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The runway.

The words alone evoke a mixed bag of ideas and concepts: intimidating, singular, elegant.

The runway is a pedestal of accomplishment for many models and designers in the fashion industry. It is not only a place for individuals to judge contemporary clothing, but also the models’ skill and poise. Fashion shows have become sought-out destinations for anyone interested in the latest trends, often drawing out celebrities and the societal top tier. However, despite who is in attendance, there is still a thick line between ticket buyers and those in the spotlight. Often unspoken, the line is clear and divisive. It allows designers and their clothes a sense of exclusivity.

In a sweeping effort to break down the barrier between the model and the viewer, a few local designers and Denver Fashion Week alum recently put on a groundbreaking fashion show intended to alter what we think of when we think of the runway. Titled You Are the Runway, Aldo Olivarez, Amy Lisojo, and Madelyn Hadel collectively put together an intimate display of their altogether unique designs with the help of curator Brooke Anderson. 

You Are the RunwayYou Are the Runway was held Saturday, January 18 at the Denver Selfie Museum, which just opened late 2019. Anderson is creative director of the museum and recruited local artists to bring this one-of-a-kind museum to life. The inspiration for You Are the Runway stemmed from the curiosity of having the audience walk the runway while keeping the models stationary. This way, the allure surrounding our perception of “the runway” becomes much more romantic.

Denver Selfie Museum was the perfect location to satisfy this vision. Models were positioned at complimentary installations that paired with each of their styles. This gave attendees a chance to interact with the models, go through each show at their own pace, and get pictures with the models in front of unique backgrounds designed specifically for that purpose. 

Seeing as this was the first show of its kind, it was a profound experience for everyone involved. Despite the individualistic nature of You Are the Runway, there were many other aspects that made this show stand out. All three designers involved in the show pride themselves on addressing important issues in today’s culture and integrating them into their designs. Olivarez, Lisojo, and Hadel continuously work to find ways to create fashionable textiles that also resonate on a deeper level, provoking relevant discussions. 

Left to right is Madelyn Hadel, Brooke Anderson, Amy Lisojo, and Aldo Olivarez

Beyond the overarching symbolism, these designers continuously strive toward utilizing ethically sourced materials, as well as combating the exploitation of humans, animals, and precious earthly materials. This is their way of standing up against the fast fashion industry, which has been known to mass-produce off the backs of under-developed nations and their poorly treated workers. 

“Change starts with awareness, education, and open dialogue. We as a people have to change our ego-based mindset and understand how this machine of an industry works. I don’t know that I can combat or compete; that’s why it remains a struggle. For now, I produce and sell locally. The future will evolve with ethically conscious decisions,” designer Lisojo said.

Hadel’s brand, Rebellelion, is also dedicated to being 100 percent self-sufficient, locally sourced, or salvaged, and is conscious of the impact the brand has on the rest of the world. In fact, every aspect of her business practices are focused on a no-harm standard. Everything from using recycled mailers when shipping, avoiding unnecessary paper fillers, utilizing eco-friendly delivery services, and she considering responsible waste disposal are a part of the business strategy. 

You Are the Runway

While Hadel admits it’s not always an easy task to comply with the standards she has set for herself, it’s worth it. 

Seeing that local was the overarching theme of this show, the music was to be no exception. There was a corner reserved for SAF, or Safiyah, an eclectic, local DJ new to the Denver area and more than ready to make a name for herself. Starting from the ground up, SAF taught herself how to mix and over time found her individualistic style.

SAF’s tunes resonated with everyone at the show and kept up the energy from start to finish. Similar to that of the designers, SAF does not intend to ever sell herself short to make it big in the competitive music industry. She claims she plays music that she would want to listen to, whether she thinks the audience will like it or not. 

Leading up to the to the show, Olivarez, Lisojo, and Hadel worked diligently to create 15 new pieces that meshed each of their artistic approaches. You Are the Runway was a new, alternative way to showcase fashion and will undoubtedly set the stage in the future.

Many of the pieces that weren’t immediately purchased are up for sale and can be found at darkdenim96.com

*Photos by Tiller Dittlo