“Do What You Love, Love What You Do.”
A naïve trope verging on cliché? A trite slogan only a prepubescent could possibly accept without a hint of cynicism? Sure. But that doesn’t make it anything but a truism for 2005 fashion and design MasterMind winner Brandi Shigley. Denver’s bubbly homegrown fashionista embodies her heart-warming motto from head to toe, foot to runway. This is one reason why, behind a pair of black hipster specks, her wide brown eyes have yet to show any signs of post-adolescent tarnish, maintaining a childlike infatuation with just about everything that grabs their attention. Giggling, she playfully reflects on the goals of her youth.
“I was looking at a diary from when I was 13 the other day. You know what I wrote? That when I grew up I wanted to be a fashion designer and a rockstar!”
With two successful fashion- and design-oriented businesses under her thrift store belt, and a gig as the lead singer for a too cute musical group, Shigley is already on her way to fulfilling both childhood fantasies
Fresh out of college at Metro State, Shigley began her design career with custom-designed handbags, which became an instant mile high hit. b.shigley bags attracted press praise for Shigley as a Denver ‘it girl’. She took the local momentum and rode it like a shiny new tricycle all the way to the the California coast. She quickly discovered though that hometown hype doesn’t equate to a leg up in a city where just about every barista and barmaid is a moonlighting hip kid striving for a shot at critical success. So she began developing skills to promote herself, learning the other side of the creative industry— marketing and PR—the business counterparts to the creative process that tend to elicit surly responses from jaded art purists, but can also spell the difference between making it and pouring lattes for a living.
After peddling up the coast, selling her wares in San Francisco and Los Angeles and a brief interlude in Paris where she made handbags for an opera, Shigley decided it was time to return to Denver.
With newfound business accumen at her disposal, Shigley decided to shed her training wheels and start not one, but two businesses out of her bedroom: B.23, a one-stop shop for design, PR and branding; and Fashion Denver, an organization dedicated to hosting workshops to assist creative female entrepreneurs navigating their first steps in the fashion business. Amidst the inevitable struggle to launch her simultaneous enterprises, Shigley received an unexpected query.
“I got a call from Westword that they were writing about Fashion in a Night and Day column and they wanted to ask me a few questions. A few days later, Amy Haimerl called to tell me that I had really won the MasterMind Award for Fashion and Design and helping designers and small businesses get started! And that I had won a $4000 grant!! I was in SHOCK!!!!”
Winning MasterMind gave Shigley the chance to focus on her entrepreneurial efforts full time. She quit her day job at a local restaurant, bought a new sewing machine and rented a small office in a Capitol Hill mansion.
Four years later, the one-woman show has expanded to two guys, a girl, and a row house in the Golden Triangle. No longer making handbags, Shigley has shifted her focus almost entirely to supporting other designers, hosting a number of workshops and coordinating a fashion market each season where over thirty local designers can sell their wears and gain exposure with Denver businesses and media. She’s also lent her talents to the Denver fashion magazine Fabricate.
Having found a foothold in fashion, Shigley got bored resting on her laurels and decided it was time to pursue that other childhood dream— becoming a rockstar. With her two friends, Johnny DeStefano and Brian Hendricks. Shigley’s tinkling voice leads b. sous, a Parisian-influenced, electronic pop trio. With song titles like “cuteness overload” and no-joke lyrics like “I like to swim in the ocean with you, pretending we’re fish in the ocean so blue/ diving deep to check out the octopus/ maybe even find a secret treasure box/ filled with goodies and treasures galore/ who knows maybe we’ll find more,” the music of b. sous is Brandi Shigley (it’s no coincidence they share the same initials). Like mixing double stuffed Oreos into a giant scoop of cookies 'n cream and then pouring on thick, hot fudge, they’re both over-the-top sweet, a little childish, and irresistibly delicious. -- Adam Gildar