In a chance meeting at a Denver Fashion Week audition, models Alicia Myers and Samantha Joseph began chatting, “as models do,” says Myers. Over time, they became friends as they navigated the fashion scene in various roles from model to stylist to creative director. They also began noticing that they were having similar struggles as Black women in the industry. “We experienced a lot of discrimination and favoritism,” says Myers.
Frustrated, they began talking to others. “We felt that if we’ve experienced it, then it’s more than just us who’ve gone through the same things,” Myers says. Discussions with other models as well as hair and makeup artists revealed that their assumptions were correct.
They decided to forge a new venture and create a new way of approaching the fashion industry with Color of Fashion, an organization that promotes inclusivity in the industry through equal treatment of models and creatives. They achieve this by hiring people of all races for event productions and partnering with other organizations that share the same values.
“We wanted a space where people like us felt comfortable and people who are not like us would want to join us in a bigger purpose and realize we are stronger together,” Myers explains.
Color of Fashion officially launched in March 2021 as a partnership between Joseph and Myers. Partner manager Phillip Hua-Pham joined this year. Myers says she and Joseph balance each other out perfectly, bringing separate education degrees and skill sets to the fold — Joseph with a degree in fashion merchandising, and Myers with a degree in business management. Both have worked as models and both are moms. “I handle the communications and paperwork, and Sam is the go-getter and gets things done,” Myers says.
The organization held its first fashion show in the fall of 2021, a two-night event showcasing local designers — and some from across the country, in an attempt to bring fresh talent into Denver. “A lot of the designers we selected were very experienced but underestimated, and we love that," Myers says. "We want to find those gems and highlight them.”
It’s important to bring in fashion from other cities, she adds: “The Denver scene is having a positive influx of more people coming in from other areas. We were lacking that and not opening our eyes to things beyond Denver. It’s time for us to start thinking of Denver as one of the fashion capitals of the world. When we bring in outside talent, it inspires people here to maybe go outside the box."RedLine Contemporary Art Center, where the models became living art pieces, and the next was at the Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms, where models slunk down a bucolic walkway with the dramatic Patrick Dougherty sculpture “One Fell Swoop” behind them.
Myers says the response to their first shows was positive. “We heard feedback that people have never seen shows like this before and they’re proud it’s run by two Black women.”
The fashion shows also led to the production of a film, which Color of Fashion screened late last year, that highlights footage from the runway and studio, tied together with a narrative storyline. “We wanted to make a documentary fashion film that we could take away from the experience. A lot of times when you go to a fashion show, you leave and that’s it. We wanted something that would be forever,” Myers says.
For its next event, Color of Fashion is hosting an auction of designer clothing. It had to be postponed in January because of the surge in COVID, and is rescheduled for April 7. “We wanted to create an opportunity for designers to sell their pieces. When people attend fashion shows, they don’t usually get the opportunity to make a purchase,” Myers explains. “With the auction, people will be able to see the garment in person and walk away with it, gift-wrapped and everything.”
With Color of Fashion, Myers and Joseph hope to bring awareness to the effort that goes into producing fashion events and the number of people it takes. What many people don’t know is that most of the people running the shows and those who are in the shows don’t get paid. They do it for the exposure, experience, a trade, or as a labor of love. “We want to create opportunities for people in fashion, to create jobs and see models and the backstage people being paid. We want to change the industry,” says Myers. “Right now we pay what we can, and we plan to improve and hopefully take it global. As diversity continues to elevate, we hope the industry worldwide continues to elevate with us.”
Myers says the ultimate goal of Color of Fashion is to help people understand that inclusivity and equal treatment benefits everyone. “If we don’t come together, we’re not really being successful. We need to understand each other and lift each other up.”