Now Showing: Mona Lucero and Kotomi Yoshida on fashion

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For this year's Now Showing, Westword's fall arts guide (you'll find it tucked into our September 26 issue), we asked artistic movers and shakers to answer a few questions about the state of the arts, both locally and around the world. We'll be rolling out their answers over the next few weeks in pairs that combine both veterans and newcomers in similar disciplines. Today's entry? Fashion designers Mona Lucero and Kotomi Yoshida.

See also: Now Showing: Garrett Ammon and Laura Ann Samuelson on dance and the arts

Mona Lucero, designer, Mona Lucero Design

Lucero is a fashion grand dame in these parts: A designer with fine-art roots, she's been honing her skills as an eclectic and one-of-a-kind style-maker in the West for many years. She funneled her creativity through her retail shop, Mona Lucero Design Boutique, for a decade before shutting it down last December in order to spend more time in the studio and less behind a counter; Lucero's clothing can now be seen more regularly in local fashion shows and occasional studio open houses. It's hard not to spot a Mona Lucero -- painstakingly finished and bursting with personal inspirations -- when it sweeps down the street on a happy customer.

What do you think of recent developments in your field, and the current scene?

The Denver fashion scene is continuing to grow with new, more professional fashion shows cropping up, new ambitious designers, and a general will that Denver will be perceived as an important fashion city. I believe we're not there yet, but I also believe we have tons of talent and one day we'll get the respect we're working for.

What could be done to improve the scene?

Our fashion industry needs to work together more; collaboration is key. I believe it's important for Denver designers and others involved in the industry to pay attention to what others are doing and support each other by going to each other's shows, sharing each other's events and photos and being open to what everyone else is doing. Also, many more fashionistas/customers should support the local fashion industry by attending their shows and, most important, buying from local designers.

Who/what has inspired you most in your career?

The positivity and hard work of successful people, whether it be in the arts or other disciplines. I'm inspired by people who work toward making a difference.

Who/what will you be watching for this arts season?

Matt O'Neill, who has been one of the more respected painters in Denver, is creating a new series of abstract paintings for a couple of shows coming in 2014. The use of color, line and shape are unexpected. To understand them, you have to look at them a while. Even when you do study them, you might not get answers -- which to me is a good thing.

For more about Mona Lucero visit her online.

Continue reading for our Q&A with Kotomi Yoshida.

Kotomi Yoshida, designer, Studio Yoshida.

Kotomi Yoshida is not so much new to the scene as she is a beautiful anomaly. Also trained in art before turning to fashion design, she is a chance-taker, working in edgy fabrics and abstracted lines, especially in the form of her unique wearable art for men.

What do you think of recent developments in your field, and the current scene?

I think it's going great! The art scene and community is growing every year, with more support and more shows. I am always surprised by all the wonderful events going on in town.

I am very glad to see the RiNo district growing, more art fairs and markets being held, and tons of charity fashion shows to help out the community everywhere, too. Big event centers are open so that we can invite lots of people. Yay for that! Lots of different kinds of art forces are being combined, and people are even more open to starving artists. I feel very welcomed everywhere I go. Since the art scene here is not that established yet (like Los Angeles or New York), people are more open to anything new and different, also. We do not have to be famous or rich to be in a show. And, of course, huge yay for Mondo [Guerra]! The Powerhaus program is wonderful too. I love those open opportunities and competitions. I think they are great for the community.

What could be done to improve the scene?

I wish we could have more awesome opportunities like YSL at the DAM. The designer live fashion studio was really great, and I think any art or science opportunities are a big help and could be an eye-opener for children, since the educational system does not provide enough of those fields at school. I know there are lots of art/science camps and after-school programs in town, but we need to bring those out more into the community, and work together with big public entities so that more people would know about them. If MCA Denver or the DAM could start hosting Denver Fashion Week, that would be super-great, too. I am always hopeful!

I also miss all the exciting shows Ms. Tran Wills used to have for us. The Style Wars at DAM used to be my favorite thing to do. Maybe we need an ambassador between the fashion/art scene and Denver city government who can connect us with the Denver City website, keeping up with all the happenings in the art world (just like you, Ms. Susan!!). Opening more chances for grants for the local artists and bringing more modern artists in town would be great, too.

I work at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. I have talked with George Sparks, the CEO of the museum, who is trying to make the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program into STEAM (+Art!) for students. We need more people who believe in arts, in a serious true way, like George.

Who/what has inspired you most in your career?

Coming from a fine-arts degree, in a way, everything but fashion inspires me. Theater arts inspire me, great paintings inspire me, monsters inspire me, religions inspire me, dumpsters inspire me, news inspires me, technology inspires me, books, architecture, melancholy, tragedy, frustration and lies inspire me.

The "concept" is a big inspiration to me, rather than an actual designed product, I guess. Fashion IS art, to me: The final work has to reflect what you are, what you believe, and what you want to tell the audience. I am not a fashion designer, I don't think (because I cannot make patterns); I am just an artist wannabe who creates things with fabrics. I believe hand-sewing is zen. I have been always fascinated by old, traditional, simple ways of life. Some things are kept so sacred, not being pushed by the busy modern world. And they are beautiful. And sewing is one of them.

Who/what will you be watching for this arts season?

I know a group of artists who are unbelievably talented in this town. And the true artists are very modest and quiet about what they do, so I have to follow them closely and stalk them around. The people I worship are: Lu Cong in painting, Justin Beard in performance art, Christopher Owen Nelson in painting/sculpture, Matthew Novak in photography, Buntport theater, and Ms. Tran Wills in design. I love them all, and I am honored to call them my friends, yet I get goosebumps every time I see them.

Visit Studio Yoshida online for more information.

Come back to Show and Tell tomorrow for our interviews with fine artists Viviane Le Courtois and Charlie Boots.

To keep up with the Froyd's eye-view of arts and culture in Denver, "like" my fan page on Facebook.

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