Until recently, Lesley Kennedy, a founding partner of the new Denveralamode.com website, served as fashion editor and deputy features editor for the Rocky Mountain News, earning a reputation for stylishness and accessibility during her nine years at the tabloid. But this experience didn't help her land another newspaper gig when the Rocky shut down in February amid the worst print-journalism job market in living memory -- and Joe Mahoney, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning photographer and assistant multi-media editor for the paper, found himself in the same situation. "So we met for coffee at this place on Colorado," Kennedy says, "and we thought, 'Let's start a blog -- throw some stuff up there to stay creative.'"
Within five minutes, the pair had lined up a model, a location and everything else they needed for a photo shoot -- and before much longer, local trendsetters like publicist Wendy Aiello began encouraging them to broaden their ambitions for the project. "She said, 'You should make this into a business. It shouldn't just be a little for-fun thing,'" Kennedy notes. "And we thought, why not? At its best, it could turn into a new venture. And at the worst, we'd have something for our résumés."
Taking the site from the idea stage to reality has proven to be a challenge. "I've had to figure out all these areas that, as a journalist, I've never had to deal with -- marketing, and marketing yourself," Kennedy says. "But we've had a really good response from the Denver fashion and beauty community," in part because the amount of local-scene reportage has diminished of late -- and not only because of the Rocky's demise.
"It's really hard to find any local fashion coverage these days," Kennedy believes. "There's a little bit in 5280 and a little in Denver magazine. But the Post has cut back so much. Instead of doing fashion on Thursdays, they're running Bill Husted's 'Bar and Grilled' articles -- which I like. But that doesn't leave a lot of space, and a lot of the bodies to cover things are gone." Indeed, she feels that "fashion stories are getting shortchanged" due to industry-wide cutbacks and the like. "So I think we're filling a void."
At the same time, Denveralamode.com isn't meant to be all things to all people. "We're trying to keep things really niche," she says. "We'll be adding men's stuff eventually, but right now, the site is really targeted toward Denver women 35 and older -- probably with kids and families." In other words, people like Kennedy, who's 36 and has two kids of her own. Occasional features will target younger surfers: She mentions a "Style Spy" feature that spotlighted attendees of the recent Westword Music Showcase. But for the most part, "we're not going after the club crowd...
"We're trying to use models who are a little older, with a little more accessible bodies -- not ones with super-skinny waists, but ones the average woman can relate to," she adds. "And we're using as many local stores, local stylists and local makeup artists as we can. I know for myself, I always like to see pictures of what people are wearing in my city, in Denver. And that's what we're trying to show." An example: "My Fashion Life," a feature in which stylish locals such as media personality Denise Plante take a picture of their outfit each day for a week.
Thanks to Kennedy-Mahoney connections, lots of area fashionistas are pitching in to help the site gain its footing, and they're not charging for their services at this point. But Kennedy hopes to start earning revenue soon via "advertising on the site, advertising on our e-letter [called the "Sundae Scoop" as a nod to the à la mode theme] -- pretty much anywhere we can put it," as well as through partnership deals with businesses. "We're going to make our prices really accessible, and we'd like to have the site become almost like a directory, where businesses can list sales or upcoming events."
The site is certainly eye-catching, with a clean, user-friendly design and lots of multi-media functionality courtesy of Mahoney. And while Kennedy's journalism background hasn't helped her land a new print gig, she's hoping it'll pay dividends online. "I think Joe and I bring a level of credibility -- and instead of taking jpegs from people's websites or taking little pictures with a point-and-shoot, we've got original stuff by Joe. I think our images and multi-media really elevate the site."
According to Kennedy, whipping up Denveralamode.com has been "a lot of fun" so far. Especially compared to sitting around waiting for the phone not to ring.