Elevating Denver's creative scene

Denver Paper Fashion Show pushes artists’ boundaries

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Because “Project Runway” first aired in late 2004, Brielle Killip of Denver’s Cole neighborhood thought she was late in getting hooked on the reality TV show — considering she had watched it for the first time only a few months ago.

But something she and her longtime boyfriend, Chris Geissinger, were particularly attracted to in the show is its unconventional materials challenge. This is because Killip, a graphic designer, and Geissinger, who is in the construction field, have participated in the annual Denver Paper Fashion Show five times.

Add Jennifer Garber, who has a background in nursing and is a hobbyist knitter, to the team, and the trio has come up with quite an array of fashions through the years.

“It’s always great to share the time with them creating,” Killip said. “The three of us bring together interesting qualities that complement each other.”

The Denver Paper Fashion Show — which features haute couture fashions made entirely from paper by Colorado-area designers — is put on annually by the Denver chapter of The One Club for Creativity, a global nonprofit that exists to support all different types of creatives.

“I feel like everybody, in some form or fashion, is an artist,” said Lindsay Buemi, chief of staff for the One Club who co-manages the Denver Paper Fashion Show. “This is such an amazing event to bring together all these creatives.”

The Denver Paper Fashion Show is an all volunteer run event — including the models’ hair and makeup artists. Proceeds from the event benefit the One Club’s programming, as well as Downtown Aurora Visual Arts, which is a nonprofit community organization that provides after-school arts programs for urban youth.

The first Denver Paper Fashion Show took place in 2004 and it has grown to be one of the largest in the country — if not unique to Denver. Because of COVID, the event was cancelled in 2020 and 2021. But the 2022 event, which took place on March 10 at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver, was spectacular, said Buemi.

“This event has continued to grow and push artistic boundaries through the paper medium,” she said. “Every year I’m astonished by this creative platform and its ability to bring together so many generations from bourgeoning students to professional artists.”

This year, about 35 teams competed, which included a mix of professionals and students. Professionals, however, does not necessarily mean people who are employed in the fashion industry. Though some of them are. Those entering as a professional run the gamut of architects to those employed in academia.

“We don’t want to limit creativity,” Buemi said. “So, there are no rules on what you can create.”

However, 90% of the fashions must be made of paper, including props and accessories. One Club partners with Kelly Spicers, a paper distributor based in Aurora, to get the paper, which is donated by a number of paper mills.

Each year, the Denver Paper Fashion Show presents a broad theme. This year’s theme was “Chiaroscuro,” which is making use of bold contrasts between light and dark.

Killip, Geissinger and Garber — whose team name was Blue Linen Creative — entered two fashions in the 2022 event.

The first entry was Shadows of the Night, which was inspired by a “glimmer that you catch out of the corner of your eye, something floating through the darkness of night,” Killip said.

The second entry was Fire in My Soul, which was inspired by the “fire that burns inside each one of us, fueling our passions and desire,” Killip said.

This year’s first-place winner was Veronica Dewey, of Longmont, for her design, Nature’s Shadow. This design was inspired by the “darker side of Mother Nature,” Dewey said.

Dewey has participated in the Denver Paper Fashion Show four times. The first time was for the first fashion show in 2004. Then, because she was busy raising her children, Dewey took a long hiatus until 2018.

The fashion show “really pushes your creative boundaries,” Dewey said. “It’s a tough competition because of the high level of creativity. Every year there’s more and more creative stuff that shows up. But that’s what’s fun about it.”

Dewey spent 19 years as a graphic designer, but for the past four years, she has been transitioning into a career in costume design and construction. She is now employed in the University of Colorado-Boulder’s theater department.

The Paper Fashion Show has helped Dewey with her career transition, she said, adding it has given her the opportunity to test her skills, get portfolio work and put her designs in front of an audience.

Designers generally have about three months to design their fashions. No doubt, it’s a lot of hard work that goes into them.

“Those of us driven to make this type of art really have a passion for it,” Dewey said.

Dewey added taht It is all worth it for the moment that her design comes out on the runway.

“It’s like this magic moment when everything comes together,” she said.

The Denver Paper Fashion Show is truly a unique event that is elevating Denver’s creative scene, Dewey said.

Geissinger agreed. In fact, participating in the Denver Paper Fashion Show has inspired he and Killip to take other arts courses, such as pottery, he said.

“The Denver area is very creative,” Geissinger said, adding that there is everything one can imagine here, including working with iron to sketching and glass blowing.

“Denver can certainly hold its own compared to other cities when it comes to creativity,” he said.

Denver Paper Fashion Show, The One Club for Creativity, Colorado, artists

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