing!
Where are fashion trends going next? How about you?
Fashion trends are things that I don't really care that much about. I don't like the words "fashion" or “trend”—haha! I'm kidding, kind of — but for me, I'm still tutoring people on their sartorial vocabulary lessons. I just want to remind people that "fashion" and "style" are about self-expression. What you wear says something about you and how you see the world. Deep thoughts.
If you died tomorrow, what or whom would you come back as?
I used to think I would want to come back as some great torch singer, but now I'm thinking I would like to be a leading physicist. But probably the best thing would be a self-realized guru working on my last incarnation on earth.
What advice would you give a young hopeful in your field?
I give this advice to young hopefuls all of the time: It's not an easy road to be a fashion designer, but if you love it, you'll do it no matter what. That's the only way you'll know if you're meant to do it.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
J Audrey Nelson, who is a hair designer and so much more. She's developed a few charming and dazzling spaces, including her own salon, The Storybrick. She's written children's books, including The Tortoise and Harriet , and she's one of the most stylish and innovative creative people in Denver.
What's on your agenda right now and in the coming year?
I'm opening a shop in a few weeks in the Golden Triangle District, just across from the back of the Denver Art Museum (facing the cow and calf statues) and close to the Vance Kirkland Museum. I'm doing Denver Fashion Week on March 31, and I have at least one trunk show coming up in a city soon-ish, to be announced.
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Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Elza Jensen of Idento Void, also known as Elza Wear, has been hosting various markets around the city, and, as always, does the coolest screen-printed and hand-drawn clothing anywhere.
See Mona Lucero designs on the runway at Denver Fashion Week’s Denver Originals Fashion Show, 6 p.m. Sunday, March 31, at the Forney Museum of Transportation, 4303 Brighton Boulevard. Tickets range from $25 to $100 at eventbrite.com. Lucero will also participate in the Denver Fashion Week Pop-Up Marketplace, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, April 7, at the McNichols Building, 144 West Colfax Avenue. Find details and tickets, $10, at eventbrite.com.