Calling local designers: Fashion Design Center Denver hosts its soft grand opening tonight

Lisa Ramfjord Elstun
The Fashion Design Center Denver in progress at 3301 Lawrence Street.
Local designer and all-around fashion industry guru Lisa Ramfjord Elstun says a one-stop design and production shop had long been the missing link in Denver's couture scene. So it was only a matter of time before the Fashion Design Center Denver came to be. "The creation of the FDC was important for me because three years ago, I was asked to create a lingerie line for the two major shopping networks," explains Ramfjord Elstun. "There is no one here in town that can produce at a couture level. I looked for manufacturers and even home sewers here, and no one is able to keep up with a production level, volume and turn over that either of these networks required. So, I went on a search to find all of those bits and pieces and realized one morning that the answer was staring at me in the mirror."

See also: Denver Design Incubator turns out better designer businesses, one stitch at a time

Tommy Collier
Lisa Ramfjord Elstun.
Ramfjord Elstun -- who is a designer and couture seamstress with executive leadership experience -- says a place for designers to take their lines to the next level without having to leave the state was critical for really putting Denver on the global fashion map. Starting with designers, the Fashion Design Center will stay local by providing the machines and instruction for sample- and pattern-making and small-run production.

Tricia Hoke, another local designer who has been working in the Colorado fashion scene for years, has been hard at work on the project with Ramfjord Elstun. "It is difficult as a designer in Denver to find local opportunities for production and brand development," Hoke explains. "Basically, all of the local designers are left to their own devices without much outside help, so you have to go out of state to find production. Oftentimes, it's not feasible or the help needed isn't available in those types of situations. Like, when you go to L.A., you're not going to get somebody who's going to help you through the whole process -- they just want you to be ready. They're a lot more set up in their design communities than Colorado is. So that's really why it began, and why Lisa wanted to develop it."

"There is a lot going on in this city in terms of fashion," says Ramfjord Elstun. "I serve on a lot of different boards and have helped form (fashion-oriented) groups, however, no one was really taking the bull by the horns and making it happen. I figured, I have a really great circle of mentors in different venues -- legal, financial and busines acumen -- and I just decided that I needed to be the one to do it. Being able to serve on the board for the Denver Design Incubator and help that grow, being a founding member of the Fashion Association of Denver, serving with FGI (Fashion Group International - Denver), I just saw the FDC being the next logical step."

Both Ramfjord Elstun and Hoke are on the board for the Denver Design Incubator, which they see as the precursor to what the FDC will be able to do for local couturiers.

"DDI was set up as a resource for the very entry level designers and the piece that is missing is the next step -- which is small-run production, samples, patterns," says Ramfjord Elstun. "Once you actually get into the cycle of design, every three months, you have to have a whole new collection made. All the patterns and samples and have a work room that can source the fabric as well as produce it at the level that retail wants.

"That's the other piece of it," she continues. "Boutiques in this city won't even take a look at most of our designers because they aren't at the level that the customer wants. With my background as a couture seamstress and designer, I really want to make sure that the highest qualiity goes out of my doors to compete with the Hugo Bosses and the Michael Korses."

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