We are wrapping up another successful season of “Denver’s Unique Week of Fashion”. Now on its 6th season, it is Colorado’s largest fashion event. Jana Smith, the founder of DUWF, talks about how it all began.
“I literally had zero history in fashion before I started this”.
Jana owns a company called At Your Service-Event Planning, Marketing and Publicity. Along with doing all sorts of large and community events, she also manages professional athletes, particularly football players. Through the course of working with these athletes, one reached out to her and said he was interesting in acting. So as she began to meet with talent agencies, she was told that the best way to start out is with modeling. With different talent agencies looking for more of the look that these athletes had, Jana ended up managing five models and their gigs. In the midst of this, Jana was approached by what was at the time the largest fashion show in the state. This was the first that she had heard of any fashion scene in Denver.
Jana’s models participated, and were asked to participate again the following year. By that time, their careers had taken off and they weren’t interested in working for free.
“So I said, how about these other models I have? They said no because they have a certain type, even though they were great models and were really popular, they didn’t fit their specs. And I thought that was odd, because the business that I’m in, we look at everything because you never know what’s going to be successful”.
The next year, Jana did some research and came to find out that the fashion scene in Denver was very selective, and only certain designers were allowed to be involved and only certain types of models.
“So, 6 foot tall, skinny, blonde, blue eyed white girl, that was the only type of model they would allow. Only certain photographers…it was a very elitist type of group at that time, and if you weren’t a part of that group you weren’t allowed to participate.”
Having traveled and knowing about fashion shows around the world, Jana saw how different it was. There are all different kinds of designers, all different kinds of styles and models.
“There was a lot of diversity, lots of ethnicity and shapes, and I found it odd because Denver is such a melting pot”.
So, Jana got her team together and said she wanted to do a fashion show.
“I know how to produce an event, I know how to market an event, we just need to find people to participate…There’s this fashion scene in Denver that I’m just finding out about, and they’ve cornered the market, but they’re not doing it in a productive and positive way that’s benefiting everyone. So let’s do something different. My background is that of the underdog, I’ve always been the black sheep, and my team, we are all the misfits, we’re the hustlers…So, I know how all of those people felt”.
“I wanted to put on a fashion show, a full fashion week, and everyone is allowed to participate in our show, so if you’re brave enough to say ‘Hey, I want to participate’, then we will find a place for you. I wanted to create an atmosphere where everyone felt valued”.
“I had doors shut in my face. I thought maybe I wasn’t supposed to do this, then I talked to one of my stylists, and I asked him ‘am I supposed to do this’? He said this is exactly why you’re supposed to do this because you have all of these connections and support from the media, and if they’re not letting you in think of all the under dogs, the little people they aren’t letting in”.
So Jana decided to do it. DUFW had its first season. It was only four nights, with eight designers and twenty models and one stylist, all of which were rejected from the bigger show.
“Only 20-30 people were in the audience each night, now we have five very full nights with over 29 designers and 200 models. I can’t turn anyone away”.
Many of the designers who started out in Unique Week who weren’t even established designers at the time are now scattered around the globe with booming careers.
“We have every kind of model, transgender, who before never would have had an opportunity to walk, every size and kind of model…Unfortunately for now it’s labeled ‘Unique’, hopefully one day we can drop the ‘Unique’ because it will no longer be unique to be a size 16, or African American, or albino, or whatever, we don’t discriminate. I hope they stop using the word traditional to describe tall, skinny, blonde, because to me that’s not traditional. Everybody else is”.
Besides being Denver’s most inclusive and diverse fashion event, there is a charitable component to every show for different causes. Mental Health and Women’s Empowerment are two in particular that Jana wants to raise awareness to.
If you missed this year’s event, you’re not going to want to miss the next one, it’s only getting bigger and better.
Stay unique Denver.