For those who don’t know Duane Topping, you’re not totally alone — he has commonly been mistaken for a “lost husband” or a bouncer at fashion shows. However, the burly designer should not be confused, as he’s an ever-growing talent with notable accomplishments under his belt. He recently had his line walk the New York Fashion Week runway this past September, as well as a feature in Vogue China.
Topping retired from the military in 2012 and redirected his energy to something more creative — sewing. As a self-taught sewer, he began his career by fabricating designs for his wife, Jamie. It wasn’t until DFW Fall ’16 when his wife wore one of his designs she sewed that attracted a wave of attention. Ever since then, Topping’s success has skyrocketed and this year he’ll be seen on the DFW runway once again. We talked with Topping after his trip from New York and reflected on his new successes and his hopes for his brand.
303 Magazine: You recently had your line on the NYFW runway, what was the experience like?
Duane Topping: NYFW was a truly amazing experience. As a designer, that is the runway many of my peers hope to see their lines walk. So, in that sense, it was surreal to actually be there. I think one of the things that sets us apart though, is we still do it for the people who wear our clothes. Seeing new faces light up, and tapping into a new market, was the most exciting for us! The success for us in New York was we were able to show the fashion world there is diversity in beauty, and you don’t have to be anything but yourself.
303: DFW and NYFW are different fashion scenes, how would you describe the shows in NYC versus Denver?
DT: If we’re just talking DFW, then there is a distinct similarity. Both shows offer that glamorous platform and professionalism you expect. The models are very much equivalent and the range of beauty in both cities is great! Obviously, New York offers a bigger market, and some would argue that the size of Denver makes getting recognized in a larger market space difficult. But Denver is on the map now! People do talk about DFW outside of Colorado, so we’ll get there!
303: You were also featured in Vogue China, what do you attribute to your success in the last two years?
DT: I’ve been asked that, and my answer is always because we’re genuine. What you see in our clothes, my energy on the runway, and our ideology, are who we really are. I think that makes us accessible which, is a unique thing in the world of high fashion. Being self-taught, we’ve never had the “playbook,” and that allows us to be creative and truly tap into who we are and the message we want to establish in a very real way. I believe people are beginning to see and connect to us because of that realness. Plus, I’m a bit of a sideshow, you never know what I’ll do next!
303: As a DFW veteran, what are your favorite aspects about the show as a whole and what are you looking forward to most this year?
DT: We look forward to DFW every season. The first runway we ever saw was at DFW, so to be a part of it now is such an honor. My inspiration for my clothes has always been rooted in individuals. At DFW, it’s an incredible opportunity to not only showcase that individuality that motivates us, but also to seek out the voices that need to be heard here in Denver. We also look forward to the evolution of DFW. Each season there’s something new, this season it’s the new talent that will be showcased – we can’t wait to see what they can do!
303: Where would you like your brand to be in the next five years?
DT: Still around! Fashion is a tough business, luckily I have a passion for the artistry and that keeps me going. Hopefully, in five years, we’re still releant, and pushing boundaries.
303: As a designer, why do you stay in Denver and what does our fashion scene have here that nowhere else has?
DT: That’s simple, I stay in Denver because it’s my home. It’s where I grew up, where I live, where my family lives. It’s a part of who I am. Staying rooted in my identity is important to the peace I’ve found in fashion design. Denver, I think is unique in the sense that we have such a wide breadth of artistic talent. Not just traditional clothing designers, but also in accessories and other artistic expressions of fashion.
303: We have a lot of fresh faces presenting at DFW this season. What advice do you have for them?
DT: Stay true to who you are as an artist. Don’t listen to the noise telling you, you’re not traditional enough. Fashion is individuality, and that is where the beauty lives!
303: Can you give us an idea of what to expect from you during this season of DFW?
DT: If you’re expecting it, then we’ve failed!