Westword was the first general-interest publication in the country to hire a marijuana critic, and now it's announcing another first: High Style. On Thursday, March 5, 2020, High Style will fuse cannabis-inspired fashion, education and wellness into one amazing evening of curated, interactive programming focused on style, substance and sustainability.
High Style isn't Westword's first foray into fashion. We celebrated Denver's design scene at Whiteout, our annual fashion shows staged at the McNichols Building, and we'll be back there for High Style. The curator of Whiteout, Jenny Baker-Strasburg, is key to High Style, too. We caught up with her to talk about the origins of this new event.
Westword: What was the inspiration behind High Style?
Jenny Baker-Strasburg: Upon moving back to Denver from New York City, I was diagnosed with a rare and serious autoimmune disease, and was prescribed immunoglobulin replacement therapy every three weeks. These treatments are composed of human plasma and are infused over the course of five to seven hours. The side effects can be debilitating. A few times I ended up in the ER due to the severity of the side effects, which were treated with IV Ativan and Benadryl. Although effective, it left me feeling extremely fatigued for days.
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My husband asked if I had ever considered trying cannabis to help. I had not, but I was open to it. I applied for my medical card and was soon off to the dispensary. It did help. However, the recommendations made for me were not a fit. The edibles were too strong and contained many harmful, inflammatory ingredients. Nobody was talking about CBD yet, much less the other cannabinoids I eventually discovered that now help me a great deal.
I made it a mission to educate myself and find clean products that supported my individual needs. I enrolled in courses and began to dive deep into research. I soon became a resource for friends and family. My 91-year-old grandmother chose to use a microdose TCH-high CBD edible to help recover from spinal surgery. Her doctor prescribed oxycontin, but she didn’t want to take opioids and was able to manage her pain with cannabis. She had a speedy recovery and is doing great, which I think is remarkable for a 91-year-old woman.
As I was on this personal journey, my partner in JAM Productions CO, Mary Spicer, and I started to see intriguing collaborations pop up within the hemp and cannabis space in relation to fashion and beauty. New cannabis and hemp-derived CBD companies producing beautiful, quality products that deliver a certain type of experience began to emerge and thrive. We saw Barneys, Goop, Neiman Marcus, Martha Stewart and countless others enter the space. At that point, we knew Denver would benefit from a platform to educate consumers on the many beneficial attributes of cannabis and hemp. We identified an opportunity to start a conversation around mindful alternatives to things that go on in your body. We want to support others in making choices that have a positive impact on their health and the environment. We shared our concept with longtime partner Westword, and High Style evolved from there.
You've been involved in fashion for a long time; how has it changed as wellness/sustainability have gained in emphasis?
It’s an exciting time for fashion. Many companies are leading the pack and advocating for sustainability in response to climate change. The Korto Momolu for Women Grow collection, which is being showcased on the High Style runway, incorporates hemp, jute, linen, cork and other sustainable fabrics. Pact, also being shown on the High Style runway, utilizes organic cotton, and its products are entirely free of harmful chemicals. Furthermore, it has fair practices in place for its employees.
Designers are beginning to explore re-engineered cashmere, ethically sourced wool and recycled textiles. More and more brands, including luxury brands, are entirely cruelty-free. Many are adopting better production practices by using plant-based materials and dyes. Denim-recycling programs and cutting-edge textiles are changing the landscape.
Many of the best sustainable fashion companies are based right here in Denver.
What do you want attendees to get out of High Style?
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We want attendees to know they can look good, feel good, eat well, exercise, have fun, save the world and bring about change. That's all. No sweat. Attendees have the opportunity to meet directly with companies that are growing, creating and packaging items that lend [themselves] to conscious lifestyle choices.
The companies being featured at High Style are absolutely fascinating. They’re tackling social-justice issues and taking huge steps toward sustainability. Each of these brands has a story to tell and brings a wealth of knowledge to the table. The partners featured at High Style are transparent and use best practices. This way, guests can relax, knowing that any of the products they encounter are of the highest quality.
High Style is going to be great fun, with incredible programming and entertainment. We’re providing a safe, compliant atmosphere for guests to explore. There is still much to be learned about these powerful plants. Our vision is to move the industry forward and grow together.
Westword's High Style runs from 6:30 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, March 5, at the McNichols Building in Civic Center Park. The 21+ event will include fashion shows, panels, cooking demonstrations and an open marketplace. Tickets are $30 or $75 for VIP, which includes early entry. Find out more at westwordhighstyle.com.