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Meet Duane Topping of Topping Designs

Today we’d like to introduce you to Duane Topping.

Duane, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
After serving in the military for over a decade, I retired in 2012. I had a difficult time adjusting into civilian life. At that time of my life, PTSD was a constant demon. My service exposed me to the ugliness of war and jaded my view of the world. I tried many of the prescribed methods of recovery, but none seemed to work. I reached a point where I needed to redirect that negativity, so I reached back to when I was younger. I’ve always been an artist, and as a grew older, I fell in love with fashion. So, In late 2016, I came home and told my wife I was going to teach myself to sew and follow that passion. She laughed and asked, “When are you going to do that?” I held up my new machine and said, “Now.” That first night I set up on a T.V. tray and made a purse. It was upside down and didn’t really work. But, it was a start. I created a few smaller lines that fall, an in the spring of 2017, I had my first runway appearance at Denver Fashion Week. The brand has grown since then.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It’s never easy redefining yourself and starting fresh. Especially when you began that journey in such a dark place as I was. I would say the most common obstacle has been my own look. I don’t look like a typical fashion designer, and not being traditionally trained, my approach to the fashion industry is often unorthodox. I’ve been mistaken for the doorman and checked IDs at venues. I’ve also been mistaken for a janitor and even given a couple of dollars outside of a show because the person assumed I was a transient. I think now I embrace the contrast. I often ask people in the audience before shows who they’re excited to see, and they’ll often say “Duane Topping” without realizing that’s me. I just smile, because I know that after my runway, their perspective will change. They’ll be forced to rethink how they look at people and the world. Once I hit the runway, the contradiction of my aesthetic and my clothes surprise people. But that is a powerful tool. And if nothing else, they remember.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
I focus my creative efforts into women’s clothes, designing distinct looks for dynamic women. If you look at the body of my work, my inspiration is varied, because I love the diversity in beauty. However, I have a common thread that binds all of them. I really love the contrast between the fluid and flowing femininity of light fabrics paired with the strength, structure and architecture of my details. It’s in those details that you’ll find who I am as a designer. I try not to over embellish, I feel that each piece needs a certain element of a blank slate. Something the person can use to paint their own character and personality into and then have that internal power and beauty bring it to life. The wearer needs to have an intimate relationship with the fabric. After all, it truly is dead fabric on the rack, and I what I create are only wrapping. It’s the gift of the woman in the garment that breathes life into the piece.

What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I was a bit wild. Always the artist, with an insatiable thirst for knowledge. I still have the desire to constantly learn new things, and I think people would still describe me as spontaneous if not still a bit wild.

Contact Info:

Photographer: Eli Stack Model: Alison Williamson

Photographer: Eli Stack Model: Maria Savoy

Photographer: Eli Stack Model: Karli Smith

Photographer: David Rossa Model: Janelle Tejan

Photographer: David Rossa Model: Mia Felicia

Photographer: David Rossa Model: Taiya Werling

Photographer: Eli Stack Model: Victoria Gevorkov

Photographer: Eli Stack Models (L to R): Brandy Palacios, Victoris Gerorkov, Saloni Sinha

 

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